Monday, October 31, 2011

King Abdallah of Jordan on How No One Trusts Obama's Government

This article was published in The Daily Caller. I have made some small improvements.

By Barry Rubin

Earlier this week, The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth interviewed King Abdallah of Jordan. Here’s how King Abdallah responded to Weymouth’s question, “Do you and other leaders in this area believe you cannot rely on the U.S.?"

He replied:

"I think everybody is wary of dealing with the West....Looking at how quickly people turned their backs on [Egyptian President Husni] Mubarak, I would say that most people are going to try and go their own way. I think there is going to be less coordination with the West and therefore a chance of more misunderstandings."

This is devastating. I'm not shocked that the king thinks that way but I am shocked that he says so openly.  In other words he isn't afraid of Obama's being angry and thinks he has nothing to lose because things aren't going to be better. That's how far the situation has deteriorated.

Imagine that instead of going to Jordan (which is also an Arab country in addition to being a pro-American, moderate one) for advice on building the opposition leadership in neighboring Syria, the Obama Administration went to the non-Arab, Islamist Turkish regime!

Jordan is now turning to Saudi Arabia, another country that is no longer relying on Obama, to be its protector and source for financial aid.

Jordan has been the most long-term, consistent ally of the United States in the Arab world, continuously for more than 40 years. Yet the king cannot trust those in the White House any more. They dumped Mubarak, they might dump him.

Therefore, no one will stick his neck out on behalf of U.S. interests or requests. Moreover, they are going their own way. While Washington extolls Islamist forces or things that benefit them in Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Turkey, they don't seem to care at all about Israel, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, the scattered survivors of recent developments and Obama's pro-Islamist policies.

Iraq's disinterest in having a continued U.S. troop presence arises from several issues but Baghdad's determination to go its own way is also connected to this situation. And in Afghanistan, the government knows that it cannot depend on a U.S. government that is not only withdrawing but has subverted the Kabul regime, proven powerless in dealing with Pakistan, and openly talks of political negotiations with the Taliban and even al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups (the Haqqani Network).

The U.S. policy formulated around 1955--allying with moderate Arab monarchies and nationalist regimes--as well as that originating in the 1970s--adding Israel to that list--has been undone by the Obama Administration. When the king of Jordan openly complains you know that U.S. credibility among pro-Western Arabs is pretty close to zero.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ah, The Good Old Days When Turkey Liked Israel and the NY Times Liked Me; Turkey's Rulers' Ambitions Take a Hit

By Barry Rubin

Yes, there was a time not so long ago when Turkey wasn't ruled by Islamists and the New York Times wasn't ruled by far leftists.

Turkey has just had a major earthquake. Israel offered help; the Turkish government refused. Yet it was Israel's generous help at the time that was the breakthrough event for the close relationship between these two countries.

This is from the 1999 New York Times:

''Israelis are absolutely obsessed with the earthquake,'' said Barry Rubin, an Israeli scholar who has written extensively about the Turkish-Israeli relationship.

''There's a psychological as well as a political reason for this,'' Mr. Rubin said. ''Jews and Turks have historically been thought of as outsiders, especially in Europe. They are two peoples who are extremely conscious of who their friends are. But even though I've been following this subject for 10 years, I'm amazed at how many messages I've received since the earthquake. Israelis want to know what they can do to help, and Turks want to say how grateful they are.''

Now, Turks and Jews are still "outsiders" but the new solution of the regime in Ankara is to overcome this by making the prime Turkish identity as Muslims rather than as Turks. For a few months, this seemed to work as Arab Islamists were thrilled that Turks were sympathetic to Hamas, (Shia) Hizballah, Assad's Syria, and Iran. 

But now the Sunni Arab Islamists have their own heroes taking over in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and perhaps Syria. When Turkey's stealth Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan came calling in Cairo--and spoke too openly of his leadership ambitions for the region--the Islamists suddenly remembered that he was a Turk and not really one of them....

Read it all:

The Obama Administration Discovers that the Palestinian Authority is Destroying the Peace Process

By Barry Rubin

From Agence France Presse, October 24:

The United States warned [today] that the Palestinian bid for U.N. membership could "derail" Middle East peace efforts, ahead of a new international attempt to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. ... The Palestinian membership campaign "will not advance the peace process, but rather will complicate, delay and perhaps derail prospects for a negotiated settlement," U.S. ambassador Susan Rice told the Security Council meeting.

 And this took until late October 2011 to figure out? They should have been saying this in October 2010, when the PA was not responding to Israel's ten-month-long freeze on building within existing settlements; or even October 2009, after the PA rejected Obama's plea for intense talks to be held in Washington.

Now, if the Palestinian Authority’s actions are so terrible, damaging peace efforts and perhaps destroying them, might the Obama Administration take action against the PA? Of course not.

This article is published at:

MERIA Journal: Syrian Opposition; Egypt Revolution; Arab Economies and More!

MERIA Journal, Volume 15, No. 3 - September 2011, Total Circulation: 35,000
MERIA Journal, which I edit, is the world's largest journal on the region all the articles below are very timely and good. Jonathan Spyer provides the most comprehensive analysis of Syria's opposition to date. And I use Edmund Burke's observations on the French Revolution to show what's been happening in Egypt with some parallels.

By Emil Souleimanov
This article explores the policies of Turkey and Iran toward the Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh during the 1991-1994 period. It identifies Azerbaijan as a key nation in the region, one rich in oil and natural gas and with which both the Turks and Persians historically shared language, culture, and religion. As the cornerstone of the [...]

