Category Archives: Hamas

Obama’s deadly compromise


President Barack Obama confirmed in his press conference Thursday that he has accepted as unavoidable the recurrent, periodic Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. That was the import of his answers to questions wherein he indicated that he would not modify what he considers his winning policy in the Mideast to “degrade and destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
His response to criticism and demands that the U.S. should undertake a more aggressive policy toward the Mideast source of Islamic terrorism was to warn about additional civilian casualties from any such American action. Yet he acknowledged that Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is accompanied by massive attacks on the civilian population. He mocked spokesmen, including inferentially the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have called for the kind of all-out military effort against ISIS that destroyed Nazism and held the Communists at bay during the 35 years of The Cold War. Obama’s response is despite the fact that most American military commanders and planners argue that ISIS falls only behind Russia as Washington’s principal threat.
In effect, Obama’s program of action accepts an unspecified duration when the current worldwide wave of terrorist activity would continue. His rationalization for accepting such a level of violence against the civilian population was that there has always been terrorist activity from many different quarters over the past decades and that it was therefore not a new phenomenon. The implication was that terrorism is a natural phenomenon and may not ever be completely eliminated.
Obama outlined at some length the failure of his continuing negotiations with the Russians to end their support of the Basher al Assad regime in Syria. However, he took no note of the limited Moscow commitment in Syria today compared with Soviet times because of Russia’s diminished military capacity. Admitting that negotiations with the Russians have not produced any diminishment of Moscow’s activities in Syria, he offered the admonition that should such activity continue, it would condemn Russia as an international pariah in world opinion. That such an epithet would have already been accepted in most democratic circles around the world did not seem to reduce for him the importance of such additional evidence coming out of the Syrian civil war. Nor did Obama’s concentration on the Syrian conflict take account of Russian aggression in the Crimea, its subversion among Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine, and its continuing threats to the Baltic states.
The President did argue that the U.S. military activity against Daesh in the Mideast, however successful, would require a more comprehensive program to meet ISIS’ ideological concept. Yet, he failed again, to grapple with that very problem, that is to meet the challenge of the terrorists’ allegiance to Islam which forms their ideological framework. Obama continues, as do most observers, to acknowledge but intellectually ignore that however perverted and distorted their view, the terrorists base their creed on their own version of Islam. Obama ignores that a discussion of Islam and its relation to the terrorists is critical to any examination of their ideology.
Like other important international spokesmen, in fact Obama refuses to advocate that the world examine and discuss whatever tenets that religion holds which produce the current wave of terrorism. Instead, he like others fall back on such clichés as “Islam is a religion of peace” and the obvious conclusion that most Moslems are not advocates of terrorism. What Obama and his supporters ignore is that the terrorists are not Christian Scientists nor Mormons, but while all Moslems are not terrorists, all terrorists are Moslems. They ignore the long history of Arab and Moslem holy war [jihad] to force non-believers [kafirs] or face death or enslavement.
Obama’s acceptance , in effect, of the current level of world terrorism will lead to further augmentation of ISIS as it spreads it network around the world, gaining psychotic and fanatical adherents of an aggressive version of Islam because of its “success” in terrorizing the civilized world.

sws-08-04-16

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The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

Facing up to Mideast realities


With all signs pointing to a new war between the Israelis and the Moslem terrorist Hamas in Gaza, now supported despite their Sunni-Shia differences by Tehran’s mullahs, one lesson seems not to have been learned by Washington. That is that whatever opportunities there are for a Jewish-Moslem, Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement in the region, they are not through the old suggestion of “land for peace”
The unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Strip in 2005, had been proposed in 2003 by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, adopted by the Government in June 2004, approved by the Knesset [Israeli parliament] in February 2005 and enacted in August 2005. Sharon saw it as a step, the first step, in an accomodation with the Palestinians and their Arab allies after Israel’s blitkfrieg in the June 1967 Six-Day War. The Israelis had demonstrated they were the primary regional military power and could, again, however reluctantly, take on all comers.
What neither Sharon nor the Talking Heads anticipated was that free elections would turn up a plurality of the 1.6 million Gazans for Hamas, an Islamicist opposition to the secularist Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] of Yasser Arafat. Arafat and his PLO had had a virtual monopoly as the only spokesmen for growing Palestinian nationalism.
Hamas proceeded to try to literally eliminate the PLO in Gaza, including throwing PLO supporters off roofs. Arafat’s successors have continued to maintain their hold on the 2.5 million West Bank Arabs [despite a quarter of a million Jews in “settlements” there] and the 200,000 Arabs and Jews in East Jerusalem. These areas were held by Jordan after the 1947 declaration of an Israeli state and what the Jews call their war for independence, but its Husseini rulers were pushed back across the Jordan in 1967.
However, there have been major changes in what had seemed a long stalemate.
Hamas, only opposed by terrorist organizations even more violent, not only maintains its grip on Gaza but probably would win an election in what is generally called the West Bank. A stronger Israel now increasingly argues that while it hosted a major Arab, largely Moslem, minority, after independence, its claims to Judea and Samaria, traditional names for the West Bank, must be honored. Predictions that Israel’s Arab [and Druse] minority would be a quarter of its total population by 2050 [now just over eight million] are now being revised. In the always difficult estimates of fertility and population increase, the Israeli Arab population – those in the pre-1967 state – has fallen behind the now more rapid increase among the Jews.
Another and perhaps the most complicating factor is that Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem are the sites of the ancient Hebrew kingdoms, finally suppressed by the Romans with the dispersal of the Jews. The urban and agricultural developments which the Zionists have achieved with enormous success in such areas as Tel Aviv and Haifa were never the heart of the Jewish homelands which the current Israeli state attempts to restore. Yet most observers believe that were free elections now held Hamas might well win elections there too With no widely recognized successor to seventy-nine -year-old Mohammed Abbas who now heads the PLO/Palestinian “state” the Israeli argument that they have no negotiating partner has substance..
A militant, threatening Hamas-dominated state on the West Bank would be an existentialist threat to Israel’s existence, as the PLO always threatened pre-1967. Pres. Barak Obama’s public statements suggesting that pre-1967 borders be the basis for new negotiations has not only infuriated the Israelis, but is an obvious non-starter. Those boundaries included, for example, only a slender corridor connecting Tel Aviv and the Israeli plains with Western Jerusalem that target would be the object of any militarized Arab state on the West Bank.
In theory, both Israel and the U.S. accept the possibility of two states, one Israeli, Jewish, “within secure borders”, and another which recognizes Palestinian yearnings. But no Palestinian group, from so-called “moderates” to Hamas, has been willing to make even a nominal formal pledge to accept the Jews’ right to a state in the region.
That, unfortunately, is where the Israel-Palestinian problem awaits the next president of the United States if he is to make a major contribution to Mideast peace and stability.
sws-06-09-16

Turkey’s thuggish regime


The descent of Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration into a brutish tyranny is rapidly becoming a problem which The White House will have to face. That the Washington Brookings Institution almost canceled Erdoğan’s speech after his security detail manhandled American and Turkish reporters is illustrative of what has been happening in Turkey for months.
Now the London-based Amnesty International documents Erdoğan’s expulsion of refugees back into Syria – including unaccompanied small children – among the degeneration of Ankara policies. Obviously this violates Erdoğan’s blackmail of the Western European powers to halt the flight of refugees to Greece in exchange for massive payments to bolster a flagging Turkish economy. Some 2.7 million migrants have reached Europe since the Syrian conflict began; another 151,104 crossed the Aegean from Turkey to Greece this year alone while 366 drowned trying. Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency warned that Greece’s overburdened asylum system is close to a collapse, further adding to its continuing economic crisis.

Turkish and EU leaders in March agreed on a deal curbing the influx that has plunged Europe into its biggest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. And the Turks are hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees. But the new agreement with the Europeans, principally Germany, is supposed to allow one legitimate Syrian refugee to migrate to Europe in exchange for every migrant [not necessarily a true refugee] Ankara takes back. This all will cost the Europeans $3.3 billion, ostensibly to pay Ankara’s costs. Germany has already said it will take the first Syrian refugees with children in this strangest of new developments.
Whatever the outcome of the refugee pact, however, what has to concern Washington policymakers is Erdoğan’s internal policies and his relationship with his terrorists in the region. He has turned his back on his earlier effort to negotiate the decades-long insurgency, resulting from Ankara’s refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its huge Kurdish minority. That’s doubly complicated by the fact that Ankara is waging a campaign against the Kurds inside Syria who are Washington’s only successful weapon against the Basher Al Assad government, ostensibly as much a target for the Turks as the U.S. and its allies.
Pres. Obama in the early days of his administration sought to ignore Erdoğan’s Islamicist past; the President even saying he was one of the few foreign leaders with whom he had intimate relations. The relationship has soured with Erdoğan following increasingly Islamicist policies at home and playing footsie with both Hamas and Hezbollah, both on Washington’s terrorist list and Israel’s mortal enemies.
When Erdoğan turned up for an international meeting in Washington last week, the White House first refused to see him shuffling him off to Vice Pres. Joe Biden as a diplomatic snub. But then, in typical Obama fashion, the President accorded him a private session on the edges of the international meeting on nuclear proliferation.
There’s little hope Sec. of State John Kerry’s international peace conference on Syria is going to make much progress soon. Germany’s idea of swapping open access to Turkey’s 75 million people by dangling eventual EU membership doesn’t yet seem likely to produce better policy in Ankara. As an important NATO power, with that treaty’s importance again growing with renewed Moscow aggression [despite candidate Donald Trump’s warped understanding of international affairs], finding a U.S. strategy to handle Erdoğan and his critical role in the Mideast chaos is dire.
sws-04-04-16

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

No brother!


