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“If you want to free a society, just give them internet access. Because people, the young guys, you know, are all going to go out and see biased media, see the truth about other nations and their own nation and they’re going to be able to contribute and collaborate together.”

Again Obama’s Foreign Policy’s PR aspect is really weird (to me)

Obama’s trip this Spring to Middle East. 

Not sure that Israel’s political parties’d be sorted (calmed down) and ready to hear or care anything like Obama’s visit. (Don’t you know anything about those ppl…) 

Shouldn’t he wait bit more. Like until June or July. You’ve got 3-4 years timeframe. And you can’t visit every 3 months. 

Then I say should wait until really really effective moment. 

February 05, 2013, 5:36pm   1 note
▸ [Benghazi attack] Diplomats, National Security, and the House Budget, Scott Lilly - Center for American Progress

Starting from the episode of attack on US embassy in Islamabad in 1979 - kind of gives better ‘whole’ perspective. 

Though it’s written from Dems’ side - and ties Paul Ryan’s budget cut with Benghazi’s security lapse. (And the last figure in this piece 100 million USD cut - is somehow copy&pasted among some Dem/Liberal outlets as ‘100 billion USD’, omg.) 

One thing I notice is all experts on this issue are saying it’s a long-standing problem. This problem is not a partisan thing.

(Though of course, that won’t stop being the hot - or potentially hot election issue.) 


The U.S. diplomatic corps frequently serves as a whipping boy for politicians who want to strike a populist cord with voters. Many Americans fail to see any real connection between the work of the U.S. Foreign Service and things that are important in their own daily lives. Diplomats to them are fancy people who hobnob with millionaires in places like Paris and Vienna, attending social events that normal folk could barely even imagine.

A favorite phrase used to describe the diplomatic corps while I worked on Capitol Hill was “them boys in the striped pants.” Webster Dictionary defines that use of the term “striped pants” as meaning “over attentive to formality, protocol, or partying and social activity.”

Former Rep. John J. Rooney (D-NY), who was serving as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funded the State Department when I arrived as a young staffer on Capitol Hill, partially built his political career around beating up on diplomats. He labeled the State Department’s annual budget request for “representational allowance” as “booze money for cookie pushers.”

I got a very vivid exposure to the other side of diplomatic service in 1980 as part of a congressional delegation that visited Islamabad only a few months after our embassy there had been burned to the ground. The life of many “cookie pushers” was a little tougher than Rep. Rooney and other detractors of the diplomatic corps made it out to be.

Pakistani students became outraged over unconfirmed radio reports that the United States was complicit in attacks taking place in the holy city of Mecca. They gathered in front of the U.S. Embassy, stormed the walls, smashed out the windows, killed two Marine guards, and set fire to anything that would burn, including all of the automobiles parked in the embassy courtyard. All 100 embassy employees (other than the two dead Marines) took refuge in a windowless steel-incased vault. After a long and frightening five-hour wait, the Pakistani Army arrived. Miraculously, everyone who made it to the vault was still alive.

Prior to the deaths in Benghazi, Libya, last week of Amb. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and State Department Security Officers Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, a total of 88 U.S. diplomatic personnel had died in the service of the their country since the burning of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Military personnel accounted for 23 and central intelligence personnel accounted for 14 more. But a large majority of these men and women were in the U.S. Foreign Service, U.S. Agency for International Development, or staff from other departments and agencies assigned to U.S. embassies overseas.

The deaths were attributable to a variety of causes. The danger of simply living in many foreign capitals with high incidences of traffic fatalities in places such as Cairo, Beijing, or Sarajevo is one factor. Another is exposure to deadly diseases such as malaria in Nigeria or Liberia. A total of 10 died in accidental plane crashes. But the vast majority were victims of embassy bombings or other terrorist or military attacks. A total of 13 died in the 1983 Hezbollah attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Only a year later two more died in a second attack on the same embassy. And that same year the U.S. emissary to Namibia, Dennis Keogh, was killed in Oshakati in a bombing attack.

