Tag Archives: Basher al-Asaad

The grim Arab summer


Among nations, as in private lives, there are self-evident long-term trends, often cataclysmic, but with unforeseen tripwires for timing the unpredictable denouement. At the moment notable among these is continued failure of modernization among the 1.3 billion Arab/Moslem world.

What a few months ago seemed an irresistible wave of rising expectations forcing a renaissance in Tunisia, Egypt, and other “moderate” Muslim societies, has stymied

But it has had economic and political consequences. Others, unforeseen, are bound to come along, but for the moment:

  • The bloodiest of all retrograde Arab dictatorships in Syria is doomed, its mostly reluctant advocates notwithstanding. Saudi Arabia, chief expositor of a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil foreign policy, appease [and fund] it. Washington and Paris cower, fearing Basher al-Assad’s demise might lead to something even worse than his purported secular tyranny. Damascus’ strategic partners — Iranian, Lebanese and Palestinian Islamicists – using it as a trampoline to Mediterranean power, can only wring their hands. Turkey dreaming of an alliance ushering in Neo-Ottoman glory is befuddled with an onslaught of refugees.
  • Egypt, long Islam’s cultural center, flops back into a new lap of corrupt if camouflaged military government. Collapse of tourism and crippled local industry threaten minimal growth achieved during the Mubarak era with a yawning, unemployed youthful demographic bulge. Army leadership, shrewd enough to continue a half-peace with a formidable enemy, Israel, nevertheless, flirts with populist anti-Semitism while enriching itself through protectionist, crony state capitalism rather than opening up to investment, technology transfer and rapid growth.
  • Pakistan, largest self-proclaimed Muslim state of 200 millions ironically conceived as an Islamic modernizing force in dying British Imperial India despite its confessional moniker, implodes. Its military, only Pakistani “national” entity, has suffered a lethal blow from the unilateral surgical American strike killing Osama Ben Ladin. The related perception of impotence and/or incompetence complements rising opposition to the generals’ corrupt incestuous relationship with greedy Punjabi feudal elite. Washington influence seeking to foster make-believe democratic parallel civilian government feeds anti-Americanism. Beijing siphons off massive U.S. aid to one of the world’ poorest populations through an anti-India alliance even as Chinese “aid” projects come under terrorist attack.
  • The Obama Administration, buying into Muslim victimization mythology reinforced by the President’s own pesudo-Marxian historical view, has no strategy for dealing with the energy fulcrum Persian Gulf powers wield however haphazardly on world economy. The Administration’s muddled “alternative energy” policies – not excluding the crassly politically motivated band-aid release of strategic reserve oil – is ever more irrelevant in the face of vast new fossil fuel discoveries [shale gas and deepwater drilling] and potential [e.g., Arctic oil].
  • Libya encapsulates Mr. Obama’s failing attempt to wind down Pres. George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism”. Refusing the full weight of American arms to NATO’s effort, initiated by the Europeans, risks temporary resumption of Muammar Qadaffi’s long history of terrorism against Americans. In the bargain, “Libya” dramatizes long ignored NATO inadequacies with its increasing dependence on American muscle.
  • Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal announcement touched all domestic 2012 electoral bases, but it offered no solution to the fundamental question: having taken on Islamic radicals, Washington has not struck the lethal blow. There is no Hitler bunker suicide, no Japanese militarists’ surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri, the Osama drama notwithstanding. Probably unconsciously, Pres. Obama has taken a leaf from old Sen. George Aiken’s rejected Vietnam playbook http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Aiken: “declare victory and come home”. Later modified by Pres. Richard M. Nixon and Dr. Henry A. Kissinger to “a decent interval”, it failed, demoralizing the U.S. military and undermining domestic self-esteem for a generation while sacrificing hundreds of thousands of American and Vietnamese lives without accomplishing its geopolitical goals of mollifying the Soviets or welding an effective Chinese alliance.

Leaked efforts to contain spreading Islamicist virus in Yemen with Special Forces drops armed with unmanned aerial vehicles, ipso facto, insures the fight will continue long after the highly publicized if incoherent Inside-the-Beltway “debate” over counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism is, again, out of fashion. Gen. David H. Petraeus, USA [Rtd.], a principal if scientistic participant, after all, soon will be charged with clandestine warfare. Whatever Mr. Petraeus’ success at Langley, Mr. Obama or his successor at 1600 Pennsylvania, can not long avoid the basic problem, election or no election: protecting the U.S. from continuing Islamic terrorism.

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“I don’t have anything to give you but pieces of broken glass.”