Among the many mysteries of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy is its love affair with the Moslem Brotherhood.

The Administration courted it during the brief period when as an elected government it ruled Egypt under Pres. Mohammed Morsi. After the Morsi regime began to exhibit all the signs of one vote, one election, one time, overwhelming popular support backed Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s putsch that overthrew it.

El-Sisi subsequently was elected on a civilian ticket as president. But Washington continued to flirt with the Brotherhood, almost rupturing relations with Egypt. Its relations with the dominant Egyptian military had already been undermined with its support of the overthrow of el-Sisi’s predecessor, longtime American ally, Hosni Mubarak. Now with full-fledged insurgencies in the Sinai and in the Western Desert, el-Sisi has been so frustrated with Washington that Cairo has once again renewed its ties with Moscow. Purchasing weapons from the Russians comes even though Obama restored the U.S. military aid plan which was he briefly interrupted after e-Sisi’s coup.

It’s unclear why the President and his advisers refuse to accept a general consensus among students of Islamic affairs that the Brotherhood is suspect. Obama refused to name the Brotherhood as a threat in a 2011 interview with Fox News, despite its well publicized links at that time to al Qaida. The President limited himself to saying “they are well organized and there are strains of their ideology that are anti-U.S.” A similar ambivalent position was taken by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now the leading Democratic candidate for president next year.

It’s no secret that CIA Director John O. Brennan has some notion that the Brotherhood is an Islamic version of West European Christian Democrats. True, the Brotherhood often puts out that flyer. But its support of fantasies such as American government support of 9/11 or its justification of attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq ought to be enough to disabuse anyone of such beliefs. . In 2011, the Obama administration had to make an elaborate backtrack on a statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper after he described the group as “mostly secular” at a Capitol Hill hearing. In January, the State Department met with members of the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party that was established by the Muslim Brotherhood

Apparently all this is based on the hope within the Administration that continued U.S. links to the organization will modify its views and its tacit collaboration with the various Moslem terrorist groups.

But now comes further evidence that the Obama Administration’s policy is mistaken. The British government, after long and considered investigation, has put together a detailed analysis of the Brotherhood and why it is a menace to British security.

The formal policy report will not be published but Prime Minister David Cameron has purposely leaked enough of it to indicate its content and judgment and recommendations for Foreign Office policy. The report acknowledges that the Brotherhood has preferred non-violent methods but on the grounds of expediency. Still, it says, “they are prepared to countenance violence – including, from time to time, terrorism – where gradualism is ineffective.xxx Aspects of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security,” the report concludes.

The now open disagreement between London and Washington about the nature of the Brotherhood is just one more evidence of the failure of Washington, despite its frequent claims otherwise, to rally the Western powers to coordinate their policies and defense against Islamic terrorists. It is true, of course, that as in Syria, there are important frictions between these various terrorist groups. But not to identify of the main intellectual source of Islamic radicalism at the time our major ally in the fight against the terrorists is an utter failure of policy. Unfortunately, it appears to be one more issue that will have to await the arrival of new presidency in 2017, a plate that is already overflowing.

sws-12-25-15

 

Turkey: another “Syria”?


Turkey is rapidly catching the Syrian disease – that is, a Mideastern country not only torn apart by internal factions but a playground for contending international forces.
But as an important member of the NATO alliance, Turkey plays a much more critical role in relations between the European Union, the U.S. and Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive Russia.
The analogies with Syria grow stronger even as the outcome is still as murky as the outcome appears there.
In Turkey, too, the “original sin” appears that from his once overwhelmingly popularity, Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan developed egomania.
As the very successful mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan once allegedly said “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” His stop seems to be creating an authoritarian state. But his streetcar’s trolley has jumped the wire with the loss of his parliamentary majority in June 2015 elections. And polls indicate he won’t get new majority in elections he has now called for November. With increasing domestic violence, it has become problematical whether they can even be held.
Like Syria’s Basher al Assad, Erdogan has refused to meet his considerable opposition with compromises. The economic boom is staggering. He has virtually abandoned an attempt to join the European Union after his potential Western partners dragged their heels earlier with doubts about whether Turkey met the requirements of free governments.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s foreign policy which was to have only friends in all directions has turned into the exact reverse: he has growing disputes with all his neighbors and the major powers, including the U.S. That’s despite the fact that Pres. Barack Obama once called Erdogan one of a handful of leaders with whom he was on intimate terms.
Proof of the U.S. rift came with the announcement Washington [along with Germany] is withdrawing its Patriot missiles which Erdogan requested when his once highly advertised relations with Syria’s al Assad fell apart. The Pentagon’s official explanation is they need modification. But given Obama’s policies, there is a suggestion it is because Obama didn’t want to be dragged into Turkey’s increasing difficulties on its Syrian border, despite NATO assurances of support.
Washington’s relations with Ankara are also trapped in the Kurdish problem. Erdogan abandoned his efforts to bring the decades-old bloody Kurdish PKK insurgency to an end, in part because of the success of a Kurdish-led party. [The Kurds are at least 20%, maybe a third of Turkey’s 75 million]. But the Kurds inside Syria, whom Erdogan says are linked to his own internal enemies, are Washington’s only effective internal force against Daesh [the purported ISIS or ISIL caliphate]..
When Russian aircraft penetrated Turkey’s space in support of Assad [whose own airforce earlier had wandered in too], Erdogan threatened to cancel a growing economic exchange with Moscow including a giant nuclear power plant and cooperation to transmit Russian gas to Europe through a new pipeline across the Black Sea [which would eliminate Ukraine].
Erdogan abandoned his very profitable military alliance with Israel in a flurry of insults to Israel leaders and sponsorship of Hamas in Gaza whom the rest of the world calls terrorists. His strong ties to the Muslim Brotherhood put him at odds with Egypt whose President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is trying to root out after overthrowing a Brotherhood regime.
Heavily dependent on Iran for gas, Erdogan has tiptoed around his growing differences with Tehran. But while he has lined up against the mullahs’ ally in Damascus, there are accusations – that certainly have alarmed Washington and the EU – of less than maximum efforts to cut off aid and recruits flow to Daesh,.
The question now is whether Erdogan will make a radical turn toward reconciliation. If not, there’s growing concern among Turkey’s friends that the country is moving toward growing chaos. A murderous bomb explosion this past week in the capital Ankara could signal that new level internal violence.
sws-10-10-15