By Berk Esen & Sinan Ciddi
This article analyzes Turkey’s June 12, 2011, general elections, focusing on the three parties and the predominantly pro-Kurdish independents. Although the incumbent Justice and Development Party won by a sizeable majority, it gained fewer seats in comparison to its 2002 and 2007 electoral performances. The Republican People’s Party maintained its position as the main opposition [...]

By Efraim Inbar
The widely accepted “land for peace” paradigm for peace with Syria entails great military risks and may invite aggression against Israel, while the potential political dividends of a peace treaty are limited. Moreover, the status quo, based on a defensible border, is both sustainable and preferable to any alternative. Even without taking into consideration current [...]

By Barry Rubin
For Westerners, Egypt’s revolution is seen as a wonderful development, a victory for democracy. Yet the enemies of America and the West view it is a defeat for the United States and the West, and as a step forward for anti-democratic revolutionary Islamism. It is possible that both sides could be right. Egypt may be [...]

By Jonathan Spyer
One of the most notable aspects of the revolt against the Asad regime in Syria has been the proliferation of opposition movements and the various attempts to join them into a single unified opposition movement. This article will observe the state of the opposition prior to the uprising, note the key new alignments in the [...]

By David Rosenberg
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been experiencing deteriorating parameters for both food production and consumption for some time. Agricultural output is constrained by limited water resources, diminishing arable land, and poor public policy. Consumption is driven by high population growth and subsidies that encourage waste. The region is food insecure, both on [...]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Out of Tune in Tunisia: What’s Really Going on There and Throughout the Arab World

Note: This is the first and only serious and comprehensive analysis of the Tunisian election and what's going to happen next that I've seen. 
By Barry Rubin
First and foremost, let’s remember that Tunisia is not going to become a radical Islamist state within the next year. The whole revolution in the Islamist revolution is the understanding—learned largely from Turkey—that the movement can operate by stealth, one step at a time, winning elections, taking over institutions, and only emerging fully at the end of that process.
This does not prove they are moderate; it proves that they are smart. And you know what that proves about those gullible enough to be taken in by the trickery....
With this kind of start, the fact that the Ennahda party doesn’t start cutting off heads next week will be used by Western governments, experts, and media to “prove” that it’s moderate.
That party received 90 of 217 seats in the assembly, just over 40 percent. Therefore, they are short of a majority. Remember that this is just a one-year body to write a new Constitution and to appoint an interim president and government until the real elections.
So the party’s strategy is to get as much as possible but not to scare people. Businesses, foreign aid donors, tourists, and others must be kept calm. All the while, the Islamists will work to elect a president and get a parliamentary majority in the future.    
Who will they have to work with in the mean time? The Congress for the Republic (CPR) won 30 seats and the Ettakatol won 21 seats. (I cannot resist the temptation to remark that when the Islamists are through with it, Tunisia will definitely need CPR!) These are leftist parties and Ennahda’s coalition partners.
What does this tell us? On social issues, the Islamists will have to be careful but they can find more common ground with the leftists on economic and foreign policy issues. By building the power of the state and weakening the business sector—which the leftists want—Ennahda lays the basis for its future domination of the society through controlling a strong state.
On foreign policy, the left shares the Islamists desire to take a tougher line toward the West and against Israel. In the shorter run, they will not want to antagonize Europe or the United States. But this lays a foundation for a longer-term turn of public opinion against the West and toward other Islamist states. As we saw in Turkey, a stealth Islamist government can turn around public opinion with surprising speed using patriotism and religious fervor.
read it all:

Senator John McCain (Ignorantly) Backs Islamist-Dominated Syrian Opposition Leaders

By Barry Rubin

I've warned that the Obama Administration, through  the Islamist Turkish government, has produced a majority Islamist leadership for the Syrian oppostion. Let me emphasize this point: the Syrian people didn't chose this exile leadership, the American president and his colleagues did. 

It is vital to understand that Syria is different from Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. A revolutionary Islamist regime is not inevitable. There are plenty of moderates and those non-Muslims or non-Arabs loyal first and foremost to their own community (Druze, Christians, Kurds, tribes, and even potentially Alawites) who don't want Islamism. That's why this disaster is avoidable and all the more strategic sin on the Obama Administration for making an unnecessary catastrophe more likely. 

In historical terms, it would be as if the Western powers helped create and back a Communist-dominated opposition council in pre-revolutionary Russia even though the Bolsheviks weren't in the majority.

Sure enough, along comes Senator John McCain, straight from his foolishly blind unnuanced endorsement and whitewashing of the new Libyan regime, and what does he do? At a World Economic Forum meeting in Amman, October 23, the senator suggest that now that the Libyan crisis is solved (!):

“There will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria.” This would be in response to Syria’s opposition is reaching out “for some foreign military intervention.” And who is guiding McCain's thinking? “We are listening to and engaging with the National Opposition Council.”

In other words, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is advocating that U.S. policy follow the advice of an Islamist-dominated group in order to have the U.S. military install what would amount to an Islamist-dominated leadership in Syria.

Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Turkey Lebanon? Perhaps they're going for a matched set! The fact that our last remaining moderate hope in terms of regimes is Saudi Arabia--and I'm not joking--tells you something about the current situation.

Read it all:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to the Islamist Middle East and It's Not Going to be Moderate


The New York Times and BBC headlines on the Tunisian elections tell us it is a victory for “moderate Islamists.” I'm putting those headlines in my file alongside Moderate Islamists Take Power in Iran; Moderate Islamists Take Power in the Gaza Strip, Moderate Islamists Take Power in Lebanon, and Moderate Islamists Take Power in Turkey. And I'm leaving room for Moderate Islamists Take Power in Egypt.

By Barry Rubin

Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:

First, to describe the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster--I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century--is an understatement.

 Second, the dominant analysis being used by the media, academia, and the talking heads on television has been proven dangerously wrong.