In 1985 four off-duty Marine security guards were machine gunned to death at a sidewalk café in San Salvador. In 1998 nine Americans serving in the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, were killed in the bombing of that embassy, including Deputy Chief of Mission Julian Bartley. In 2002 Barbara Green was killed in a terrorist attack in Pakistan, and Laurence Foley was killed in a second attack in Jordan. A total of nine embassy personnel were killed in attacks in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

read more »

Oct 16, 2012, 4:27pm  0 notes      

▸ [Israel-Palestine] US warns European governments against supporting Palestinians at UN - Guardian UK

Guardian reporting about ‘a memo’ it saw. While everything is terribly up in the air - and additional moves are increasingly complicating the scene further. 

Private memo threatens ‘significant negative consequences’ if Palestinian Authority succeeds in obtaining enhanced status. 


Discussions among European governments on whether to support the Palestinians’ bid are due to be held this week. However the 27 member states are unlikely to forge a common line.

Oct 03, 2012, 11:44pm  1 note      

▸ [US Foreign Policies in Transition] Republicans betray their foreign policy tradition, David Rohde, Reuters

Second, across the Middle East, the problem is not that the United States is seen as weak. It is that it is seen as a menacing, all-powerful force that uses its unrivaled military might to impose its will.

June Pew Center public opinion poll in Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, found that clear majorities believe the U.S. acts unilaterally in the region. The American government is seen as being behind every major event in the Middle East – from the rebellion in Syria to the Muslim Brotherhood’s election victory in Egypt. The perceptions are illogical but real, and while conspiracy theories ought not influence policy, our problem is arrogance, not inaction.


As I have written in the past, a clear message has emerged in interviews with Muslims across the Middle East and South Asia since 2001. They do not want to be dictated to by Americans. Nor do they want Islamic hardliners to impose an extreme version of Islam on them. Instead, they yearn for a third way where their countries can be both Muslim and modern.

I believe a new, more pragmatic and less military-oriented American policy in the Middle East will achieve more than the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan did. In some instances, drone strikes, covert operations and lethal force may be necessary. But investment, education and training, and normalized relations, are just as important.

Today in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, young people yearn for American high-tech investments, trade and education. Public opinion surveys show an admiration for American technology, pop culture, democratic ideals and ways of doing business, particularly among the young. The rule of law, individual rights and consumerism are three of our most potent weapons against extremism.

The United States should ally itself with groups that support and abide by democratic norms, oppose violence and uphold international human rights laws, whatever their faith. Rather than boasting of our might, the core focus of American policy in the region should be how to quietly, consistently and effectively strengthen moderates over the long term.

The process will not be easy. We must learn to differentiate among groups. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political parties that won elections in Egypt and Tunisia are not ideal. But our true enemies – and theirs – are violent Salafist militants. We must judge groups by their actions, not by stereotypes.

The statements by Romney, Ryan and Cheney were, of course, political. All three were trying to create a compelling campaign narrative that appeals to voters: Obama is weak, military might alone can end terrorism, and foreign policy conundrums can be easily solved.

Yet for decades after World War Two, Republican presidents used a sophisticated combination of military force, diplomacy and economics to counter America’s enemies. They deftly created alliances, used American investment to help allies prosper, and patiently persevered. Over the last week, Romney, Ryan and Cheney betrayed that proud tradition.

[David Rohde is a columnist for Reuters, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and a former reporter for The New York Times. His forthcoming book, “Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East” will be published in March 2013.]

Source: blogs.reuters.com

Sep 28, 2012, 9:12pm  1 note      

▸ [Morsi, NY visit] Getting Egypt’s Morsi to give up his 9/11 ‘truther’ talk

With current heightened tension re: mob attacks on US embassies - it is possible that if Morsi’s speech at UN GA goes off in parallel with Ahmadinejad and Chavez - that might be something really Obama admin wants to avoid. (It’s kind of impossible to predict from now - how global and America’s domestic perception re: Obama’s Middle East policy performance would be at the end of this September.)

But then, by so far, experts on Egypt have been saying this in unison: America really has no leverage on how Egypt’s ruling types (politicians and military) thinks, speaks and acts.

However, Wapost’s this article is suggesting Obama should negotiate with Morsi beforehand - if you want to meet me - please let us censor your UN speech. 

To that end, Obama should condition any meeting with Morsi on the latter’s clear and public renunciation of 9/11 revisionism. This position would present Morsi with a stark choice: He can either repudiate the hate-filled conspiracies that he has helped to sow and reap the benefits of Obama’s embrace, or he can expose himself as an irresponsible ideologue with whom few members of the international community will want to deal. Failure to lay down a marker with Morsi before he comes to New York means Morsi may never have to make that choice.