Palestinian Radicalization


The growing disintegration of Palestinian secular forces promises a new Mideast threat as difficult as Daesh [ISIL]
Luckily for the U.S., Israel and the Western allies generally, so far the growing Islamicist Palestinians have not merged with Daesh, even confronting it in several areas. This is, of course, part of the internal chaotic Muslim wrangle which so far has benefited their secular opponents.
But the daily individual terrorist attacks by individual Palestinians against Israelis, both inside the Green Line and in the West Bank [traditional Judea and Samaria where Jewish claims on the ancient Hebrew states reside] are evidence of a fracturing leadership. The attacks, almost unremarked in the Western media, range from stabbings of Israeli military and civilians, to automobiles used to mow down passengers waiting at bus stops. They have been answered in kind, to a much lesser degree, by Israeli rightwing terrorists’ attacks on Arab paramilitary and civilians.
The 80-year-old Mahmoud Abbas, who extended his Palestinian presidency officially ending in 2009, now suddenly, has dissolved its executive committee without naming a successor. His call for a new executive from the Palestine parliament – which has not met in 20 years – may not be enough to stop the erosion among secularist forces under siege from the growing Islamicist Palestinian Hamas leadership in Gaza. Most observers believe free elections among West Bank Palestinians could bring them to power there, as it did in Gaza where they now use every means to hang on against internal opposition from both secularists and even more radical Islamicists.
Hamas is the offspring of the Sunni Moslem Brotherhood, much appreciated by then Sec. of State Hillary Clinton – her chief assistant Huma Abedin has family ties to the Brotherhood – and the Obama Administration But it has jumped the Sunni-Shia divide and is now empowered by money and arms from Tehran’s mullahs. Hamas’ “military wing” is rearming with Iran’s help, apparently for another go with the Israelis, the third only last year. Meanwhile, Egyptian Pres. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has joined Israel; in trying to shut off dual-use imports to the Gaza strip because Hamas actively supports a growing insurgency in Sinai against the Cairo government.
The usual Western suspects – those Paul Hollander called “political pilgrims”, “activists” and intellectuals who fall in and out of love with insurrectionary regimes, first the Guatemala Communists, then the Castros, then the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, etc. – have transferred their affection to the “Palestinians”. They ignore the lack of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s accountability and its successor Fatah, and the massive corruption financed by the U.S., the EU and the UN. That’s gone into Swiss bank accounts and such projects as Abbas’ new palace in Rammalah.
The Palestinians, taking their cues from their Israeli opponents, have become a group of powerful if vulnerable professionals throughout the region. Unlike Israel which absorbed some 800,000 Jews either expelled or in flight from Arab and Moslem countries, the Arab regimes refused the 650,000 Palestinians absorption, now to a second and third generation. The Palestinian “cause” until recently when the new threat from an increasingly powerful and aggressive Tehran regime became the overwhelming menace, was used against the Israelis. But now — despite the Obama Administration’s effort to appease Tehran with an increasingly controversial nuclear weapons deal – the Persian Gulf Arab states and the Egyptians have become tacit allies with the Israelis against the growing Iranian menace, particularly manifested in its support of the embattled Basher al Assad regime in Syria.
This virtual abandonment of the Palestinians by the other Arabs is certain to increase their radicalization. It will make them more susceptible to Islamist terrorist seduction and a growing menace not only to Israel and its controversial occupation of the West Bank, but to U.S. interests. Hopefully, Pres. Barack Obama will not see them too as another “varsity” team which led the U.S. to ignore Daesh in its early days.
sws-09-01-15
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Turkey’s growing instability


Once NATO’s formidable eastern anchor, Turkey is increasingly becoming a major problem for Washington policymakers and a contributor to the Mideast chaos.
The change is all the remarkable since at the outset of the Obama Administration, the President saw then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as one of his closest international friends. And, indeed, in 2009 Obama went to Turkey to make the first of two Mideast seminal speeches offering apologies to the Muslim world for what he saw as past U.S. mistakes with an invitation for cooperation.
But in late August Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter publicly was calling on now President Erdogan “…to control the border, the long border that they have with both Syria and Iraq …. It’s overdue, because it’s a year into the campaign [against Daesh, or ISIL], but they’re indicating some considerable effort now, including some — allowing us to use their airfields. That’s important, but it’s not enough.”
If truth be told, it took nine months of torturous negotiations to get Erdogan’s permission to the use NATO bases in Turkey for the relatively feeble American bombing campaign against Daesh, now considered a threat to stability in the region and rapidly becoming a coordinating body for worldwide Islamic terrorism.
Traffic through that border has included volunteers for the Daesh [ISIL] forces and a flood of Muslim refugees crossing into Greece and the EU. There are even suggestions that elements in Turkish intelligence aided Muslim groups fighting the shaky government of Syria’s Basher al Assad, sabotaging the faltering Obama’s so far unsuccessful effort to create an anti-Assad Syrian force to counter the growing strength of Daesh and other Muslim groups.
Since Obama’s visit, however, Erdogan has taken Turkey down a divisivepath breaking off Ankara’s longstsanding military alliance with the Israelis. Erdogan has permitted Hamas, the Palestinian group controlling Gaza which Washington calls terrorists, to operate out of Turkey, and Erdogan has made an outrageous anti-Semitic remarks picked up by sympathetic media.
Erdogan – who once said democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination – has pushed a creeping Islamization eroding the mandatory secularist heritage of modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Attaturk. He moved to the presidency, hoping to create an authoritarian presidential system. But in June elections, his Justice and Development Party [AKP] failed to get the necessary majority to change the constitution, and he has now called new snap elections for November – after refusing to negotiate in good faith for a coalition.
Whipping up war hysteria, by abandoning the effort to reach an agreement with Turkey’s huge Kurdish minority – a radical part of which fought a bloody three decades war with the government – he apparently thought to get a new mandate. But the polls indicate he may again fall short. A sagging economy whose liberalization had bolstered Erdogan’s rule won’t help.
His whirling dervish foreign policy – which once saw itself as Neo-Ottoman, restoring the old Turkish empire in the region – is in tatters. And he has become a major deterrent for American goals in the area; not least, since the most effective fighters against Daesh have been the Kurdish minority inside Syria and the Peshmergah, hardened veterans of Iraq’s regional Kurdish government.
Erdogan – and the other countries which split the Kurdish peoples in the region – fear Kurdish military successes could eventually produce an united independent Kurdistan. The Iraqi Kurdish regional government, pumping oil out through Turkey [including to Israel], is already a relatively prosperous and semi-independent. And so long as Obama does not commit more American ground forces against Daesh, is probably the only hope of Washington to contain if not “degrading and eventually destroying” Daesh [ISIL], what he once dubbed “the varsity” team in the area.
Meanwhile, despite optimistic statements out of the Obama Administration, the military situation in the area is deteriorating, almost as rapidly as Turkey’s home front, with Obama’s critics predicting his Iranian negoaitions will produce a nuclear armed Persia, Turkey’s traditional enemy.
sws-08-27-15

U.S.-Israel crisis


The United States and Israel are under full sail into a perfect storm.

The caterwauling back and forth from the Israeli and Anglo-American left that Prime Minister Netanyahu is inviting Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s intervention in upcoming Israelis elections as a prop for his popularity are indicative of how far relations have sunk.

The Obama Administration, often tone-deaf to the nuances of the Mideast tangle of rapidly shifting antagonisms and tacit alliances, has made an accommodation with Iran its number one regional strategic priority. Washington seems ready to accept “nuclear threshold” – Tehran’s ability to build a bomb but with “proper” mullahs’ guarantees and UN inspection to hold off — as an alternate to total nuclear disarmament. Such an arrangement would establish Iranian jihadist hegemony in the Persian Gulf and the Greater Middle East.

That comes at a time when Israeli leadership – with the background of The Holocaust — cannot but take Tehran and its allies’ threats to erase it from the map as its most serious security threat. On a shorter timeline, the fact that Tehran now has allies on the Mediterranean to the south and north of Israel building missile arsenals is a present and current danger for Jerusalem and American strategic interests in the region..
The Obama Administration’s reiteration of America’s traditional all out support for the Israeli alliance increasingly ring hollow given Washington’s private asides. Obama’s insistence that negotiations go back to the indefensible pre-1967 boundaries — which received a public rebuke from Netanyahu — poisoned their already difficult personal relations between the two leaders. Nor did open Israeli support for Mitt Romney’s candidacy do more than pour salt in the wounds. Continuing leaks not even officially denied by State and White House spokesmen designed to join up with worldwide criticism of Israeli policy reinforce Jerusalem’s worst fears of White House attitudes..

The Obama Administration’s coolness toward Israel took on new meaning when the “routine” transfer of weaponry from Germany was framed in new red tape during the final days of the last Gaza war. For those with longer memories, it recalled the anomaly of Pres. Richard Nixon – despite his well-known private anti-Jewish comments –mustering a massive weapons airlift for Israeli survival in the surprise 1973 Yom Kippur War in support of American strategic interests.
Now, on the contrary, there is a growing belief both in American Zionist circles and in Israel that only the overwhelming support for Israel among the U.S. public and Congress inhibit the Administration — buttressed by the traditional antagonism toward Israel in the State Dept. — going further bilaterally and at the UN to pressure Israel for security concessions to an artificial Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, despite its continuing critical dependence on the U.S., the Israeli public with an increasingly negative view of Obama, is moving away from Washington’s insistence on concessions to the Palestinians. The most recent 50-day Gaza war after a threat of continual missile fire endangering all Israel could only be the death knell for any strategy of “land for peace”. Israel’s reward for a withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has been establishment of a ruthless jihadist Gaza regime which will not make even the perfunctory concession of accepting a Jewish state. Nor can Israelis ignore that in the last 2006 Palestinian elections, Gaza’s Hamas won almost half the parliamentary seats. Elections are now on hold largely because Pres. Mahmoud Abbas knows he could not win against a growing jihadist infiltration even on the West Bank with its short artillery range for Tel Aviv, much less Jerusalem.