 I won’t review all the evidence here, but it amounts to a retreat for moderates, allies of the West, and American interests coupled with an advanced for revolutionary Islamists.

On the morning of July 23, 1952, the Middle East entered a new era. The Free Officers  movement took over Egypt and there followed more than a half-century of war, anti-Western hysteria, terrorism, repression, social stagnation, and the basic Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse type stuff in the Middle East. That was the Era of Arab Nationalism.

On February 11 or October 23, or November 28, 2011 the Middle East entered a new era. Whether you date it to the fall of Mubarak, the Tunisian election, or the Egyptian election what do you think is going to happen in the next half-century in the region? This is now—I call it officially—the Era of Revolutionary Islamism.
There is a great deal that will ensure the Islamists aren’t ultimately triumphant, but there’s nothing that can stop them now from being dominant ideologically in the region and politically in the majority of countries between Tunisia and Iran, probably Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan.

Read it all:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Will Libya Be A Radical Islamist State?

This article is modified from my piece in the Daily Caller based on new information.

By Barry Rubin

During the Cold War's early years of the 1950s and 1960s , U.S. policy backed Saudi Arabia and other traditionalist regimes to counter the radical,anti-Western nationalist forces that seemed set to conquer the region. The radicals generally dominated Egypt, Iraq, and Syria from the mid-1950s, while the more pious Muslim regimes included Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf monarchies, Libya and Jordan.

That strategy made sense. The argument was that pious Muslims would never be Communists and that the monarchies were indeed horrified by the overthrow of kings to set up radical republics. While there were some radical Islamist forces then--the Muslim Brotherhood, the networks organized by the former Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Hussaini, and in Pakistan--they were quite weak in comparison to these two blocs.

But that was a long time ago. Today, the threat is revolutionary Islamism, not Communism, and the cure is either traditionalism, moderate nationalism, communal nationalism, or liberal democratic thinking.

The shadowy, scattered and underground Islamist forces have become powerful, attacking both nationalist dictatorships and conservative monarchies alike. The Islam card represents something quite different in 2011 from what it did in 1961.

Yet the Obama Administration, while no doubt ignorant of the region's history, doesn't understand what it is dealing with today. It thinks the United States has its own Islam card that it can play to counter revolutionary Islamism. The last time I checked, however, Obama was not a recognized rightly-guided interpreter of Islam. Those using a Muslim identity first and foremost in political life don't want an "American Islam."

True, in Iraq, you can have a pious regime that isn't radical Islamist but that country has very special circumstances due to its origins in an American-led military operation, the existence of some powerful non-Islamist imams,  and the delicate communal balances that must be preserved.

All of this leads us to the question: Will President Barack Obama soon be wearing a tee-shirt saying:


The answer isn't clear yet though there are worrisome portents. The main evidence of the moment is the "liberation" speech given by U.S.-backed transitional leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, marking the official victory declaration of the NATO-backed rebels. The Associated Press--notoriously cautious about saying the "I" word--characterized the speech as setting out, "A vision for the post-Gadhafi future with an Islamist tint."

The main theme was one of tolerance among Libyans, a noble sentiment unlikely to work in a country where factional, tribal, regional, and ideological divides run deep.

What clues are in the speech? These are the main ones:

--Sharia law will be the "basic source" of law for Libya. This is not quite the Islamist stance that Sharia is the "only source" but beyond an acceptably pious assertion of it being the main source.

In apologizing for this statement, a lot of the poorly informed (to be kind) Western media is getting it wrong. For example, the Daily Telegraph (a conservative newspaper) reported that the Libyan formula is fine because it is the same one prevailing under the Mubarak regime in Egypt.

But even if that's technically true, it is very misleading. For one thing, the Libyan leader said explicitly that no law can contradict Sharia. But Egypt did have laws that contradicted Islamic law as it is interpreted by the Islamists. To cite only one example, Christians and women, admittedly few of them, were able to hold government positions--for example, as a judge or provincial governor; alcohol could be sold; there were reforms over women's rights that did not coincide with Sharia.

What's happened in Libya is the traditional Muslim Brotherhood goal.
There's more proof. If no law contradicting Islam is permitted then Sharia is NOT just the main source of legislation but the only source of legislation. And that's the Islamist position.
--All laws that contradict Islam's teachings will be removed. In other words, Libya will be fully Sharia compliant.

--Only "Islamic banking" would be permitted, meaning no interest but various schemes to circumvent such practices.

--Polygamy, largely banned under Qadhafi, will be reintroduced.

Does this mean no alcohol, dress codes for women, restrictions on entertainment and freedom of speech, the introduction of amputations and beheadings, death to anyone converting from islam to Christianity, and so on?

That isn't clear yet but it is a step in that direction. In a few months we will have the answer to this question.

--Instead of firing guns in the air, Libyans should chant "Allahu Akbar." This certainly is a less risky way to say, "Hooray1" But there is also an interesting underlying imlication. Islamic behavior should replace tribal behavior.  A wider point here is that the next regime is likely to try to use Islam to unite the country, overcoming tribal and regional differences. We're all Muslims, it will argue, so why should we quarrel with each other?

What might be most disturbing, though not the least bit surprising, however, is something else he said:

"This revolution was looked after by God to achieve victory."

 Now that makes total sense. Western societies also thank the Supreme Being for victories. But what about NATO and the United States who, let's face it, were the real authors of victory?

There were U.S. and European flags displayed by way of thanks but apparently he only mentioned the Gulf states, Arab League, UN, and European Union.