It is true that while Morsi delivering Brotherhood’s uncensored view on 9/11 in NY and then - meeting Obama (while not meeting Netanyahu) - would look fairly odd. But I can’t know where American public’s sensitivity on this issue will be then.

Also, an important fact:

huge majorities in major Muslim countries — 75 percent of Egyptians, 73 percent of Turks — still deny that Arabs carried out the attacks, as a Pew study reported in July 2011. 

Source: Washington Post

Sep 13, 2012, 10:53am  0 notes      

▸ ['Iran Project'- USA Bipartisan Report] Iran Attack Would Halt Nuclear Bid for Four Years, Report Says - Bloomberg

A U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would derail the Islamic Republic’s suspected weapons program for four years at most while uniting its citizens and alienating the Muslim world, according to a report.

The report to be released today by the “Iran Project,” a bipartisan group of former national-security officials and foreign-policy specialists, discusses the military pros and cons of a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and outlines the less- discussed political fallout of any such attack.


A U.S. air strike involving Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) stealth B-2 bombers dropping 30,000-pound precision-guided penetrating bombs “carried out to near perfection” could delay Iran’s program by up to four years, according to the report.

A unilateral strike by Israel “with its more limited capabilities, could delay Iran’s ability to build a bomb by up to two years,” the report said. An Israeli airstrike “is unlikely to succeed in destroying or even seriously damaging” the deeply buried Fordo enrichment facility and the stockpile of near-weapons- grade enriched uranium there.

And the list of names who signed to this report is interesting:

The report may be more noteworthy for the former U.S. officials listed among its signatories, including former Central Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Paul Pillar; former U.S. Central Command commanders Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni and Admiral William Fallon.

Other signers of the report include former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia; retired U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering; George W. Bush-era Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft.

Estimate that Israel’s unilateral attack would be able to delay Iran’s nuclear program for 2 years - this figure has been around. (but there will be other major - or enormous repercussions inevitably, either Israel alone or Israel-USA acts out.)

Then if USA attacks - the delay will be 4 years. Maybe on this point this report is telling something new (That even with USA’s capacity - strike on Iran will only earn 4 years.) 

Source: businessweek.com

Sep 13, 2012, 10:30am  0 notes      

▸ [Iran, Israel, USA] Former CIA chief tells Haaretz: Decision on Iran strike can wait - Haaretz

Various speculations and moves abound - but now clearly ‘2013’ (and even 2014) option is surfacing (or being presented - ) in public discourse. 

A decision on attacking Iran need not be taken at present, as current assessments point to its achieving nuclear-weapons capabilities no earlier than 2013 or 2014, former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden told Haaretz on Monday.

Gen. (res.) Hayden, who led the CIA when the Syrian nuclear reactor in al-Kibar was destroyed by the Israel Air Force five years ago, also believes that if an operation against Iran were eventually deemed necessary, the United States would be much more capable of undertaking it than Israel.


"While it is probably true that the so-called ‘window’ regarding effective action is closing, there is still some time, as real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014."

Sep 03, 2012, 10:10pm  1 note      

▸ [Israel, Iran, USA] [Israeli News reported: US message to Iran 'We want to stay out of the war"] Jeffrey Heller - Reuters

Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth reported - that US said to Iran

  • USA does not want to participate in the war -
  • also asked Iran to not to attack US interests in the Gulf

JERUSALEM, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Israeli officials played down a report in an Israeli newspaper on Monday that accused Washington of secretly negotiating with Tehran to keep the United States out of a future Israel-Iran war.

Israel’s most widely-read newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, said Washington had approached Tehran through two unidentified European countries to convey the message that the United States would not be dragged into hostilities if Israel attacked Iran over its nuclear programme.

The paper said the United States told Iran it expected Tehran in return to refrain from retaliating against U.S. interests, including its military in the Gulf. The report did not disclose any source for its information.

An Israeli official, who asked not to be identified, described the report as illogical.

"It doesn’t make sense," the official said. "There would be no need to make such a promise to the Iranians because they realise the last thing they need is to attack U.S. targets and draw massive U.S. bombing raids."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the Israeli newspaper story, which appeared during the Labor Day holiday.


Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said he still believed Obama’s assurances that Washington was prepared to use force if needed to prevent Iran from developing a bomb.