There is the likelihood that the March 17 Knesset elections will show a further shift to a more uncompromising Israeli position even in the unlikely event of Binyamin Netanyahu’s replacement as prime minister. There is, objectively, no Palestinian negotiating partner in any event. No Palestinian leader, whatever his true beliefs, feels strong enough to meet any of the earlier concessions the Israelis made on withdrawing from the conquered areas. No shibboleth is as unrealistic as the Americans’ stated purpose to give the Palestinians contiguous areas which would, presumably, mean cutting off the Israelis’ access to the Negev by linking the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In an era when everything is being done, not only by the Palestinians but by “the political pilgrims” on the left in the U.S,. and Europe who have drifted to their cause, Israel will not abandon claims to its historic roots in a united Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria [“the West Bank” after the 1946 war over the UN partition scheme]. It is there that the Hebrew kingdoms existed in classical Greek and Roman times, not in the plains surrounding present-day Tel Aviv.
The two-state “solution” has always been ephemeral, especially with the Palestinians, the U.S. and the Europeans, campaigning against Israeli “settlements” on the West Bank, both as an Israeli defense strategy and a cultural prop for reestablishing a Jewish state in the Mideast. The obvious question is that if 15% to 20% of the Israeli population is to remain Arab [and largely Muslim], how is it that the new Palestinian state should be “ Judenrein”?. And, in fact, by the Obama Administration making “settlements” the sine non qua of renewed and fruitful negotiations, it condemned negotiations from their outset.

A demographic revolution which has seen Arab birthrates both inside Israel and in the Occupied territories fall dramatically has vitiated the old argument of a larger Jewish state being swallowed in an Arab sea. On the contrary, Israeli birth rates are up, even among the secularized as well as the large haredi [religious] families.

Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s naïve assumptions about the Arab Spring continue to haunt the Obama Administration. It courts the Muslim Brotherhood, parent of almost all contemporary jihadist terrorism in the region, as a kind of Islamic version of the Christian Democrats, thus alienating the Egyptian military regime [despite reluctantly continuing to give Cairo massive aid]. It attempts to appease Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he Islamicizes his own country and ignores his NATO membership [except to ask for aid facing a chaotic Syria], ignoring U.S. and American sanctions on both Iran and Russia as well as gross anti-Semitic public utterances and a flirtation with Hamas. The feeble bombing of the Sunni jihadist revolutionaries of ISIL [now followed with a drip-drip of American ground forces back into Iraq] for all Washington’s bombast puts more questions around Washington policy for the U.S.’ traditional Arab allies in the Gulf.

Granted that the morass of Middle East politics would stymie a Solomon [if one dares to use that metaphor!] much less an increasingly lameduck Obama Administration, now even facing a revolt of Congressional Democrats. But the zigzagging Obama policies, whether on Syria or the new expressions of Islamic violence in Israel and the West Bank, continue energizing Israeli militancy. The outbreak of terrorism inside and outside the Green Line with the tacit inspiration of Abbas’ Arabic statements is dramatizing the crisis even for the befuddled American and European media.

The lack of American resolve in the face of the assassination of its citizens by the jihadists and constant statements equating terrorists on both side of the Israeli-Palestinian equation further imperil day to day relations with the Israelis, however historic and intense their intimacy.

Without an about-face in Obama policy, which seems unlikely to come quickly if at all, a public breakdown in Jerusalem-Washington relations now seems inevitable.
sws-12-14-14

The Persian Thread


One thread runs through all the miasma of the tribal and ideological jungle of contemporary Mideast politics. Through it all is interwoven the power and influence of Iran.

With its 80 million people, its vast territory – the world’s 17th largest country, about the size of Alaska – and its abundant resources, Iran towers over all the other Mideastern territories [except Egypt and Turkey]. Despite its sudden cataclysmic downturn in fertility – a drop-off much deeper than Europe, Japan and China are also experiencing – Iran currently still has a young population that will reach 100 million by 2050.

But more than anything, Tehran is heir – unlike Egypt’s largely historical and tourist attractions – to the traditions of the ancient Persian empires dating from 500 years before Christ. Contrary to the primitive intolerance of the current regime, the Persians through the ages built remarkably strong political entities simultaneously using various ethnicities. [Again what a contrast to the neighboring puny Arab sheikhdoms, however endowed with petrodollars.] That thrust toward power is again a central issue in the region.

There is no dearth of evidence for Tehran’s aggressive ambitions beginning with worldwide terrorism that punctuated recent decades. Whether in the Beirut military barracks bombing of Americans and French troops [1983] or the attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires [1994] or the bitter IED offensive against American forces during the Iraq war, Tehran’s gloved hand was there.

However vulnerable the ties, today Tehran has jumped the security fences first set up post-World War I by Britain and France, and then the U.S.. Its alliances extend to the Mediterranean with the Assad regime [if under siege] in Syria, Hezbollah that dominates ethnic-chaotic Lebanon, and even the scion of the bitterly anti-Shia Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas in Gaza.

Moving toward weapons of mass destruction with the help of other rogue states headed by North Korea and greedy merchants in Russia, Germany, Tehran’s mullahs are reaching for great power status. One suspects even their bitterest domestic enemies do not vouchsafe their country this role.

There is, indeed, growing evidence Iran may shortly be a “threshold” nuclear state, that is one able to produce nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in short order. Never mind its oft repeated threat to wipe out Israel, a bomb will give Tehran dominance in the region, possibly setting off a dangerous nuclear weapons race among the region’s inherently unstable regimes.

How is the world to cope with Iran as it again flexes its muscles in an effort to restore its ofttimes regional hegemony?

The U.S. once thought it could live with Iran as a regional super-power; Washington allied with Shah Reza Pahlevi, encouraged his stewardship of the area. He was seen as an important ally during the Cold War, blocking the old, old Russian ambition of reaching the warm waters. The U.S. was even prepared to tolerate Iran as a leader of the cabal to create an OPEC monopoly on world energy at higher prices. But in one of those moralistic flights of fancy. Amb. William Sullivan – who had already made his contribution to the debacle in Southeast Asia – helped pull the rug from under the Shah, buying into the false promises of the Muslim theocrats.

Looking back now, one could make the case that the seizure of Western oil in Iran and the Gulf states was the original sin. Their inability to efficiently absorb enormous wealth which flowed into their coffers was more than “a tax on the world economy” that the then Secretary of Treasury William Simon rationalized. Those dollars became the source of a major destabilization of the world order with huge surpluses in the hands of small backward populations led by tyrannical, shortsighted leaders. [One can only hope this aspect will perhaps to be tempered, finally, by the Americans’ shale revolution which is rapidly bringing down the real price of energy and defanging the Mideast’s hold on world oil and gas.].

But how to deal with this new set of chessmen continues to be a central problem of U.S. efforts to maintain world peace and stability. And perhaps the greatest unknown in the whole equation is trying to deduce what path the Obama Administration thinks it is pursuing.

There apparently is one train of thought with the career diplomats which sees U.S. benign neglect as the best answer to the Mideast problems. That would have been the inspiration for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement of a “pivot” from U.S. concentration on the Mideast to deal with the growing potential threat of a nascent China. That was soon grabbed by the White House speechwriters as an answer to the self-evident failures of Obama’s initial outreach to the Moslem world which elicited only scorn and the false hopes of “the Arab spring”. It soon became all too apparent that the tarbaby with which Washington has been ensnared could not be wished away. [The President has just announced new reinforcements for ground troops in Iraq which he said he wouldn’t commit.]

And so the mystery of what the Obama Administration thinks it is doing in the Middle East continues.

Its rejection of an alliance of minor powers as a counter to Iran’s growing power based on the bilateral U.S.-Israeli alliance is all too obvious, even before Jerusalem’s latest Hamas engagement. Now, of course, Washington finds a tacit alliance between Israel and Egypt and even the Gulf states against the Muslim Brotherhood with whom so many of Obama’s advisers were infatuated. It has had to double back to try to create an alliance to destroy one of the Brotherhood outgrowths, ISIL, and even toys with unacknowledged cooperation with Tehran to defeat it, if slowly.

Obama’s advisers earlier had rejected the possible option of Iranian regime change in 2009, even when a near revolution erupted after falsified elections brought out the old Persian values and young activists calling for American help. Obama’s much ballyhooed personal relationship with Turkey’s pretended strong man, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Persians’ old, traditional cultural and political competitor, collapsed in the face of Ankara’s pipedream of recreating a version of the old Ottoman Empire’s domination of the Arabs. Even when the Egyptian public turned against an elected Moslem Brotherhood administration, supporting a military coup, Obama found it impossible to abandon support for that Sunni ideological mother of so much Mideast violence.