Why not the military forces that brought him victory and the United States? Why didn't he thank them? Because to do so would seem to undercut his own legitimacy. He would then be the instrument of the West (imperialism, dhimmis) rather than of Allah. The expression of such gratitude would make him vulnerable to rivals. Presumably, there will be no such thanks in future, at least in Libya as opposed to what might be said in English when he's visiting Western countries with the hope that it won't get reported too much back home.

The view within Libya is that the all-powerful deity caused the infidels to act and thus they deserve no credit, thanks, or reciprocal gesture. Moreover, keep in mind that Libya is a country rich in energy resources so it won't need Western aid.

But isn't this the ultimate test for those who argue that Muslims and Arabs have hated the West because of its policies? If Western policy is to bomb Qadhafi's forces into oblivion and install you in power, won't that policy please you? That's a basic concept of the Obama Administration.

In fact, what the transitional leader said has a hidden meaning: "This revolution was blessed by God to achieve victory. And we must go on the right path.”

The phrase "right path" is a pun on Sharia (the right path) law.

The good news is that the new Libya, no matter how much in conflict or repressive at home, is unlikely to flex its muscles in the region. To make Libya a regional power was Qadhafi's ambition. Even if Libya were to be dominated by Islamists, it would not be another Iran. Yet an Islamist Libya would be another source of encouragement for revolutionary Islamists elsewhere. Even though these Islamists don't all get along well together, they already basically have the Gaza Strip, Iran, Sudan, and Turkey. They may very soon be the leading forces in Egypt and Tunisia.

So the best-case analysis is of a highly Islamic but inward-looking Libya that doesn't sponsor terrorism or subvert its neighbors, the kind of regime the Obama Administration is promoting, or something much worse: another link in a chain of radical Islamist regime dominating the Middle East and ravaging U.S. interests there. 

As for a moderate, democratic state run by Western-oriented liberals and Facebook kids, you can forget about that.

Here's the best article on the speech:

The Insanity of the Middle East: A Handy Guide

This is my version of my Jerusalem Post column as edited by me and with several additions. I own the rights. Please read and link to this version. I have also embedded the appropriate links.

By Barry Rubin
Every day in the Middle East, terrible things take place. The worst are the material acts of violence and oppression. The second-worst are the lies and distortions of truth that help ensure things don’t get better. Every day in the West, the lies are echoed, amplified, and invented. This also helps ensure things don’t get better in the Middle East and that they do get worse in the West.
Now I’ve found, from the most unexpected place, a single sentence, an ancient proverb, that explains it all. It comes from the Navahos and it goes like this:
You cannot awaken someone who pretends to be sleeping.
In other words, you cannot convince someone who is not merely mistaken but is deliberately lying. They have abandoned professional ethics, democratic and intellectual norms. They have embraced being propagandists and supporters of authoritarian and bloody regimes. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone, and in those others are the hope for something better. It is those people, who honestly don’t realize that their leaders follow foolish policy, their newspapers all too often lie, and their universities (or at least significant sections of them) have abandoned the pursuit of truth in favor of the manufacture of lies.
If that seems extreme, perhaps that means you fall into that last category of the decent but deceived. Let’s look at some specific cases. 

1.      The newspaper.
If there would ever be a last straw for me regarding what was once the English-speaking world’s greatest newspaper, it is this one, the New York Times editorial of October 19, 2011:

“One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas—which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages— why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank?”
What has one thing have to do with the other? Israel isn’t negotiating with Hamas on a political level but to save the life of a young Israeli who has been in horrible captivity for five years. And this deal was done without any illusion that Hamas will moderate. 
But what’s really disturbing here is the idea that it is Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who have been refusing to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority rather than the other way around. It is frequently repeated in the mass media and it is so obviously absurd that it must now be considered a deliberate lie by propagandists rather than an honest or ignorant or ideologically driven error.
Funnily enough, within hours of this editorial claim we have…

2.      The “Moderates”
The ultimate Palestinian “moderate,” Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, explained:
"We want to see an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967. We want the Palestinian people to live with dignity." Fayyad said the Palestinians are committed to resolving the conflict, but that "the conditions are not right to resume talks."
In other words, even when the Palestinian prime minister openly rejects talks and even after dozens of previous rejections by him and Palestinian “President” Mahmoud Abbas, and dozens of documented acceptances of negotiations by Netanyahu and Israel, the lie that Israel doesn’t want to negotiate and the PA does is repeated.
Obviously, this is not a misunderstanding but a lie. One reason for this lie is that if the truth were to be told it would have to be explained why the “poor,” “desperate,” “victimized” Palestinians don’t want to negotiate. And the answer would have to be an uncomfortable truth:
Their leaders don’t’ want peace, compromise, or a two-state solution but total victory.
And that truth would require a change in the Western policy and understanding of the issue.

Finally, note the reaction of the leaders of the two Palestinian regimes:

Abbas told the released prisoners: "You are freedom fighters and holy warriors for the sake of God and the homeland."

And Hamas deputy leader Abu Marzouk insisted: "The rest of the prisoners must be released because if they are not released in a normal way they will be released in other ways."

By murdering Israeli civilians, both the “moderate” and the “radical” explain, these people have done nothing wrong and are free—even encouraged—to do so again in future. You cannot build a democratic state on the basis of calling terrorists “freedom fighters” (and note the “secular” Abbas’s reference to jihad). And you cannot compromise with another side when you continue to urge and justify the deliberate murder of its civilians.   

