Friday, August 5, 2011

Ominous signs and portents from the Muslim world

Very unpleasant to watch, but it must be done.  Here we go:


Battle lines are being drawn across the Middle East.

On one side sit the forces of stability, with Saudi Arabia at the helm. On the other sit the forces of revolution, with Iran prominent in leadership. The alliances they lead are well known: the Gulf Sheikhdoms and Jordan align with the Saudis; Syria, Hamas, and Hizbollah with Iran. While both sides are equally capable of espousing Islamism and of violating the most basic human rights, the difference between them is very real. The Saudi-led bloc is quite content with the existing global order and the petrodollars that it bestows. The Iranian-led bloc is committed to toppling that order.

For obvious reasons then, American—along with European and Israeli—interests align with the Saudis, while Iran counts Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez among its closer friends.

Though the formation of these blocs predates the Obama Administration, the battle lines have become clearer on his watch. More disturbingly, Obama’s policies have also allowed them to tilt in a decidedly unfavorable direction. Having entered office with a seamless continuation of the Bush Administration assertion that a nuclear Iran was “unacceptable,” the Obama team seems set to accept it. Recent reports of nuclear discussions with Saudi Arabia suggest strongly that we have moved on to the next phase of the issue.

We are also losing ground. For thirty years, Hosni Mubarak kept Egypt entrenched firmly on the side of stability. Obama jettisoned this deeply flawed ally seemingly without concern for who or what might replace him. With Egyptian politics still in a transitional phase, however, all indications are that it will stabilize in favor of instability.

But while the sudden explosive loss of Egypt garnered its fair share of attention, the slow subtle loss of another critical longstanding ally has happened almost out of sight. That ally is Turkey. This past weekend, Turkey announced the resignation of its top General. This resignation marks a final capitulation of the country’s leading secular institution to its Islamist political leadership.

To most Americans, civilian leadership over the military seems the proper order of things. Even most of us who believed that General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment of Afghanistan was more accurate than President Obama’s nevertheless recognized the necessity of his resignation after his public questioning of his commander-in-chief. But the situation in Turkey is different. Turkey’s political leadership has systematically dismantled the country’s civil liberties, eroded the freedom of its press, abused the legal system do destroy critics and opponents—and most of all, reoriented its foreign policy.

Turkey today is a troubling anomaly. A NATO “ally” that favors Iran, manufactures international crises with Israel, supports Syria, and generally sees its future to its east. Most of these trends started on the watch of George W. Bush—who neither said nor did anything to deter them. But plausible deniability was still possible until recently. It is only on Obama’s watch that the situation has become stark. And yet, Obama has been as silent as his predecessor.
More Turkey:

When Turkish voters approved the September 12, 2010 referendum on 26 items of constitutional change, the United States and EU hailed the results as proving “the vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy” and “a step in the right direction.”

Yet the referendum clearly violated the EU Venice Commission’s own Code of Good Practice on Referendums, which states (page 12), “There must be an intrinsic connection between the various parts of each question put to the vote, in order to guarantee the free suffrage of the voter.” Some popular reforms were blended with other changes giving the regime more power. Many voters supported the plan because of the former provisions while disliking the latter ones.

The international cheering for “democratization” goes on while generals, civic leaders, writers, and journalists have been imprisoned since the government’s July 2007 landslide election victory convinced it that it no longer needed to be cautious in asserting its hegemony. Not a single person has yet been convicted. One of the first jailed, writer Ergun Poyraz, marked his fourth anniversary in prison on July 27. Eight newly elected members of the parliament are still in jail, too.

The referendum gave Prime Minister Erdogan the ability to pick members of the high court and in some cases parliament, thus subordinating all three branches of government to himself. Thus the ultimate irony: Erdogan was granted dictatorial powers in the name of democratization. In addition, the Turkish police force, YÖK (Higher Education Board), Diyanet (Presidency of Religious Affairs), and the Turkish Central Bank among numerous other institutions are now controlled by the governing party, its cronies, and supporters.

A few days later, Turkey was again rocked, this time by the resignation of the top military commanders in protest over government policy. Contrary to the spin of pro-government and international media, including the idea that the resignations’ cause was mysterious, Chief of the General Staff Işık Koşaner made their motive perfectly clear:

Investigations and long detention times are kept on the agenda to create an image that the Turkish Armed Forces is a crime organization. Government has not made enough effort to stop it. I will not be able to continue as Chief of the General Staff as I have been impeded by this situation from protecting the rights of my staff.
It is a unique case of a military high command resigning to protest repression by a civilian government!

Needless to say, for the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur Ria Oomen-Ruijten, these developments only proved that “Turkey is becoming more democratic.” Unfortunately, the exact opposite is what’s happening.

The charm offensive undertaken last week by Pakistan’s new foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, on her first official visit to India drew widespread attention for the promises of a ‘new era of bilateral ties’ and of a recalibrated ‘process of engagement and...normalization’ which she brought with her from Islamabad.
But even as Khar was making her graceful and conciliatory remarks, it was business as usual in other branches of the Pakistani establishment. On Wednesday, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) – the country’s government news agency – published an extraordinary news story whose sole purpose was to embarrass one of India’s most prized defence programmes.
The article focused on India’s sale of indigenously developed Dhruv utility helicopters to Ecuador in what at the time was a breakthrough deal for the Indian defence industry. The Ecuadorean Air Force bought seven Dhruvs from India’s state-run aviation firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for $50 million in 2008, but, as the APP story described with scarcely concealed delight, the programme has allegedly run into problems centring on maintenance issues and costs.