So the No. 1 mystery of the region is not the constant shifting of loyalties and alliances but the intent of American policy.

Obama has publicly hinted that he could salve the thousand-year-old Sunni-Shia vendetta. That might be an expression of a strategy of building a balance of Shia Persia against the Egyptian-Turkey-Gulf states Sunnis. If that were the intent, the Obama seers have blown it with their naïve expectations of “the Arab spring”, their flirtation with the Muslim Brotherhood, and subsequent antagonism of the Egyptian military and false hopes for Turkish leadership.

There is some circumstantial evidence on the other hand that the Obama Administration is thinking that there is an inevitability about the Iranian hegemony in the area, and that a deal can be struck with it. How else to explain the constant unrequited supplications to the mullahs [including the most recent “secret” personal letter from the President] and the refusal to support Iranian dissidents?

That presumably would be the rationale for what looks like a negotiation to permit Iran to retain a capacity to enrich uranium, ostensibly for a nuclear power industry, but which would make them a “threshold” nuclear weapons state. For any but the most idealistic observer, it is hard to rationalize the past history of this fanatical Muslim regime’s secret nuclear efforts and any hope that it would abide by such an agreement, or, indeed, that UN or other surveillance would be more effective than in the past.

With the outlook for salvaging any of Obama’s domestic agenda poor what with not only a Republican-led Congress but a reinvigorated GOP, it could well be that Obama would turn to foreign policy in his two lame duck years of office. That is why the mystery of the Persian thread as it winds through the Obama Administration is a political conundrum of moment.

sws-11-09-14

Transformation of U.S. foreign policy


Barack Hussein Obama, with a group of largely ideologically primitive amateur policymakers but skillful media manipulators, set out in 2008 with the stated purpose to “transform” the American Republic. Although their emphasis was more related to domestic issues, their goals also required a linked fundamental reorientation of American foreign policy.

With the prospect that in a few days, another defeat in Congressional midterm elections will severely limit his further initiatives in the remaining two years of the Obama Administration, it must be acknowledged that at least temporarily Obama & Co. have succeeded in their overall aims in the international arena.

That is a stark contrast to the domestic scene where most Obama policies have either failed spectacularly or are in a state of continued dispute in the face of, however eroded, traditional values, the weight of inertia, and that incredible American entrepreneurial utilization of technology. In energy, for example, perhaps the most important ingredient of economic policy, the technological breakthroughs in the exploitation of gas and oil – the shale gas revolution – have completely upended Obama’s energy strategy. Not only is the outlook for fossil fuel reserves, worldwide as well as domestically, been completely changed, but the always volatile energy costs now appear headed for a long period of falling real prices. Obama’s attempt to stampede the U.S. economy into highly government subsidized so-called alternative sources of energy are in shambles – at an untold cost to the taxpayer, or course.

The Obamaites have been far more successful in their pursuit of a dramatic reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether those initiatives are a permanent feature of the international scene. But, for the moment at least, Obama has accomplished his goals: Gone largely is continuing recognition of Washington’s post-World War II leadership of the coalition of allies which not only won the greatest war in history against the Nazis and Japanese militarists but also outran the threat of another totalitarian enemy, Soviet Communism.

The Obama view was that in the half-century-plus of Washington world leadership, if not in its longer history including slavery, America had made too many mistakes, that its worldwide dominance was on balance deleterious, that a better role would be one of, at most, primus inter pare. Furthermore, reaching out rhetorically to former perceived victims of American actions would be a pathway toward peace and stability. In short, what he and his colleagues saw as a more compassionate and understanding American executive could go far in curing the world’s problems rather than using its power to help stabilize the world scene. [Never mind their dismissal if remarked at all of the enormous extension of aid to the world over previous decades.]

To a considerable extent, Obama – with the aid, however reluctant she now says, of his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton – has been able to achieve these policies.
But the daily headlines also tell us that the goals of this strategy has not been achieved in any quarter of the globe. But to the contrary, the world has hardly ever been in such disarray with or without an activist U.S. leadership.

Two points need to be made quickly:

The Obama Administration and its policies are not responsible for most of the world’s political problems, misgovernment and violence. It did inherit what despite one of the longest periods of peace in Europe’s history with its overwhelming influence on world affairs, was a volatile world scene. In short, the world is the jungle it always was. And recent events have shown us political movements demonstrating the ugliest aspects of human nature, too, are still with us. In short, it is clear that no farseeing American strategy could have done more than ameliorate the world scene, as some of us would argue it did for some six decades.

Secondly, the history of ideas suggests that Obama’s international perspective did not spring like Athena fully formed and armed from Zeus’ forehead. Obama’s theories of international relations rely heavily on that strong undercurrent of American thinking which always sought to minimize our exposure to the rest of the world’s problems.

That was the case, rather successfully throughout most of the 19th century with the help of His Majesty’s British Navy, and the God-given geographic isolation that two oceans afforded the U.S. [One has to recall, for example, that only a little over a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, legislation for extension of universal military service passed the House of Representatives by only one vote] Not only was that complicated concept, generally dubbed “isolationism”, part and parcel of American political thinking from the beginning of the Republic, but its supporters in more recent past have included a wide swath of supporters across the political spectrum from “Prairie radicals” to the complex sympathies of the warring parties in the U.S. electorate. [Pacifist and Socialist Norman Thomas sat on the same “America First” – the most active of prewar isolationist organizaions — platform with members of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in Yorkville in 1940.]

Still, the list of successful “accomplishments” of the Obama strategy to diminish America’s role in international affairs is long.

• By abandoning the deployment of anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, arduously negotiated, Washington not only dealt American missile defense a body blow but awakened the old threat of decoupling European security from America’s worldwide strategies.

• The refusal to lead the alliance which overthrew Qadaffi in Libya resulted not only in the tragic and ignominious death of an American ambassador and three other Americans but is leading to an anarchic situation there – with its threat to Egypt and the rest of North Africa and oil markets – with possible jihadist ascendancy.

• An amorphous position toward the U.S.-Israeli alliance, despite pro forma statements to the contrary, emboldened jihadist Hamas and further diminished the possibility of a Palestinian negotiating partner for an accommodation between the Jewish state and the Arabs.

• The refusal to lead a Western alliance in support of Ukraine against the Hitler-tactics of infiltration and puppetry of Russia’s Vladimir Putin has not only diminished the fragile Kyiv government but put into question the guarantees of the NATO alliance to its Central and Eastern European members.

• Neither Obama’s ostensibly seminal addresses in Cairo and Istanbul with apologies for pretended insults to Islam by the U.S. and a more than sympathetic reading of the history of Islam have improved relationships with the Muslim world nor diminished the growing Islam;s traditional jihadist elements.

• Courtship of the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, apparently a critical part of Mr. Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan’s nonconventional view of Islam, has widened the gap with the Egyptian military now ruling what has been the most important Arab country and a leader of the Muslim world and other Arab allies in the Gulf.

• A studied neutral position toward Chinese claims on Japanese occupied territory returned under bilateral postwar agreements to Tokyo and no immediate followup to Clinton’s statement of reorientation of U.S. strategy toward Asia has unnerved traditional Asian allies.

• Continued flirtation with the tottering Communist regime in Havana has encouraged Moscow to try to resurrect its alliance with Castro Cuba, encouraged elaborate Cuban espionage in the U.S., and undermined the continuing dissident democratic movement in Cuba supported by Cuban Americans in the U.S.

It is far from clear that in the kind of volatile world in which we live, the “success” of Obama’s transformation of American policy would not be the object of a concerted reversal by a new administration in 2016. Or, indeed, as despite cryptic language and new names for old crimes [workplace violence for jihadist terrorism], the Obama Administration is now by force majeure is being made to reverse course. The great danger is, of course, as in the present attempt to cope with the ISIL phenomenon in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s half-measures will lead to further disaster.

sws-10-05-14

Strategy, any one?


 

“Okay, smart-a___, what is your strategy?”

In a [rather large] nutshell; here are the tactics which when pulled together make up a grand strategy:

Domestic

Make an “America is back!” speech from the Oval Office in the White House modeled on Harry Truman’s “Doctrine” speech of 1947. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumantrumandoctrine.html   Its principal theme would be recognition that the U.S. and its allies are launched in an extended war — and still far from being won — against the Islamic jihadists.

Immediately ask Congress for emergency lifting of all Sequestration applying to the Department of Defense, the CIA and other security agencies for five years. Halt and reverse with continuing extension and recruitment the personnel cutbacks now decimating the American armed forces.