3.      Do Concessions Bring Moderation or Compromise on the Other Side?
Israel did not do the prisoner swap because it expected that would change Palestinian thinking or behavior. But many in the West don’t understand that concessions simply bring more demands and greater intransigence. (Israel knows the intransigence already exists so from its standpoint the prisoner swap does no harm in that department.)   
How did Abbas react to the prisoner swap? By demanding that Israel release even more Palestinian terrorists!
Here’s the Time Magazine coverage: 

“As Palestinians exult in the release of 477 prisoners from Israeli jails, and anticipate the arrival of the 550 more due to be freed in December under the terms of the bargain Hamas brokered for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is pushing Israel to release even more, citing what he terms a secret promise from a previous prime minister.”

Of course, no such promise exists. On the contrary, Abbas rejected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s peace proposal.

But, wait, there’s more! Here’s the Washington Post coverage on that point:

“Newly released Palestinian prisoners held rambunctious homecoming receptions…as leaders of the Hamas militant group that secured their freedom expressed hope that Israel would ease the blockade it imposes on the Gaza Strip.”

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar claimed that Israel should now, "Make an end to the blockade,” no doubt so that Hamas could import more weapons, money, equipment, and gunmen to attack Israel.

So now that Israel has made a big concession they can only demand more concessions. Note that as the pattern of the entire “peace process” and another factor making peace impossible and so much of Western policy in the region entirely futile.

4.      The moral bankruptcy of the “International Community”

UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon said:
"I am very encouraged by the prisoner exchange today after many many years of negotiation. The United Nations has been calling for (an end to) the unacceptable detention of Gilad Shalit and also the release of all Palestinians whose human rights have been abused all the time."

It would be bad enough if the leader of the global community made a moral equivalence between Shalit and terrorists who had murdered Israeli civilians but in fact he treats the latter as superior. He doesn’t mention their murderous deeds (which almost all of them admit, indeed brag about) or their conviction in courts. But he claims, on no basis whatsoever, that their human rights have been abused! A listener would think these are Palestinian civilians pulled at random off the streets! In short, he has declared that the terrorists are the true victims.

And this is the agency supposedly fit to judge the future of the conflict and which constitutes one-fourth of the Quartet that’s mediating, with Hizballah-friendly Russia the second one-fourth?    

But here's some insane comic relief (in Dutch). A Dutch poet with a Palestinian father) is a darling of the leftist elite--he was elected to a four-year term as "Poet of the Fatherland" in 2009 by several organizations including the most prestigious newspaper there.

He has written an open letter to Holland's foreign minister saying that Israel's government has proven it seeks to commit ethnic cleansing and that the prisoner swap shows it values the life of a Palestinian to be only a tenth of a percent of that of an Israeli. It has been published in NRC Handelsblad, the Dutch equivalent of the New York Times or Guardian.

In other words, by trading 1000 Palestinian terrorists for 1 Israeli prisoner it is racist because it didn't exchange 1 Palestinian prisoner for 1,000 Israelis. And this is what passes for brilliance today in European intellectual circles.

   In the words of the Greek playwright Euripides, though many have said something similar, "Those whom God wishes to destroy, he first deprives of their senses." Thus the Middle East and those who misinterpret it in the West are setting up their own destruction. Perhaps the real reason they cannot forgive Israel is that it does not choose to join them in this endeavor.



Obama's Foreign Policy: Manchurian Candidate or Keystone Kop

By Barry Rubin

 Virtually since the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, I’ve been reporting in great detail on his disastrous Middle East policy. I believe nobody in the world has written more thoroughly documented words and provided more factually based analysis explaining why this policy is so bad than me.

 And so I am often asked whether I believe this situation is caused by a deliberate, conscious effort to destroy U.S. interests, subvert Israel’s existence, and promote anti-American Islamists on the part of the president and his closest colleagues.

 No, I answer, it is the result of ignorance, incompetence, and a ridiculous ideological approach that has nothing to do with reality. But, I add, it certainly says something that the policy is so bad that it makes people think that deliberate treason is a credible explanation.

 Recently, an expert I respect who likes my work asked me the following:

 “At what point do "oblivious," clueless," or "misguided" no longer describe what is going on here?

 “At what point do we say that the top levels of the U.S. government and our national security leadership are wittingly complicit in supporting a Muslim Brotherhood takeover of large parts of the Middle East?  As you lay out these events and facts, there is simply no other conclusion to be drawn: this is deliberate.

 “When does it become treasonous or at the very least an abrogation of Constitutional oaths of office and dereliction of duty?”

 I believe the first and last paragraphs are wrong but the second one is partly right. They don’t fear the Muslim Brotherhood getting into office because they think it won’t happen or can be turned into a good thing. This is horrible but not consciously evil.

 How can we explain Obama’s behavior on the Middle East? I’m not the least bit surprised or baffled. I do not think the fact that this isn’t “treasonous” is a mitigating circumstance. Beyond a certain point, gross incompetence and systematic stupidity are inexcusable sins in politics even if not crimes. The sentence should be voting them out of office as soon as possible.

  Read it all:

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Is the Obama Administration Betraying the Syrian Democratic Revolution?

This article appeared in the Daily Caller.

By Barry Rubin

Let’s assume that it’s the middle of the Cold War. In an Asian country there’s a revolt against a dictator. The opposition wants international recognition so it seeks U.S. help. And the American government turns over direct management of this process to…Communist China! The resulting coalition is largely dominated by Communists, China’s allies, far exceeding their proportional role in the revolution. Some anti-Communist activists walk out in protest but it makes no difference.

Wouldn’t you be shocked that a U.S. government has done something so stupid, indeed, disastrous for U.S. interests? Treason or gross incompetence? After all, that means U.S. aid is going to be funneled into a largely Communist-led movement and it becomes more likely that Communists would run the country if the revolution wins.

Oh, and not a single mass media organ pointed out the above situation even though it was a matter of public record.

Well, that’s just what’s happened with Syria.   