Gossips report when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gifted Vice President Joseph Biden a glass-framed photograph taken in Israel of his recently deceased Zionist-sympathetic mother, he accidentally crushed it. Apparently, in an apologetic malapropism, the usually suave Bibi blundered again. Psychobabblers would conjure up a subconscious working overtime.

It wasn’t meant to go that way. On the eve of Passover, the Jews’ ancient feast of liberation, Mr. Biden had been sent with words of support to salvage a deteriorating relationship. But the Vice President had nothing the Israelis wanted to hear. In essence, his message was that Mr. Obama’s efforts, first to appease the Tehran mullahs, patently had failed. And then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “crippling sanctions” came a cropper. Penciled in bottom line: the Israelis must not move unilaterally unleashing Armageddon, the world was going to have to live with an Iranian bomb.

For Mrs. Clinton’s efforts were stymied. Never mind the Chinese and Russian UN Security Council veto. Even Brazil’s Pres. Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva publicly lectured Mme. Secretary on how she should play nice with the mullahs. Lula, likeBrazil, is on a roll with enormous new deepwater oil discoveries. [BP is now desperately trying to buy in.]

Almost forgotten were Brazilian ethanol imports blocked to protect Midwest corn producers and all the other frictions nearing trade war proportions. The Brazilians could smirk at the Obama Administration’s “green energy” subsidies after decades of their dumping billions into developing sugar-based fuel. Now Brazil, soon to be a net oil exporter, wants to play with the big boys. That includes Iran with the world’s second largest fossil fuel reserves. Old roustabouts recall how way back under the Shah, Tehran was prime mover in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries calling for higher priced energy.

If Washington really believes it is going to cobble together sanctions against the bloody Revolutionary Guard – Mrs. Clinton publicly guessed they are now in the Tehran driver’s seat — the mist really has closed in on Foggy Bottom. Many of the U.S.’ two million Iranian exiles, traditional Persian-speaking merchants and hawala money launderers on the west bank of the Persian Gulf, are in bed with the Pasdaran.[IRG]. Even The New York Times found out that major U.S. corporations are violating American sanctions through dummy corporations cluttering every new skyscraper directory in bankrupt Dubai and its neighboring sugar-teat, Qatar.

Whether the Israelis gird their loins for a strike to slow Iranian bomb and missile development may be as disputed inside their government as it is among American TV talking heads. But it may be that Pres. Ahmadenijad’s threats to wipe Israel off the map are less important than just the very existence of a Mullah Bomb. It would reconfigure Mideast geopolitics. The Saudis, whose only foreign policy is to try to buy whomever, and the feckless oil-rich Emiratti, would likely knuckle under to Persian dominance if and when Tehran succeeds. Mercurial Syrian Dictator Basher al-Asaad already publicly threw personal insults at Mrs. Clinton during a kumbayah with Pres. Ahmadenijad only days after she refurbished diplomatic relations and dropped some sanctions. At the other end of the Mideast, Egypt totters on in a succession crisis having long since lost Sunni leadership.

Following in Bush Administration footsteps, Mr. Obama is behind the time curve by refusing to aid Iranian dissidents in Cold War fashion. Washington could well face a strengthening regime. The twentieth century taught us just how far terror would go in castrating much more sophisticated societies. Add nationalist fervor if and when Iran becomes the tenth world nuclear power, and you have a recipe for dramatic erosion of America’s influence in the region.

Tehran holding a bomb could wield enormous power on world energy markets. The Obama Administration’s “green energy”import independence is at best a distant mirage. New technologies to develop abundant domestic gas face the same old enviromentalistas’ fury. A parallel is bankrupt California tolerating pollution of its beeches from seepage in the Santa Barbara Channel rather than go for offshore drilling.

The matriarch Golda Meir’s lament that Israel was the only place in the Mideast without fossil fuels is no longer true. An American outfit has struck gas off the Mediterranean coast.  It’s enough to limit Israel’s dependence on Egypt and end airy-fairy tales of underwater pipelines from Turkey carrying water and Central Asian crude.

But none of this solves the pressing problem of how to get U.S.-Israel relations back on track. One could hope Pres. Obama would turn away from his Palestinian-Syrian-Pakistani friends who thought blocking settlements would carry the day. It never had been an a priori consideration in the endless negotiations. Netanyahu, stronger in part because of his Washington nose-thumbing, can’t and won’t buy it. The self evident fruitless negotiations with divided, unrealistic Palestinian leadership – including Gaza’s jihadists — are striking. But when does realism set in at the State Department?

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