Reverse energy policies to provide the U.S. economy and our allies with a noninflationay stimulus of cheaper fuel, simultaneously directly providing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, by:

 

  • Administratively, opening up all federal lands [including offshore Virginia, etc.] to fracking,
  • Administratively, waiving all EPA regs on fracking for five years.
  • Administratively, fast-tracking applications for the dozen or so outstanding applications for liquefied natural gas export facilities, putting on hold any Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning them for a five-year period.
  • Asking  Congress to lift all oil and gas export restrictions, including a waiver on EPA fossil fuel export regs for five years. [These exports would begin to supply allies in Europe and Asia and simultaneously help mend the balance of payments hemorrhage against the dollar.]
  • Immediately okaying the XL Keystone Pipeline and other Canadian applications for pipelines into the U.S. directed at Houston refineries and their export facilities.
  • Pushing Detroit and foreign-owned auto companies to organize and subsidize a national network of filling stations for an expanded production and use of LNG-fueled vehicles.

To reinforce federalism, begin the rescission of the 17th amendment, restoring the original intent of the Founders by returning the power on how to elect senators to the states, freeing the states to determine their own method including indirect election by the various legislatures. [Most of the turn of the 20th century arguments for direct election are now better ones for indirect election, e.g., “it’s a millionaire’s club”.]

Resurrect the independent U.S. Information Service with a cabinet post and assistant secretaries from State, Defense and CIA. The new department would incorporate the Board of International Broadcasting, expanding Radio Liberty [with renewed local language broadcasts to Central Asia] in order to tell “the American story” to the world.

Mideast

            Bomb the ISIL in Syria and Iraq “back to the stone age” with a massive WWII type aerial bombardment. In riposte, sanction all banks and financial institutions – including third parties, and, of course, including all Russian and the Chinese institutions – doing business with the al Assad regime.

“Pressure” Turkey to accept a NATO mission on its southeast flank to work directly with the secular and “moderate” Islamic anti-Assad forces from a Turkish sanctuary. Organize with our NATO partners a joint “request” that Ankara release immediately all imprisoned Turkish journalists as the first step in reinaugurating the movement toward a civil society. Let Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdogan know if he does not acquiesce to these quiet pressures and move back from his drift into Islamism, Washington will demand Turkey’s expulsion from NATO.

Reinvoke strict sanctions on Tehran until the mullahs accept a NATO – not the UN IAEI which has been so notoriously inept — inspection of their nuclear activities. Slam the possibility of military intervention “back on the table” and be prepared for surgical strikes to slow if not deter the Mullahs’ acquisition of WMD.

Administratively, add the Moslem Brotherhood to the State Department’s terrorist list, and direct the FBI to insure that all domestic Islamic organizations [including mosques] with formal and informal ties to the Brotherhood be put on a terrorist alert list.

Lift all restrictions on arms to Egypt now being temporarily enforced and invite al Sisi to visit the U.S. before mid-summer 2015.

Persuade al Sisi to abandon his dicey Second Suez Canal Project. Instead round up  Gulf States, Israel’s Dead Sea Works, the World Bank [IBRD] and private European, American and Japanese capital to fund the Qattara Depression Project to provde Egypt with cheap hydropower and a new chemical industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qattara_Depression_Project

Immediately and with considerable public fanfare accept Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s request for stationing additional American forces [he has called for 10,000] on the world largest air base at Al Udeid [Abu Nakhlah Airport], the U.S. Army base at Sayliyah and the U.S. base at Doha. Then, “encourage” the Gulf States [UAE, Dubai, Saudi Arabia] in concert with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] to ultimatum the Sheik to end all payments and subsidies to the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas, al Nusr and ISIL and to both Arabic and English al Jazeera networks — “or else”. Compensate by helping the EU, and especially Germany, to negotiate greater LNG purchases from Qatar, if necessary using additional European storage facilities, to negate the Russian fossil fuels blackmail.

Immediately supply Ukraine with necessary heavy weapons and technical assistance to meet Pres. Vladimir Putin’s aggression.

Reoccupy with significant ground forces and maximum publicity the old Wheelus U.S. Air Force base at Mitiga International Airport in eastern Libya. “Encourage” Gen. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar to negotiate merger of Libya with the United Arab Republic [Egypt] with the help of ENI [Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi ] whereby the huge oil revenues could be stolen and wasted more beneficially.

“Persuade” the UN to amalgamate the UNWRA [special Palestinian UN organization with its enormous budget] with the UN Refugee Organization with the appointment of an American administrator by withholding the major part of both their fundings from the American taxpayer [as was done earlier to reform UNESCO and ILO]. Insist on a purging UNWRA staff, ejecting all those who have worked for or been active in Hamas, a terrorist organization so designated by the US and its allies.

Europe

Put the ruffles and flourishes back into the Anglo-American alliance with its attendant links to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the cornerstone of NATO and America’s world alliance strategies.

Deliver SAPiest heavy weapons and technical assistance to Ukraine in its fight against the invasion by Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s forces and block Moscow intervention in rewriting the structure of the Kyiv regime.

Establish a NATO base in Estonia.

Move into lock-step with the French in tamping down West and Central African violence [see below].

See that the NATO Rapid Deployment Force becomes a reality SAPiest with the training on a level with the U.S.’ and Britain’s Special Forces.

Prepare for the eventual collapse of the Euro.

East & South Asia

Quietly assign a senior U.S. diplomat to a special U.S.-Japan-Korea commission to sit sine die to help sort out issues between Tokyo and Seoul with special personal representatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Pres. Park Geun-hye. [Their grandfather and father, respectively, established postwar relations between the two countries.] This would aim to smooth over the most important obstacle in an American-led defensive alliance in Asia against North Korea and Communist China threats.

Reinvoke the strict sanctions earlier used to induce the North Koreans to come to heel, including third party sanctions against any financial institutions who deal with them, openly or clandestinely. They would be lifted when an international inspection team consisting of Americans, Japanese and the NATO allies certify its weapons of mass destruction programs have been ended.

Nudge ASEAN to resurrect the intent of Sec. of State John Foster Dulles’ 1950s Southeast Asia Treaty Organization with the headquarters again in Thailand, and hold out admission possibility to Vietnam [if it makes major “reforms”, that is de-Communize] in its feud with Communist China.

Push Taiwan rearmament and “invite” the Republican Party to cuddle up to the Democratic Progressive Party to pressure the Kuomintang back into a stronger line against amalgamation with the Mainland to maintain the oinly democratic society in Chines history.

Latin America

Initiate “tough love” with Mexico, e.g., introduce legislation to subsidize American investment in Mexican oil and gas in exchange for joint paramilitary border operations to halt illegal flow of immigrants to the U.S. with reinforced joint patrols on both sides of the border and a joint U.S.-Mexican undercover immigration control force on the Mexican-Guatemala border. Reach agreement on new “modalities” for protecting American citizens traveling, visiting and doing business in Mexico, matching those affording Mexican citizens in the U.S.

Swap new legal provisions for bond concessions to the Argentines for their cooperation in U.S. Latin American projects, especially cleaning up “ice” trafficking through Rosario and Iranian penetration of neighboring Paraguay, and a quit-claim to the Falkland Islands.

Introduce legislation to reinstitute the macro aspects of the Cuban embargo at the same time removing all restrictions on movement to and from Cuba by American and Cuban citizens.

Africa

Move U.S. Africom to a new joint U.S.-French-Portuguese-NATO base to be built rapidly with port and air facilities on São Tome e Principe in the Gulf of Guinea while pursuing a campaign of destruction with African and Eruopean allies against Boka Harum.

If this seems a formidable list, it is indeed. It it seems an impossible list, remember that a population less than half the present one in the American war mobilization between 1939 and 1944 doubled real wages in the U.S., produced 229,600 aircraft, added 5,000 ships to the existing merchant fleet, even though two-thirds of the economy was devoted directly to military equipment — and simultaneously won a war against two formidable enemies. It took leadership and political resolve. But just as the attack on Pearl Harbor alerted a recalcitrant nation, however far current leadership has drifted away the country should be reminded that 9/11 was proof that “the splendid isolation” of the U.S. from the rest of the world’s troubles during the 19th century is long past history.

But no amount of posturing over strategy and tactics will suffice if the leadership is irresolute and tries to wish away the dangers of that world jungle that has now physically encroached.

sws-09-07-14

The “New” Middle East


As usual, there are more questions than answers about the current Middle East situation. And, for that matter, there is difficulty following the gyrations of Obama Administration policy.

But there is growing evidence a defiant Israel, stoic in the face of Hamas’ ability to exploit the misery of its own making for Gaza’s 1.8 million and growing pressure from the Obama Administration for an indecisive ceasefire. Jerusalem appears dedicated to the destruction of the most dynamic terrorist organization in the Mideast. Successful demilitarization of Gaza would not only remake the Israel-Palestine relationship but could be the world’s first conclusive victory in the war on Islamic terrorism. In a rapidly evolving situation, not only changing conditions but loyalties and alliances is breathtaking.