The names of nineteen of twenty-nine members of the Syrian National Council has just been announced and as I explained in this article

10 of the 19—a majority—are identifiably Islamist. At least 4 of them are members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Moreover two-thirds of the 15 Sunni Muslim Arabs are Islamists. Note that the Sunni Muslim Arabs are only 60 percent of the population. Making the reasonable assumption that no more than 20 percent of the Sunnis are Islamists that means Islamists are overrepresented by 500 percent. You can challenge that assumption but I believe that you’d end up with at least a 400 percent overrepresentation.

Let's remember that the U.S. goal should be to push down Islamist representation even below a level that would be proportionate with its base of support within the country. That is how effective diplomacy would work. 

At most, only 4 of the Sunni Muslim representatives—just one-quarter—are liberals or leftists! And the non-Sunni Muslim Arabs are underrepresented by 300 percent.

Remember, this is not some spontaneous choice made by the Syrian masses or even by external opposition groups. This was stage-managed by the Turks on behalf of the American government.  

It should be well known by this point that the current Turkish regime is an enemy of the United States. That government not only rejected sanctions against Iran last year but tried to sabotage them. It has consistently supported Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and—until recently—the Syrian regime. And the Turkish regime has also become so hostile to Israel that some observers in Turkey think it is going to the verge of war with the Jewish state.

But that’s not all. Wikileaks show that the U.S. Embassy in Turkey has repeatedly warned about that regime’s radicalism, anti-Americanism, and Islamism. Yet despite this, the Obama Administration continues to treat the Turkish government as a valued ally. For example, the Obama Administration chose Turkey of all the world’s countries on September 11 to be co-founder of an international counter-terrorist group described as the main U.S. initiative in that field marking the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington DC!

Now the U.S. government and its Turkish Islamist friends have produced a largely Islamist council to represent the Syrian people, manage incoming aid, and perhaps to be the future government.

There are two issues here. First, why is the Obama Administration so in love with the pro-Islamist, anti-American Turkish regime? Because despite State Department warnings the White House refuses to comprehend what’s going on here to a point that has gone far beyond stubborn blindness into the realm of willful self-sabotage.

The “Turkish model” that it is trying to spread is a design for disaster. It means installing anti-American, anti-Western regimes that are allies of some or all the following list: Iran, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhood. They will move their domestic societies toward Islamism. Their only virtue is that they aren’t al-Qaida. And in Afghanistan the administration is even willing to work with the Taliban.

Second, why has the administration just empowered a largely Islamist Syrian leadership when Islamism in Syria is far weaker than in virtually any other Muslim-majority country? Why didn’t it insist on more Kurdish, Druze, Christian, and Alawite representation? Why are there only two (one might argue there are three or four) moderate Sunni Arab Muslims on the list?

Again, the administration is oblivious to the fact that the great threat to the Middle East today and to U.S. interests (perhaps globally) is revolutionary Islamism. Until this situation changes, the world, the Middle East, and the United States are going to be heading toward increasingly dangerous trouble.


SCOOP: Obama Administration Does it Again!: Empowers Largely Islamist Leadership for Syrian Revolution

By Barry Rubin

The leadership of the Syrian revolution, or at least those who are recognized as such by the United States and the European Union, has released the names of 19 of the 29 members of the General Secretariat and five members of the Presidential Council. A lot of research should be one done on the individuals but let’s do a quick ethnic and political analysis based on this information.

But first let me give you my analysis: I believe that the Turkish Islamist regime deliberately helped produce a Syrian leadership that is more Islamist and more Muslim Brotherhood controlled than was necessary. Since Turkey's government was empowered to do this by the Obama Administration, the White House is responsible for this extremely dangerous situation.  It is a blunder or a betrayal--in effect, the motive and cause don't matter--of the greatest dimensions. The Obama Administration may "only" have paved the way for the triumph of Islamist regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia--we don't yet know the final result--but it has been actively involved in helping promote an (avoidable) Islamist revolution in Syria.

Of the 19 members of the committee whose names have been published, 4 are identified as Muslim Brotherhood and 6 more as independent Islamists. That means 10 of the 19—a majority—and hence 10 of the 15 Sunni Muslim Arabs (two-thirds) are Islamists!

Of the non-Islamist Sunni Arabs, two are leftists, two are liberals, and one represents the tribes.

Thanks, Obama Administration, for putting Islamist Turkey in charge of the negotiations!

It could have very easily done otherwise.

Read it all:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Interview on Qadhafi's Death and Libya's Future

Interview with National Review on the end of Qadhafi.

--What is his legacy?

A horrible dictator who combined repression at home with terrorist sponsorship and subversion abroad. Qadhafi's weakness was that he never had a secure superpower patron which combined with Libya's small size made him the most vulnerable Middle East dictator. Nevertheless, the West almost always let him get away with his aggressive behavior against it. Even the Lockerbie story which began with a "tough" demand to turn over those responsible ended with the scapegoat intelligence official (so Qadhafi could pretend it was a rogue operation) released by the British (with American approval) in exchange for oil agreements. Message: the  West is weak, stupid, and corrupt.

--How should Americans remember him?

See above paragraph.

--Is this a huge victory for the Obama administration? Who deserves credit, assuming this is a good thing?

Obviously the NATO forces--Europe, and especially Italy, pushed for this and the Obama Administration enthusiastically went along, bypassing Congress and the War Powers Act. Since Qadhafi was unpopular, of course, the administration got away with ignoring U.S. law and procedures. But credit will depend on what comes next.

--Is it a good thing?