So what we have here is a case of pure schadenfreude – unless, of course, the story was published at the behest of a country that does have a stake in seeing the Dhruv fail in the South American market (the US, you would think, is the only helicopter-manufacturing country with that kind of leverage in Islamabad). What this episode really illustrates, however, is that it will take a lot more than charm and good intentions to reset Indo-Pak relations. Khar’s message may have gone down well in New Delhi, but she needs to turn right around and turn that charm on some of her own government departments.

Egypt’s liberals are out in large numbers, but they aren’t the strong horse. They’re third after the army and the Islamists. Events over the last week all but proved it.

Last Friday hundreds of thousands of activists from the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical totalitarian Salafist movement seized control of the square. They didn’t go down there just to yell at the army. They were there to intimidate liberals, and it worked. The Islamists “told their supporters to join in the demonstrations to fight against the liberal infidels,” a caller on the State TV show said. Thirty four different revolutionary groups—and that would be almost all of them—packed up and left for a while.

Then the army went in and cleared out those who remained. No one is at the square now. The soldiers tore down the tents and stepped aside as thugs from the Baltageya beat people up. Shop owners near the square cheered and applauded.

The liberals, the leftists, the Islamists, and even the army were unified, sort of, when Mubarak was the target of all. Egypt is now experiencing competing revolutions, competing demonstrations, and a popular government crackdown. If the junta is overthrown or beaten back into the shadows, the real battle for the heart and soul of Egypt will be on. The victor, if there is one, will determine the Arab world’s direction for decades.

Syria’s state media broadcast stark images of the destruction in the besieged city of Hama for the first time on Friday, showing burnt buildings, makeshift barricades and deserted streets strewn with rubble, in footage that appeared to designed to show that government forces had put down a rebellion in the city.
The images were unmistakably Hama, Syria’s fourth-largest city and a focal point of the five-month-old uprising that has left President Bashar al-Assad’s leadership isolated and weakened. They suggested the military had retaken control of a city that, for two months, had wrested itself from under government and enjoyed a measure of freedom unprecedented in four decades of authoritarian rule by the Assad family.
And, the center of it all, Iran:

A senior Iranian revolutionary guards commander targeted by international sanctions has taken over the presidency of Opec after he became Iran's oil minister on Wednesday.

Rostam Ghasemi, head of the Khatam al-Anbia military and industrial base, was one of four ministersnominated by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to join his cabinet last week and approved by Iran's conservative-dominated parliament.

Ghasemi is currently subject to US, EU and Australian sanctions and his assets have been blacklisted by US Treasury and western powers. He took 216 votes from the 246 deputies present in the 290-seat parliament.

Iranian state media interpreted the vote as a reaction by Iran's parliament to international sanctions against the country, especially those which have targeted the revolutionary guards and the country's nuclear programme.

"The clever and decisive vote of Iranian MPs for engineer Ghasemi to become the oil minister is a meaningful and crucial response to the attacks against the guards from the west's media empire," said Ramedan Sharif, the head of the revolutionary guards public relations' unit, in quotes carried by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.
Always Iran:

Iran has the technological ability to target any point on the planet with an intercontinental ballistic missile should it choose to, according to Brig. Gen. Seyyed Mehdi Farahi of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, who is the director of the Iranian air and space industries.

A recent editorial in the Iranian Keyhan newspaper, the mouthpiece of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reports on Iran's ballistic missile technology with a headline "Iran Now Exports Ballistic Missiles."

In the report the general brags about Iran's military might and its ability to simultaneously launch 14 or more rockets with extreme precision. He says that the export of ballistic missiles and the progress in Iran's space program are signs that Iran has achieved the highest levels of military and technological excellence.
Iranian officials recently announced that they have successfully developed the necessary technology to build and launch satellites designed to travel in an orbit 21,750 miles above the earth's equator -- and that, in the next few months, they will launch another rocket into space, this time carrying a monkey with a payload of 330 kilograms..

According to Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, a nuclear weapons expert who has served in the CIA, "Historically, if a nation could put a large payload (hundreds of kilograms) into orbit, that has been treated as a milestone signifying that they have a military ICBM capability. We appear to have changed this rule for Iran's space program. If Western analysts today applied the same standards to Iran that we have applied to the USSR and China in the past, we would conclude that Iran already has an ICBM capability.

"It seems that the Obama administration is unwilling to acknowledge this, perhaps not seeing it in its best interest, alluding that it still has time to negotiate," says Pry, who has also served with the EMP Commission and is now president of EMPact America.

The radicals ruling Iran have now passed a major threshold in both their nuclear and missile programs. Barring any military action, which seems unlikely, there is no stopping them.

We only have ourselves to blame as it is now certain that the Jihadists in Tehran will have nuclear bombs with the delivery system to target any country on the planet. Though the West relies on the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction, it will find how wrong this policy is with Iran
And what is our President doing to protect us? Which is, you know, like, his job?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

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