Here are some basic considerations:

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beset with the typical domestic Israeli ideological in-fighting, from peace advocates on the left to proponents of reoccupation of Gaza on the right. But he rides a wellspring of domestic support, despite heavy casualties, for refusing a temporary compromise with Hamas such as those in 2008, 2009 and 20012 . Furthermore, what is seen now as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2004-5 unilateral Gaza withdrawal and destruction of its four Israeli Settlements has further discredited “land for peace” – that is abandoning 1967 conquests of the locales of the historic Hebrew kingdoms for a “two state solution”. But the Israeli public is still absorbing the evidence of a major intelligence failure in underestimating Hamas’ capacities with its sophisticated tunneling operations. That surge of suicide bombing, mayhem and kidnapping was planned for September 2014 Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year]—to take advantage of a Jewish holiday, an echo of the Arab surprise of the 1973 Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] War. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Jerusalem with the tacit concurrence of Cairo, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Mohammed Abbas’ Fatah movement, will have the stomach for completing of Hamas decimation.

Iran

Destruction of Hamas would be a severe blow to Tehran’s mullahs, who have used it as a further diversion from demands by the U.S., Israel and other American allies to halt the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was not only that Hamas represents part of the strategic pincers in the south with Iranian supported Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the north against any Israeli attempt to take out Iranian nuclear weapon potential. But the ability of Shia Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to jump the deadly 1600-year-old sectarian divide to support Hamas as a product of the ultra-anti-Shia Sunni Moslem Brotherhood. The Tehran-Gaza alliance unites Islamic terror in a way not seen before. Even Iran’s traditional enemy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, now reaching for ultimate power in the Turkish presidential elections this fall as he moves closer to the Brotherhood, had also become one of Hamas’ patrons. Will the Tehran mullahs watch this asset fall apart, or would they, for example, finally unleash Hezbollah and its missiles on Israel’s north in order to try to rescue the Hamas remnant?

Egypt

Contrary to the 2012 Gaza ‘truce” when Mohammed Morsi rode the wave of a Moslem Brotherhood electoral victory, Pres. Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees Hamas as an enemy. The ruling Egyptian military is in a brutal campaign to wipe out the Brotherhood’s domestic political and paramilitary following. Furthermore, Hamas’ Iranian connection on Egypt’s doorstep imperils Cairo’s traditional political and cultural leadership of the Arab and Muslim world. Tacit military cooperation with the Israelis is restoring Egypt’s control over Sinai and presumably would close the smuggling routes for longer-range Iranian missiles and other weaponry reaching Hamas through the Red Sea and Sudan. It remains to be seen if al Sisi can maneuver a ceasefire/truce in tacit cooperation with the Israelis which will dismantle Hamas’ military as a minimum while all the while paying enough homage to Gazan victims to quiet the Arab Street’s overall sympathies for the Palestinian cause.

Qatar

This tiny little Gulf sheikhdom with only 2 million people – if the highest per capita income in the world from its enormous gas reserves – has taken a hit. That’s because Qatar’s al Thani family’s high stakes game of playing all sides included being the principal backer of Hamas. It was not only Qatar’s financing but IT controls which permitted Hamas to launch thousands of missiles at Israel from its sophisticated tunnels, protecting them from air power and preparing a growing terrorist plot against Israel. While Qatar played a principal role in the Obama Administration’s “lead from behind” in toppling Muamar Qadaffi in Libya, it is the principal funder for the jihadists against Washington-backed moderates seeking overturn of the al Basher regime in Damascus. Qatar also was middleman in swapping of five Taliban commanders imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held for five years by the Taliban/ Although it has the smallest military force in the region – 11,800 conscripts – Washington sold it $11 billion in weapons earlier this year including anti-aircraft missiles and looking forward to a major fighter purchase later. This was the price for use of a major air base where Washington strategists attempt to coordinate defense for all the Gulf states against an increasingly menacing Iran. Washington reached agreement to continue to operate and maintain troops at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base at least through 2024, having moved there when Saudi Arabia reversed course after originally hosting U.S. forces during the Gulf Wars. Qatar’s bitter feud with Saudi Arabia, restrictions on the use of the base and meddling in its Gulf neighbor’s domestic politics limit that cooperation. A collapse of Hamas could prejudice the whole shaky network of Qatar’s activities, perhaps demanding a new American strategy to oppose Tehran in the Gulf rather the dawdling talks extended for four months which are neither inhibiting Tehran’s weapons progress, and now lightened sanctions, are restoring its economy.

UN

Admission that three UN Gaza schools stored Hamas armaments [then returned to Hamas] is finally giving currency to the region’s greatest “secret”, the 70-year-old effort of the UNRWA, a highly paid international secretariat [including Hamas members], with the collaboration of neighboring Arab states, to cultivate a “refugee” status for Palestinians. UN operated schools have preached anti-Semitic hatred and jihad against the Israeli state. Simultaneously while Israel absorbed 800,000 Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, shorn of all their possessions, the oil-rich Gulf states imported millions of labor from South and Southeast Asia, largely refusing Palestinian Arabs emigration or naturalization. Recent events have forced UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon into condemnation of Hamas violation of repeated attempts at cease fire in contradiction to the UNWRA. Slowly the barbarity of Hamas’ strategy of deliberately exposing Gazans to additional jeopardy from Israeli aerial and ground bombardment in order to exploit world sympathy is seeping through a media unable to report actual conditions in Gaza for fear of their reporters’ lives. For example, CNN interviews with spokesmen for Hamas have without identification taken place in one of the area’s largest hospitals. Some UN officials – for example, from the head of the UN Human Rights organization condemning the U.S. for its participation in developing Israel’s Iron Dome defense and suggesting Washington should aid Hamas in a parallel effort – may finally be bringing some semblance of balance into mass media reporting in the area. It remains to be seen whether Washington, as the disproportionate bankroller of UN activities and massive direct payments to the Palestinians, will use its leverage to reform the aid-giving process. U.S. .Sec. of State John Kerry’s proposal – apparently “demanded” in a bitter conversation by Obama with Netanyahu – to use Qatar and Turkey as mediators in a Gaza ceasefire outraged the Israelis and their American supporters. The effort to cut out Egypt, the traditional mentor for the Gazan Arabs, appeared to be a continuation of the Obama Administration’s flirtation with the Moslem Brotherhood and its cool relations with the Egyptian military. But, almost immediately, including public statements, Washington flipped back to endorsing Cairo as the mediator, including a role for Mohammed Abbas and his West Bank Palestinians. Cairo’s backing by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the Arab League has not only strengthened what had been seen as Abbas’ fading role but that of the Palestinian “moderates” despite their public caterwauling in defense of Hamas.

Washington, momentarily, has few options but to wring its hands over the civilian carnage in Gaza and to hope that others will find the basis for ending the crisis successfully, that is, with the demilitarization of Gaza.