Well, it is good to see a ferocious and murderous dictator overthrown but what comes next? I see a bunch of politicians in nice suits who know how to talk to the West and win its support and a bunch of guys with guns who don't care what the West thinks, have no gratitude for the NATO help, and a lot of whom are Islamists or aspiring future dictators. Moreover, the energy wealth of Libya makes it a tempting target for political looting and whoever has it doesn't have to worry about what the West thinks. Not to mention the real problems of regionalism, hatred of black Africans, and potential Arab-Berber conflict.

Reminds me of the 1943 anti-fascist film, "Hangmen Also Die."

--Is this a warning to Assad?

Yeah, a warning that he better be willing to kill people without end or face the end for himself.

--Is this important for the myth or reality of an “Arab Spring?”

Simple answer: governments only get overthrown by Western intervention (Iraq, Libya) or their own armed forces (Egypt, Tunisia). Everything else is mythology or failed revolts put down with bloodshed.

--What happens now?
The battle for power within Libya begins.

What Qadhafi's Death Teaches the Middle East...And Should Teach the West

 By Barry Rubin

 What can we learn from the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi? First, we should note that he is the second Arab dictator to die in the last decade, the first being the Iraqi Saddam Hussein. Both met their demise due to direct Western intervention.

There are three lessons for the region:

 1. To get rid of a dictator, you need either Western intervention or the support of the armed forces....

2. The events of the last year have reinforced this worldview—repress or die....

3. (Ironically) You Can’t Trust the West So Be Tough and Defend Yourself

 Read it all:

A Book Travels Around the World, A Name Lives On

By Barry Rubin

Taking a break from the tough world of contemporary politics, I’m delighted to relate to you this story that tells something about the interrelated nature of our world and our constant connection with history and with those who have gone before.

On February 13, 2008, I wrote an article or PajamasMedia about a rare book I possess on Burma, Peacocks and Pagodas. The point of the article was to show how, despite contemporary propaganda that the West always looked down on the Third World, was racist, etc., etc., there had long been many examples of profound respect, a desire to understand, and a willingness to learn on the part of Westerners.

Marvelling at the strange paths taken by books and ideas, I just happened to mention that the book was published in 1924 and some decades later some unknown person purchased it from a bookshop in Madras, India, noting the name of the store. Today I received a note from a man in India who was the grandson of the bookstore owner, Mr. T.N. Jayavelu, asking if I had more information on a grandfather who died when he was a young boy.

Since I am fascinated by genealogy and our links with our personal ancestors–and how that shows a great deal about the course of history–I was especially pleased to make this connection.

There are three additional neat ironies here.

Read it all:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Talk on the Contemporary Middle East (in Amsterdam)!

I think this gives a good view of my current thinking and hope you find it useful.

By the way, I note that I misspoke at one point when I referred to Turkey and Iran as the two non-Muslim-majority states in the region. I intended to say the two non-Arab Muslim-majority states in the region. And in saying Tunisia is the most secular state "in the world" (18 minutes) I intended to say most secular Muslim-majority state in the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Simplest Thing in the World to Understand: Why There Isn't Israel-Palestinian Peace

This article was published in the Jerusalem Post but this is my edited version, I own the rights and please only link--and preferably read--this version.

By Barry Rubin

Media, "experts," and governments finds it very hard to understand an amazing phenomena. No matter what they offer to the Palestinian Authority (PA)--even if it includes money, concessions, and steps toward statehood--the PA says "no."

I wouldn't even bother to write this since the answer seems so simple but a lot of people who are paid to deal with this stuff don't get it. So let me elucidate:
The PA wants everything, an independent state on all the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem with no restrictions, no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, no serious security guarantees, no limits on militarization, no agreement that this means an end of the conflict, no insistence that Palestinian refugees be resettled in the state o Palestine,  and nothing to prevent them from pursuing a second stage of wiping Israel off the map entirely.

Now, one could say that it is common for people to want everything and to give nothing in exchange but certain factors--missing in this case--push toward compromise. These factors include:

--Knowing that they cannot get a better deal. The Palestinian know that the West will always offer more if they are intransigent.

--The impasse favors your adversary because your intransigence will gain it international support. In this case, the more intransigent the Palestinians, the more Israel is blamed.

--Economic pressure to change the situation. Since the PA is almost completely supported by foreign aid that is not threatened by its hardline this pressure does not exist.

--Public opinion pressure to change the situation. In this case, Palestinian public opinion is relatively radicalized and ideological and does not demand a compromise settlement.

--Concern that your political rivals will "out-moderate" you and win by offering to make a deal. In this case, the opposite is true: rivals "out-radicalize" and threaten to destroy you politically and perhaps even physically if you make a deal.

--Belief that time is not on your side. Due to religious and nationalist ideology, along with misperception of Israel, the PA (and even more Hamas) believes that time is on its side; that waiting a couple of generations and many decades doesn't matter.

That's not a complete list. But the point is that the world in general, the United States and Europe, the UN and Arabic-speaking states and Muslim-majority states have created a "perfect" system in that it is pretty unbreakable. Here's a brief description:

--The PA has no incentive to make peace and won't do so.

--The world insists that "peace" is an urgent top priority.

--The only variable is Israel, which must be made to give way. But Israel won't do so because of past experience and the fact that the risks are now too high.


Nothing will change. There will be no peace process; no Palestinian state. No "progress" will happen. You can read this article in two or three years and it will still be completely up to date.  If you don't understand the points made above it is impossible to comprehend the Middle East. There will be thousands of emails, hundreds of articles, scores of expensive conferences, dozens of foundation grants, and tens of peace initiatives that are all meaningless because they are based on false premises.

This is not left-wing or right-wing but merely an explanation as to why all the schemes and theories of those who do not see these facts never actually take wing. It is not politically correct but factually correct.