"I don’t know what kind of messages Yedioth Ahronoth heard," Meridor said. "But I think the Iranians understand … that if they cross a line towards a bomb, they could encounter very strong resistance, including all the options that are on the table - as the American president has said."

Yedioth Ahronoth is a mainstream newspaper, not known for taking a particular political line on U.S.-Israeli ties.

Source: in.reuters.com

Sep 03, 2012, 1:27pm  0 notes      

▸ 'Does Arab monarchy matter?', Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy

What does it mean that no Kings have thus far fallen in the Arab uprisings while four non-monarchical rulers (Ben Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi and Saleh) have toppled from their (non-royal) thrones and a fifth has plunged his country into a brutal civil war?   Is there a monarchical exception in the Arab world?   The significance of monarchy has been one of the most vibrant debates among political scientists over the last two years, as I wrote about a few months ago.  A new article in the Journal of Politics by Victor Menaldo claiming statistical evidence for a monarchical advantage prompted me to revisit these arguments this week.    

The advantages of monarchy have taken on the feel of “common sense” among the public and in academic debates. But I remain highly skeptical about the more ambitious arguments for a monarchical exception. Access to vast wealth and useful international allies seems a more plausible explanation for the resilience of most of the Arab monarchies.  Surviving with the financial resources and international allies available to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE seems like no great trick.  The active, concerted economic, political, media (and occasionally military) Saudi and Qatari support for their less wealthy fellow monarchs seems to be more important to the survival of the current crop of kings than the instrinsic institutional characteristics of a throne.   

There has been a robust academic argument over the possible political benefits of monarchy at least since Lisa Anderson’s influential 1991 article ”Absolutism and the Resilience of Monarchy.”  The operation of dynastic monarchies in relation to other regime types have been detailed and analyzed in important work by Michael Herb and many other political scientists over the last two decades.  That debate intesects in productive ways with broader research trends in political science over the last decade over the many varieties of authoritarianism.  In that context, I certainly don’t mean to say that monarchy doesn’t matter at all.  It seems obvious that different regime types will create different incentives, institutions, and possibilities for political contention.  And the relative survival rate of the monarchies during the Arab uprisings of the last years is certainly suggestive of something.  But I remain highly skeptical of the stronger theoretical and policy claims about the positive political benefits of Arab monarchy.   

I am particularly unpersuaded by arguments that the Arab monarchies enjoy a distinctive legitimacy.  Some Kings no doubt have been popular due to their personality, their policies, or their ability to play their assigned role effectively.  But it is difficult to reconcile the idea of monarchical legitimacy with the tightly controlled media, carefully cultivated personality cults, and brutally policed “red lines” which generally characterize such regimes.  The alleged unique legitimacy of Arab monarchs strikes me as a carefully cultivated and ruthlessly policed political myth which could dissolve as quickly as did the universal adoration for Bashar al-Assad or Moammar Qaddafi when challenged.  If monarchy confers unique legitimacy on, say, King Abdullah of Jordan, then why the need for a draconian l’ese majeste lawcriminalizing insulting the King or escalating controls on the online media?  Why the need for Kuwait to jail someone for posting a YouTube video of a poem criticizing the Emir?  Why such concern among the Saudi leadership over the grumblings of the religious establishment?  

  The claim for a unique legitimacy among the Arab monarchies is further undermined by the fact that they have in fact experienced significant political dissent over the last two years, to which they responded through fairly typical (albeit unusually well-resourced) combinations of repression and co-optation.   Kuwait experienced the most dramatic, largest and most effective political protests in its history, leading to a political crisis which has shut down Parliament and for the first time brought the perogatives of the royal family directly into the public debate.  Quiet Oman faced unprecedented levels of protest which forced significant political reforms.  Saudi Arabia has faced persistent and growing protest in its Eastern Province, and forcefully cracked down on dissent elsewhere even as it lavished $130 billion on its restive population.  Bahrain’s monarchy survived (for now) against truly massive popular mobilization only through the application of a brutal, sweeping campaign of sectarian repression.  Morocco’s monarch diverted popular mobilization through an early offer of limited political reforms, while Jordan’s monarch struggles with growing  popular mobilization and an ever-shrinking ruling coalition as his regime fails to effectively adapt. In other words, the resources and capabilities of the Arab monarchies may be different from their non-kingly peers, but the challenges facing them from popular mobilization really were not.

Other popular arguments in the literature for the monarchical exception also strike me as limited. It’s true that the monarchies practice divide and rule, selectively co-opt and repress, and in some cases allow controlled elections to Parliaments with limited power —- but is this so different from the games played by Ben Ali, Mubarak, or Assad?  Perhaps monarchies offer a sense of predictability to politics and reduce the stakes of competition — but were Syrians or Egyptians really under the illusion that their leaders might be voted out of office?  Perhaps monarchy allows all other citizens to know their place and not get any uppity ideas about a role in governing or oversight of their government’s budgets — but is such a second-class citizenship really viable in today’s political environment?  And can we really say that monarchs are better at offering an inclusive national identity in the face of the virulent anti-Shi’a exclusions in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, or the constant exploitation of Transjordanian-Palestinian identity divides in Jordan? (I’d rather not get into Menaldo’s arguments as to why the monarchies have less corruption, since the premise seems so implausible on its face.)

To me, the monarchies look like fairly typical Arab authoritarian regimes, surviving because they enjoy greater financial resources, less demanding international allies, and powerful media assets to perpetuate their legitimation myths.  And that means that they will not likely be spared should those assets lose value. To paraphrase one of our great living philosopher kings, the Arab monarchies may be forced to choose among three dreams: the Saudi King’s, Dr. King’s and Rodney King’s.   The monarchs would like their own people and the outside world to believe that they survive because of their effective and benevolent leadership, their unique political culture, and their distinctive legitimacy which requires no great concessions to meaningful democratic political participation.  But that very myth can blind them to the ever more urgent calls by reformists for just such political inclusion, transparency, an end to corruption, and equality of citizenship.  But the violent repression and angry protests in Manama or Qatif provide stark warning of the danger of believing such comforting mythologies of resilience or legitimacy.  

The discussion of Arab monarchy really should be a debate, of course.  A lot of smart people do think that monarchy matters, and have developed sophisticated arguments and evidence to support the contention.  There’s an outstanding literature in political science on the nature of various regime types, to which Middle East specialists have contributed significantly.  But if Gulf regimes start to suddenly fall, as predicted in this forthcoming book by Christopher Davidson, or the popular mobilization which already exists takes on new forms, then the embrace of the monarchical exception could soon look as foolish as did the passion for Lebanese consociationalism in the 1960s, the admiration for the Shah’s developmental state in Iran in the 1970s, or the confidence in the resilience of Arab authoritarian regimes in the 2000s. 

  • The history - earlier part of modern period before these ‘regimes’ set in tend to depicts less or least static image of each places. (Had more potentials, alternatives. It looks.) 
  • But after such historical period, now - these regimes have been in place for quite long already. 
  • I tend to imagine ‘then how (a nation) can navigate through the “transition”? - and that always look - going to invite ‘regional upheaval’ and potentially really violent process - 
  • With least guarantee/prospect that where ‘the durable order/balance’ will be achieved in post-regime situation.
  • There really is no guarantee that powerful (and benign - inclusive or pluralistic) enough ‘new’ governing entity will emerge after getting rid of these royal families and kings - and will govern - responsibly. (Though there are difference in places. But mostly, post-revolution situation imagined doesn’t look going to be sustainable or durable.) 

And of course this piece doesn’t go into these issues with actual details. It’s basically a survey of pro-monarchy literature - calling for examination. (But that’s going to be very difficult.) 

Source: lynch.foreignpolicy.com

Aug 31, 2012, 2:36pm  2 notes      

▸ [Israel-USA-Iran] The secret reason for Netanyahu's timing on Iran war, Sefi Rachlevsky, Haaretz

The author has been repeating same take already few times on Haaretz, but now his rhetoric/wording notched up:

"In private conversations" - Netanyahu said he is going to launch a strike Iran. Duing DNC in North Carolina, 2nd week of September.

I am not trusting Haaretz these days. It is trying to increase articles published - and it just is messy. There is no focus on (only) communicating credible and necessary to the audience. 

I don’t know - I think in UK politicians can file ‘libel’ suit if a journalist fabricates such crucial statement even claimed to be ‘private’.

But not sure about Israel where loose cannons and exchanging exaggerated rhetoric is basically the natural state of being. 


In private conversations, Netanyahu has said there is nothing after Election Day, which falls on November 6. If Obama wins, Netanyahu says, he will take revenge for the overt efforts to defeat him and will prevent Netanyahu from attacking Iran. For this reason, and only this reason, Netanyahu must go on the offensive over Iran now - some reliable sources say he will probably do it during the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina next week - when the timing is the worst for Israel. That’s the price of getting portrayed as being a member of the Romney-Netanyahu-Sheldon Adelson trinity.

This is the most reckless of all breaches of trust, and Netanyahu - not Israel - must pay the price of taking the risk. Netanyahu must wait for the U.S. elections. If he loses his bet and Obama wins, Netanyahu should be so kind as to resign. The soldiers and citizens of Israel shall not be sacrificed on the altar of Netanyahu’s bets.

Source: haaretz.com

Aug 29, 2012, 6:27pm  1 note      

“Iran also has boasted about the U.N. secretary-general’s decision to address the meeting later this week. But pride could turn into embarrassment if Ban uses his appearance as a platform to criticize Tehran over its crackdowns on political dissent — including the house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi — or push for more access to its nuclear sites for U.N. inspectors.

Already on Tuesday, a U.N. spokesman in New York said Ban would bring up human rights and concerns over the nuclear program on the sidelines of the gathering. “It’s clear that when he goes there he will reiterate his concern that the overall human rights situation in Iran remains critical,” Farhan Haq told reporters.”

Iran Agenda Faces ‘Realities’ At World Gathering : NPR

It remains to be seen ‘why’ Ban Ki-Moon decided to attend this NAM Summit. But one positive expectation - he might press on Iran’s human rights issues on this occasion. 

August 28, 2012, 7:57pm  1 note

▸ The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad, Thomas Hegghammer

Why has transnational war volunteering increased so dramatically in the Muslim world since 1980? Standard explanations, which emphasize U.S.-Saudi support for the 1980s Afghan mujahideen, the growth of Islamism, or the spread of Wahhabism are insufficient. The increase in transnational war volunteering is better explained as the product of a pan-Islamic identity movement that grew strong in the 1970s Arab world from elite competition among exiled Islamists in international Islamic organizations and Muslim regimes. Seeking political relevance and increased budgets, Hijaz-based international activists propagated an alarmist discourse about external threats to the Muslim nation and established a global network of Islamic charities. This “soft” pan-Islamic discourse and network enabled Arabs invested in the 1980s Afghanistan war to recruit fighters in the name of inter-Muslim solidarity. The Arab-Afghan mobilization in turn produced a foreign fighter movement that still exists today, as a phenomenon partly distinct from al-Qaida. The analysis relies on a new data set on foreign fighter mobilizations, rare sources in Arabic, and interviews with former activists.

Hegghammer, Thomas. “The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad.”International Security 35, no. 3 (Winter 2010/11): 53-94.

View that in 1970s, moderate form of pan-Islamic identity movement emerged and then that produced a ‘violent offshoot’ in the 1980s. [1970s, Hijaz activists]

Source: belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu

Aug 21, 2012, 12:35pm  0 notes      

▸ The Twilight War - The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran, David Crist, Kirkus Review

An encyclopedic accountof the ongoing military and diplomatic conflict between the United States and Iran.

Since the fall of the shah in 1979, Iran and the United States have been thorns in each other’s sides. Iran seeks recognition as a regional power and as a champion of Shia Muslims throughout the Middle East, but its policy toward America has often been driven by a “paranoia that the real goal behind U.S. actions was the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.” America, for its part, has consistently “helped perpetuate the animosity [by displaying] a callous disregard for Iranian grievances and security concerns.” The result has been an ongoing “shadow war” in which each side has inflicted grievous casualties on the other without quite falling into open belligerence, while missing numerous opportunities for rapprochement. In a monumental debut, senior government historian Crist presents a comprehensive narrative of this conflict from the ascendancy of the Ayatollah Khomeini to the present day. Drawing on extensive access to American government leaders and documents, Crist surveys his topic in thorough, if sometimes ponderous, detail, including coverage of the bombing of the Marine base in Beirut, the Iran/Iraq war, the arms-for-hostages scandal, the naval battles of the “tanker wars,” Iran’s involvement in post-Hussein Iraq and its present pursuit of nuclear ambitions. Completely in command of the competing interests and personalities at the highest levels of American policymaking, Crist has an equally impressive grasp of the ebb and flow of diverse viewpoints in Iranian religious, political and military councils. The battle scenes are edge-of-the-seat gripping, and the author is keenly insightful on the Byzantine diplomatic maneuvers, by turns farcical and dismaying, and the motivations of the politicians, clerics, Cold Warriors and con artists who have stoked the ongoing tensions between the two nations in spite of important common interests.

Some casual readers may be turned off by the page count, but this is likely to be the authoritative history of the origins and progress of the Iranian policy morass for years to come.

And NPR’s review ends with these sentences:

His conclusions are as intelligent as they are pessimistic — in other words, get used to seeing more of those depressing headlines in the months to come. America’s long war with Iran, he writes, isn’t even close to over — it’s really only just begun.


Source: kirkusreviews.com

Jul 24, 2012, 12:16pm  1 note      

“What comes after Assad is unknowable today. It could be chaos like the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s. A Sunni military dictator may emerge. The Muslim Brotherhood, which led the 1982 Hama revolt and plays a large role in the current insurrection, may emerge dominant. Almost any conceivable successor regime to Assad’s will likely be hostile to Hizbullah and Iran. A hostile Syria will find many allies in Lebanon eager to turn on Hizbullah.”

Bruce Riedel, What Comes After Assad in Syria? | Brookings Institution

Similar ‘spillover’ - (winning Sunni side on a roll phenomenon) - can take place in Iraq too.

And this means now there is a possibility of connected Sunni corridor - Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq - emerging -

or some local groups making fast moves to get to it - anyway, by any means. 

July 20, 2012, 12:35pm  1 note

▸ In Iran, Two Opposing Pictures of Syria [Internal Debate re: Continuing Support for Assad Regime] - Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Guardian UK

On the international stage, leaders of the Islamic republic have shown unwavering support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. But at home, they have not been able to portray a country united over the crisis.

Since the uprising began in Syria, two contradictory pictures have emerged inside Iran of the way it is unfolding. Media outlets affiliated to the regime, like the state-run Keyhan newsapaper or Fars news agency, have mainly reported the official line, introducing Assad as the victim of western and terrorist-led efforts.

On the other hand, independent media who work under intense official censorship, like Etemaad and Shargh newspapers, have managed to report the uprising with relative objectivity, publishing articles on the scale of the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown against protesters.

Even conservative figures within the Iranian regime have begun to question Tehran’s support for Assad, implicitly calling upon their seniors to think twice about the man they are supporting.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that a group of Iranian diplomats have joined the public debate over Syria and “publicly questioning whether Tehran should continue supporting Syria’s regime”.

"The entire world is against Syria and we are standing here defending Syria, a country accused of crimes against humanity. We are not playing this game very well," the WSJ quoted Iranian diplomat, Mohamad Ali Sobhani, as saying, citing the semi-official news website, Khabaronline.ir. Sobhani has served as Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon and Jordan.

Mohamad Shariatai Dehaghanm, another diplomat, who served in Iran’s embassy in Damascus for four years, has described the Syrian uprising as a legitimate popular movement in an interview, the WSJ reported.

"Iran should not do anything in its diplomacy that would put it in a confrontation with the Syrian people. We will pay the price if we continue to encourage violent crackdowns on people," he said in April.

As the circle of the Syrian regime’s allies narrows, Iran appears to be contemplating a backup plan should Assad fall. Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that his country has already contacted the Syrian opposition and is ready to host crisis talks between them and the Syrian government.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to sit down with the Syrian opposition and invite them to Iran," Salehi said in quotes carried by the semi-official Isna news agency. “We are ready to facilitate and provide the conditions for talks between the opposition and the government.”

Despite the supreme leader Aytollah Ali Khamenei and his revolutionary guards’ staunch support for al-Assad, an increasing number of people in the country appear to be asking themselves whether Iran is on the right side of history over Syria.

[July 16 2012]

And then bit old - but one formulation of coordinated transition path - as a log (Not that this will happen likely now. But if not ‘coordinated’ - what kind of further unravelling could continue - even Assad is gone anyway - is a real worry.)

(Paul Salem, Carnegie Middle East Center, Lebanon)

Source: Guardian

Jul 18, 2012, 11:03am  0 notes