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Horror vacui


This column was originally published in The Washington Times,  Sunday, March 20, 2011. It has not been reedited.
 By Sol Sanders
President Obama has given new meaning to that epithet “imperial presidency.” It was slung at Richard M. Nixon not only for his extravagant White House “palace guard” — some in kitschy uniforms — but for his more serious unconstitutional overreaching.
But though imperial in his style, Mr. Obama reigns; he does not rule.
Whether on domestic or foreign policy, Mr. Obama abdicates to congressional or bureaucratic control, then spins the resulting muddle as something for which he is not responsible. One sees, for example, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen pontificating far above their pay grades, only to be contradicted either by events or Mr. Obama himself. The president takes a hands-on approach only in maintaining his left-wing political base, be they Wisconsin unionists or Washington lobbies.
This standard operating procedure is reinforced by Mr. Obama’s denigration of historic American accomplishments, often on foreign soil. In the one international arena where he has sought leadership, relations with the Muslim world, the result has been an almost total disaster. Having made what he considered two seminal speeches offering renewed friendship with Islam, he now finds American interests in jeopardy in both locales. Turkey, once a stalwart NATO ally and the site of his first lecture, defies the West on the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, the greatest threat now facing the alliance. His Cairo speech, seemingly falling on deaf ears, was followed by his bemused administration fostering regime change but adding little to the still-undetermined outcome in Egypt.
Of course, Mr. Obama did not create these long-simmering crises. But he contributes to them through his administration’s lack of faith in American power, hard and soft. Favoring multilateralism to American leadership, Ambassador Susan Rice preaches that gospel at the United Nations but neglects reform of the organization’s abysmal corruption and inadequacy. Only when Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi began slaughtering his own people did Washington join the move to redress the charade of Libya’s prominence on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Aristotle observed nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum — the “horror vacui” — and we are getting a demonstration geopolitically when the world’s paramount power chooses not to lead. Or worse still, when Mr. Obama trumpets a policy without following through. Minor players take the field, exacerbating regional conflicts in an increasingly intertwined world.
Nowhere has that been more apparent than in Washington’s approach to the Egyptian regime’s collapse, the Bahrain religious conflict and now the Libyan civil war, with their attendant threat to world energy supplies.
Like a sick dog to its vomit, Washington returns again and again to the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the magic bullet to cure the Middle East’s troubles. It’s the one international issue where the president enthusiastically commits his prestige. But having chosen Israeli settlements in areas won in the 1967 war as fundamental — it was a subsidiary issue until he came along — Mr. Obama jeopardizes Israel’s basic security, further postponing any agreement. The absurdity of his position is self-evident: In a “two-state solution,” he ignores Israel’s almost 2 million Arabs but insists a Palestinian state must be “judenrein.”
Elsewhere, lack of U.S. leadership — withholding even rhetorical support for Iran’s opposition — has helped extend Tehran’s fanatic and kleptocratic tentacles across the Fertile Crescent. The Persian mullahs have managed to play all sides in “the Arab spring.” Not only does Tehran use Shiite Syrian and Lebanese co-sectarians, but it sponsors Sunni Palestinian terrorism, including Hamas. Iran may well profit from whatever comes of Mr. Obama’s belated moves to oust Col. Gadhafi.
The arguments against American intervention in Libya were strong but, ultimately, Mr. Obama could no more ignore Tripoli than rising oil prices spurred by his administration’s counterproductive domestic energy policies could fail to cripple American recovery.
Thus Mr. Obama and the U.S. have been sucked into a vacuum, in part of the president’s own making.
• Sol Sanders, veteran foreign correspondent and analyst, writes weekly on the convergence of international politics, business and economics. He can be reached at solsanders@cox.net.

A world ablaze – but different fuels


 

A bane of modern military studies [let’s eschew “science”] is the concept of counter-insurgency – the idea that indigenous revolts around the world can be analyzed with “the scientific method” and a set of general principles if implemented could cure the problem. Common sense tells us that the essence of any dissidence/armed insurrection is its particularity, its basis in specific local conditions. They differ not only in geography but in the characteristics of individual societies. So, yes, the army should not steal the peasants’ chickens is a good maxim – but such bromides do not go far to tell you how to prevent civil war.

At the moment, we have one bitter internecine war in Syria, and three incipient revolts between two or more elements in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand. Other conflicts, even messier to define, are growing in the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

The question, of course, is whether there anything that connects all these conflicts? And, if so, what if anything can be done to lessen tension and conflict?

Ukraine

The ambivalence between Ukraine and Russia is as old as the two peoples. In fact, it was from centers in what is now Ukraine that Christianity spread to the Great Russians and where they even got their name.  More recently, Ukrainians have suffered disproportionately in the Soviet Union – a bitter irony, often at the hands of ethnic Ukrainian members of the Communist hierarchy. Stalin’s man-made famine of the 1930s followed on to the horrors of those of World War I when the engineer Herbert Hoover first emerged on the world scene. But a flame of Ukrainian identity survived, expressing itself at the height of Soviet repression in such small protests as citizens of Ukraine’s western metropolis, the old Hapsburg city of Lviv [Lvov, Lemberg] unofficially using “our time” [Central European] rather than Moscow’s time zone to express their identification with the West..

So it is no wonder that [Ras] Putin, the new Russian dictator seeking to restore Soviet glory has intrigued in a state once called in the two World Wars “a figment of the imagination of the German general staff”. Whatever the outcome of fast-moving events, Putin has the most to gain or lose – aside from the Ukrainians themselves. Ras – who has said publicly that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest catastrophe of the bloody 20th century — is gambling. By his direct intervention, he either hopes to bring Ukraine again under Moscow hegemony, or failing that, to destroy its unity as a cautionary tale for other former Soviet “republics” holding on to their fragile independence.

But for the moment, the anti-Soviet forces have gained the upper hand in Kiev and he faces a choice of backing the ultra-corrupt Russophile Viktor Yanukovych as he attempts to cling to power, apparently setting up shop in Russian-speaking and industrial eastern Ukraine. Or Ras could wait to see if Pres. Barack Obama and the European Union will do the necessary to back their friends in Kiev. Or, unlikely, Putin retreats, taking his licks and admitting a disastrous defeat. That result could escalate Moscow’s growing economic difficulties with its almost total dependence on fossil fuel exports, undercut by the growing impact of America’s shale revolution on world prices.

Syria

As ghastly as is Basher al Assad and his Iranian backers’ war on Syrian civilians – matching the ugly trial run Nazi and Fascist aircraft waged on Spanish Republicans in that prelude to World War II – geopolitically its importance lies elsewhere. Every day that al Assad’s regime survives, U.S. interests and those of its allies suffer: there is an intensification of the influence and control of radical jihadists in the opposition to Assad, and the growing influence of the Tehran mullahs not only in Damascus but in neighboring Lebanon and even among formerly rabidly Sunni Hamas jihadists in Gaza.

Continued Syrian fighting risks the stability of both Israel and Jordan, the major two outright allies along with Saudi Arabia. The growing perception of Iranian strength is posing an increasing dilemma for the Gulf Arab sheikdoms and even the military in Egypt: whether they knuckle under to Iranian Mideast hegemony or go nuclear themselves. For long ago it became apparent that despite public pronouncements, the Obama Administration is prepared to settle for a supposedly nuanced arrangement whereby Tehran has the capability of weapons of mass destruction but does not “weaponize”. That for a country which for 17 years was able to disguise its uranium enrichment from UN regulators of the non-proliferation treaty it had signed.

Venezuela

With its long history of repressive regimes since independence from Spain almost 200 years ago, Caracas again is saddled with new oppression. But this time its incompetence matches any effort to tyrannize a divided opposition. With one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Pres. Nicolás Maduro has taken the country further toward bankruptcy, in no small part because of the largesse he has continued from his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Chavez’ populist policies built a constituency among the nation’s poor until his death in 2013 and among leftist regimes around the continent.

Now Maduro, with his constant malapropisms, almost a caricature of Chavez, relies increasingly on Raul Castro’s Cuba and its secret police tactics, including Cuban “advisors”, against rising opposition. The cost in oil for the Castro dictatorship some observers reckon as much as $13 billion a year. Other discounts go to the leftist, and above all anti-American regimes, notably the Sandinista retreads in Nicaragua.

Thailand

The old contest between Bangkok’s Sino-Thai elite and the more ethnic Thai rurals, especially those in the poorer northeast, has come unhinged in the rapid economic and international integration of the once isolated nation that never became a European colony.. Ironically, the rural areas – which once got some taste of social and economic upward mobility through the frequent encroachment of the military on the political process – have now been seduced with long-awaited social services. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist handing out new entitlements while he used his connections for building an enormous personal fortune, is a fugitive from corruption charges. Nevertheless, from Dubai or wherever he has been running the country through his political machine with his sister as prime minister to the consternation of the old elite. [It is another irony that Shinawatra is, himself, only first generation Sino-Thai which he has never tried to hide.]

The elite, increasingly supported by students and Bangkok’s middle class, are now turning to the possibility of some sort of indirect rule rather than Shinawatra’s popular mandate. The crisis is deepening, beginning to affect Thailand’s tourism — $26.7 billion in 1013, up 20% over the year before. Street rioting has already canceled out an estimated 900,000 visitors in the next six months and their $1.6 billion. Violence would eventually cut into the steady low of foreign investment – Thailand’s auto industry dominates Southeast Asia, ninth largest in the world.

Solutions for half a century to periodic blowups have come from the intervention of the military, now more reluctant than ever before to jeopardize its $5.3 billion budget by bloodying its hands. Thailand’s sainted 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyade, despite his close associations with the elite, has spent much of the last year in hospital. The final arbiter in past political crises, he is coming to the end of a 68-year reign with the succession somewhat clouded by a scandal-prone crown prince.

Needless to say, the U.S. did not create any of these crises. But whatever the failings of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s endless peregrinations and John Kerry’s pledges of endurance, there is a growing worldwide perception that American power is retreating in the face of a poorly functioning domestic economy, a curtailment of military expenditures, and an Obama policy that attempts to “lead from behind”.Syria” has become the arch symbol of Obama’s indecisiveness. That carries over to a growing belief in a general withdrawal from the U.S.’ preeminent post-World War II leadership of free societies. With Obama’s threats and “red lines” increasingly ignored, an ominous vacuum in virtually all regions of the world invites chaos if not worse.

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