Now, you might ask, do I just criticize or do I have constructive policy advice? I do.  Here it is:
When the Palestinian Authority rejects the Quartet proposal for negotiations, the United States, European Union, and anyone else who wants to go along tells them, "We've tried to help you and you don't want to listen so since we have lots of other things to do we will go do it. Good luck and if you ever change your mind and get serious about making peace you have our phone number."

The previous paragraph would send shock and rejection throughout policy circles, right? But why? If you cannot solve a problem and--let's be clear here--the problem doesn't need to be solved immediately, than you work on other problems. And there are no shortage of those!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. We are left, however, with the following problem: Those in positions of political, media, and intellectual power don't get it.

Solution: Please explain it to them, replace them, or take their place.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Middle East Today: Ha, Ha, Ha! Stop! It’s Too Funny! I Can’t Take It Any More!

By Barry Rubin

There’s a saying that goes something like this: When things are bad, a Jew cries. When they get even worse, a Jew cries more. And when they even get worse, a Jew laughs. As indelicate as this may seem, the current situation makes me want to laugh.

That’s so because things are more ridiculous than they are scary. As the advice and claims of others get increasingly absurd, you have no desire to listen to them. You just have to do what you know is right and stop having any doubts about it precisely because the arguments on the other side are just so historically inaccurate, factually false,.and illogical.

Rea it all:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Syria: A Tragedy; Afghanistan: Blindness; Obama's Moment of Truth; Iran's Opposition

By Barry Rubin

1. Syria: A Tragedy

By far the best source of news on the Syrian revolution is Syria Revolution Digest  by the heroically tireless Ammar Abdulhamid. Every day he puts in a little summary of the situation. Here is what he wrote for October 11:

"As [the dictatorship of the] Assads take back Syria, one neighborhood and one town at a time, opposition groups continue to wrangle over seats in a stillborn [leadership] council, as the world considers options that have no bearing on reality.

"Several thousand people have been murdered yet despite all the fine words, there has been little serious international action as the violence has continued for months.

"As [the] Assads take back Syria, one neighborhood and one town at a time, opposition groups continue to wrangle over seats in a stillborn council, as the world considers options that have no bearing on reality....

2. Obama Administration Seeks Political Arrangement with Anti-American Terrorists
3. The Iran-Mexico Affair
4. Remember the Iranian Opposition?

Read it all:

Your Government at Work: Dry Off Those Bath Toys

By Barry Rubin

I keep coming across--on Internet and radio--ads produced by the U.S. government on every conceivable health and behavioral issue. They may be carried for free on sites and channels but there are still tax-paid employees producing and distributing them. They serve as fitting examples of what's wrong with government today.  And it's really funny when they turn up in huge quantity on local radio broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh and other anti-big government programs.

Sure they are for nominally good causes, for example the don't take your toys into the bedroom because they cause asthma attacks campaign. Then there are unforgettable ad campaigns over a guy who died because he ate too many fatty foods, why we should ride bicycles to work, warnings against crooked house mortgage companies, insistence that we go get medical check-ups, and countless others.

But the one that set me off is on Yahoo today. It shows an orange and yellow fish and says: "Dry off tub toys and bath area to prevent mildew." And below it are logos for the Ad Council and the EPA.  If you click you get to this site:

which also carries the EPA logo.  And if you click there you get here: which tells us all the wonderful things EPA is doing to police the air, water, etc.

Read it all:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Iran Terror Plot Crisis: Big Trouble for Obama

By Barry Rubin

Remember that Hillary Clinton ad about it being the early morning hours and the phone’s ringing in the White House? Well it’s arrived in real life and the phone is—or isn’t—going to be answered by Barack Obama. And the question is: What are you going to do about the dramatic announcement of an Iranian plot to attack targets in Washington DC?

True, it’s a bizarre story about Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Mexican drug lords. But, after all, the United States was impelled a step toward entering World War One by the Zimmerman Note in which German agents sought to entice Mexico to go to war against the United States.

 Vice-President Joe Biden has said there's going to be a really serious U.S. government response. The Saudis, who are famous for keeping a low profile and trying to avoid problems—often through money—are openly livid. They’re basically saying something along the lines of, “We told you so.” They tried and gave up.

 Is This Story True?...
Might this blow up in the Obama’s Administration’s face?....
What Will the Administration Do about it?

 The response is fraught with peril. The immediate reaction—we’ll mobilize world opinion!—makes the administration look buffoonish. If this is true it is an act of war by Iran, at least by elements in the Iranian government (you know, the kind of people who could one day give nuclear weapons to terrorists).

 Response A: Do Nothing....
 Response B: The “Sunni Strategy”...
 Response C: A United Front against Revolutionary Islamism....

 Read it all:

Strategic Notes on the Gilad Shalit Prisoner Exchange

By Barry Rubin

There are some substantial misunderstandings on the nature of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal. I should stress that the list of those Palestinian prisoners being given in exchange for him has not yet been released. But note the following:

--The number 1000 is impressive but most will be chosen by Israel, meaning they will be prisoners with the lightest sentences and crimes, in other words, people who would have been released anyway during the next year or two.

--Israel rejected Hamas's demand to release those being called "arch-terrorists" who were major organizers of attacks or responsible for a larger loss of life.

--Of the most serious terrorist prisoners only a bit over 96 will be released into the West Bank and 14 to east Jerusalem where they could cause direct trouble for Israel The rest will be sent to the Gaza Strip or deported altogether. Those with lighter sentences who live in the West Bank would have been sent there anyway when their sentences were finished.

--Hamas did a politically clever thing by demanding that half of the named prisoners be non-Hamas people. The goal is to make Hamas more popular among Fatah supporters and on the West Bank.

The plan is as follows:

Read it all: