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NGO crackdown: Gagging democracy or national self-defense?

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Egypt has denied licenses to eight US-based non-profit groups, saying they violated the country’s sovereignty. Many states are concerned that foreign government-backed NGOs are really agents for their sponsors, rather than independent action groups.

­Among the organizations banned from continuing their work in Egypt are the Carter Center for Human Rights, set up by former US President Jimmy Carter, Christian group The Coptic Orphans, Seeds of Peace and other groups.

Egyptian authorities warned that if the NGOs try to work without a license, Cairo would “take relevant measures”.

Local media speculate that the rejection may be temporary, and licenses could be granted later, after the presidential election due on May 23 and 24.

Monday’s move revives a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities on foreign-funded NGOs, which recently provoked a serious diplomatic row with long-term ally US. In late December 2011, security forces raided offices of a number of groups suspected of receiving money in violation of Egyptian legislation.

In February, prosecutors charged 43 people with instilling dissent and meddling in domestic policies following last year’s mass protests, which resulted in the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Among them were citizens of the US, Germany, Serbia, Norway and Jordan.

In March, an Egyptian court revoked the travel ban for 17 indicted Americans following Washington’s threat to withdraw $1.3 billion annual military aid to Cairo. The decision provoked a wave criticism of the ruling military council in Egypt. Many activists accused them of betraying national interests under American pressure.

But shortly after the suspected Americans left the country, Cairo’s prosecutors decided to target more people allegedly involved in the case, who were not in Egypt when the charges against their colleagues were made. Egypt asked Interpol to issue “red notices” for 15 NGO workers, including 12 Americans, two Lebanese and a Jordanian.

On Monday, Interpol’s French headquarters announced that the Egyptian request had been turned down, because it contradicted rules that strictly forbid the organization “to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

Not so non-government

There may be a good reason why national governments in troubled countries mistrust US-funded NGOs. For instance, NATO’s intervention in Libya was partially justified by exaggerated reports of human rights organizations alleging that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces committed crimes against humanity and breached international law in other ways, reports RT’s Maria Portnaya. After the war some of them admitted to giving ungrounded reports.

Powerful NGOs like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are supposed to be objective monitors and not take sides, but in reality they “enter into an excessively cozy relationship with for example the United States government, but also other powerful Western allies, over Libya and over other issues,” John Laughland from the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation told RT.

This is what happened in Libya and is now happening in Syria, he added.

“The equivalent, if you like, of the Libyan League of Human Rights, which is called the Damascus Centre for Human Rights, has played exactly the same role. They’ve alleged crimes against humanity. They’ve called for safe havens, and armed intervention in that country. And they are quite clear political lobbyists, who are trying to secure a military intervention against Syria along the lines of the one approved last year against Libya,”
Laughland explained.

Another example is the group behind the Kony 2012 initiative. The California-based NGO Invisible Children is calling to stop the use of child soldiers and is promoting peace in the Ugandan civil war. But the same organization provided Uganda’s authorities with intelligence that led to the arrest of several regime opponents, as a US embassy cable published by WikiLeaks revealed.

“I’m willing to believe that was not the one time that Invisible Children provided information to the Ugandan authorities. What else do we not know, in terms of their relations with the Ugandan Government?” asks Milton Allimadi, Editor-in-chief of the Black Star News.

The viral video calling on a campaign to stop Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army appeared just months after President Obama decided to send 100 US military advisors to the region to help local governments remove Kony “from the battlefield”. Some human rights organizations criticized the move, saying among those receiving American aid is South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, which is known to exploit child soldiers just like Kony does.

NGOs are not currently held accountable for the information they publish, no matter how much collateral damage false facts may cause. Critics say some of those organizations actually pave the way for conflict rather than advocating peaceful solutions.

Source

Israel’s Key Energy Provider, Egypt, Cuts Off All Natural Gas Supplies

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Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/22/2012 15:49 –0400

Two months ago, we warned that while the world had decided to blissfully move on from last year’s topic #1, the MENA revolutions, and specifically the massive power vacuum left in their wake, things in the region were far from fixed. Quite the contrary, and as we added back then “it is very likely that the Mediterranean region, flanked on one side by the broke European countries of Greece, Italy, Spain (and implicitly Portugal), and on the other by the unstable powder keg of post-revolutionary Libya and Egypt, will likely become quite active yet again. Only this time, in addition to social and economic upheavals, a religious flavor may also be added to the mix”. Yet nobody cared as after a year of daily videos showing Molotov Cocktails dropping like flies, people had simply gotten habituated and needed some other source of excitement. Nobody cared also when a week ago Art Cashin warned that the hidden geopolitcal risk is not Spain but Egypt. Today, Egypt just reminded at least one country why perhaps caution about the instability caused by having a military in charge of the most populous Arabic country and the one boasting “the Canal”, should have been heeded after Egypt just announced that it is cutting off its natural gas supplies to Israel, which just so happens relies on Egypt for 40% of its energy needs.

From Reuters:

Egypt’s energy companies have terminated a long-term deal to supply Israel with gas after the cross-border pipeline sustained months of sabotage since a revolt last year, a stakeholder in the deal said on Sunday.

Ampal-American Israel Corporation, a partner in the East Mediterreanean Gas Company (EMG), which operates the pipeline, said the Egyptian companies involved had notified EMG they were “terminating the gas and purchase agreement”.

And judging by the sound and fury emanating from Israel the move was hardly expected:

The company said in a statement that the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company had notified them of the decision, adding that “EMG considers the termination attempt unlawful and in bad faith, and consequently demanded its withdrawal”.

It said EMG, Ampal, and EMG’s other international shareholders were “considering their options and legal remedies as well as approaching the various governments”.

Before the sabotage, Egypt supplied about 40 percent of Israel’s natural gas, which is the country’s main energy source.

Suddenly Israel may have bigger things to worry about that whether or not to leak its Iran invasion plas on national TV:

Israeli officials have said the country was at risk of facing summer power outages due to energy shortages.

Companies invested in the Israeli-Egyptian venture have taken a hit from numerous explosions of the cross-border pipeline and are seeking compensation from the Egyptian government of billions of dollars.

Ampal and two other companies have sought $8 billion in damages from Egypt for not safeguarding their investment.

Furthermore, if the Egyptian move is indeed an escalation in strategic alliance shifts in the region, it could have truly huge implications:

The Egyptian decision is a potential blow to the country’s ties with Israel, already tested by the toppling of Israeli ally President Hosni Mubarak a year ago.

Egypt was the first of two Arab countries to sign a peace trety with Israel, in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.a

Has the country’s endless warmongering calls for a preemptive war against Iran backfired epically? We won’t know for a while, but what we do know is that any government left in the power of military elites, is, how should we say it, unstable… for the simple reason that a military regime tends to require war to remind people why it is in charge. And the Egyptian “transitional” military government appears pretty much set to become permanent. Again from Reuters:

Ex-foreign minister Amr Moussa, a leading contender for Egypt’s presidency, said on Sunday he would give the military a voice in key policies via a national security council, a move to reassure ruling generals about their status after a power transfer.

Moussa, a self-described liberal nationalist whose main election rivals are Islamists, also said Egypt needed a president with lobbying skills to work effectively with the Islamist-dominated parliament and other institutions after decades of autocratic government.

Which means add one more election to the already surging roster of short-term catalysts now including France, Greece, Germany and, as of yesterday, the Netherlands:

Egypt’s presidential vote that starts on May 23-24 will mark the final stage of a transition to civilian rule from generals who took charge after Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year.

Unfortunately for Israel, either outcome will likely be a choice between a rock and a hard place, as the country appears to be rapidly alienating its one core catalytic long-term ally in the region.

Moussa, 75, said the national security council, to be chaired by the president, would include senior cabinet ministers plus top military officers. It would have a broad national security brief, he told a news conference.

“It has to consider all issues pertaining to national security and not only issues of defence or war, etc, but issues like water, issues like relations with neighbours,” said Moussa, a former head of the Arab League.

“(The council) will be a power house on those issues of major priority for the national life,” he added.

Other candidates, including one Islamist, have made similar suggestions but Moussa’s proposal and his plans as a whole are more detailed than most.

The army has said it will hand over power and return to barracks by July 1, leaving the new president in charge.

But various comments from army officials, usually in private, or from the military-appointed cabinet have indicated that the military wants a longer term role in protecting broad interests that range from businesses to national security, and wants to guide state affairs that could impact them.

The only question Israel may want to answer now is whether it wants to get cozy with Russia, whose nat gas it may suddenly be very, very attractive. And for that to happen, it means a huge softening in its anti-Iran tone, which in turn will have a huge impact on regional geopolitics, and specifically the risk of war in Iran, and thus the price of Brent. All of this, of course assumes, Israel does not immediately retaliate against Egypt, recently a big recipient of US aid, not to mention tear gas, and start a pre-emptive two front pre-war…

Source

Insight: In Sinai, militant Islam flourishes – quietly

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By Tamim Elyan
NORTH SINAI, Egypt | Sun Apr 1, 2012 6:08am EDT

(Reuters) – The group of 50 young men who had blocked off access to a small international military base in the Sinai desert would say nothing of who they were but their appearance held a few clues.

Dressed in army fatigues and armed with AK-47s, they wore the long beards of the hardline Islamists who are increasingly a law unto themselves in this part of Egypt.

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Quietly, barely noticed by outsiders fascinated by upheavals in Cairo and other Arab capitals, they are building a presence in Sinai that might offer a new haven for anti-Western militancy at the strategic junction of the Mediterranean, Africa and Asia.

When finally one of the men broke a silence that hung heavy on the barren plain, it was to explain to a reporter their demands: for the government to release five comrades jailed for bombings of tourist resorts in Sinai more than six years ago.

“We are ready to die under tanks for this,” he said, refusing to give his name and saying little else beyond muttering Islamic mottos as he toured the positions the militants had established to surround the base, inconveniencing dozens of troops from the Multinational Observer Force, a unit set up in 1979 to monitor Egypt’s U.S.-brokered peace treaty with Israel.

Under a rare rainy sky on a Thursday night in March, the men would only speak with the permission of a man they simply referred to as “sheikh”. A wolf’s cry pierced the otherwise tranquil scene outside the remote base that is home to foreign peace observers including Fijians, Americans and Spaniards.

Not a shot was fired in anger, however, and the next day, the group lifted their eight-day siege. It was not because they feared arrest or attack by the authorities. But instead they had secured their demands. The government agreed to free the men accused of being part of a group which carried out the 2004 and 2005 attacks that killed some 125 people at the Red Sea beach resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab and Taba.

It was a scenario unthinkable a year or so ago.

But with Hosni Mubarak‘s removal from power after three decades, government authority has collapsed in much of Sinai, leaving a vacuum where Islamist militant groups are flourishing, posing a security risk to Egypt, neighbors including Israel, and the Suez Canal, the busy waterway linking Asia and Europe.

In Sinai, an arid peninsula the size of Ireland but home to fewer than a million people, groups at the extreme fringe of the Islamist spectrum are expanding, even as Islamists long outlawed by the state enter the political mainstream in Cairo, where they now dominate parliament and are poised to enter government.

In towns where police stations have stood deserted since Mubarak was swept from office after a popular revolt, hardline Islamists are imposing their own authority. They are preaching a strict interpretation of Islam that has brought with it religious intolerance of a kind that shocks even some of the more conservative forces in the Muslim world.

Hardliners were blamed for bomb attack last year on a shrine revered by Sufi Muslim mystics – the kind of attack more familiar in restive Pakistan Egypt.

Though some of the militants here appear to be inspired by al Qaeda, experts do not yet believe the network is operating in the peninsula that separates Africa and Asia. But as time passes and the Egyptian state in far-off Cairo struggles to assert itself, there seems a growing risk they may align more closely with the global movement now led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, himself an Egyptian, though long assumed to be based abroad.

Egypt has already paid an economic price for lawlessness in Sinai – a pipeline exporting natural gas eastwards to Jordan and Israel has been blown up 13 times in the last year.

There are fears the economic impact could run deeper still. With its Red Sea resorts, Sinai’s southern province is one of the main assets of a tourist industry that employs one in eight Egyptians and would be hit hard by more insecurity.

“I’d say there is genuine potential for this threat to grow and become a much bigger issue than it is now,” said Henri Wilkinson, head of intelligence and analysis at the Risk Advisory group.

“I suspect al Qaeda … sees great opportunity in Sinai.”

“SOMETIMES VIOLENCE IS THE WAY”

For now, militant Islamist influence has been restricted to mostly impoverished towns in northern Sinai. Some are drawing on the example of groups that made Egypt a pioneer in the world of extremism as they seek to impose their vision of Islamic law.

One group calls itself Al-Tawhid wal Jihad, the name first taken by al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq. Blamed for the Sinai bomb attacks in 2004 and 2005, the group was accused last year of launching an attack on a police station in the town of el-Arish in which five members of the Egyptian security forces were killed.

Another is Takfir wal Higra, a name first heard in Egypt in the 1960s when the country emerged as a breeding ground for militant Islamist ideas that spread beyond its borders and supplied ideological fuel for al Qaeda and others.

Takfir wal Higra believes that even Muslims, if they do not share its beliefs, are infidels. The group’s influence has grown in northern Sinai in the last year, locals say. “Sometimes violence is the way to achieve your objectives,” said a man in his 30s who joined the group a year ago.

He comes from a mountain village outside el-Arish, the main town in northern Sinai where residents have long complained of neglect by the Egyptian state.

Wearing a short beard, jeans and a black jacket, the Takfir wal Higra recruit declined to be named as he recounted stories of how members of the group from one family had forced their parents to separate after declaring their father an infidel.

“I am ready to participate in blowing up the pipelines … attacking police stations,” he said. But when pressed about his goals, he appeared uncertain, blending vague talk of freeing Jerusalem from Israeli control with the idea of establishing an “Islamic emirate” in the Sinai Peninsula.

In Sheikh Zuweid, a few kilometers (miles) from the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, that idea appears to have become a partial reality.

A newly renovated but empty police station in the town’s central square is a powerful symbol of the collapse of state control. Slogans daubed on walls declare Sinai an independent Islamic state.

THE POLICE LEFT, AND NEVER CAME BACK

“The police left the city on January 29, 2011 at 4 p.m. heading to Cairo and never came back,” said Saeed Eteg, a liberal political activist from Sheikh Zuweid, recalling the day the state disappeared at the height of the uprising against Mubarak.

Sheikh Zuweid is a collection of mud brick buildings connected by a network of predominantly dirt roads. Locals say both state neglect and the collapse of traditional structures of tribal authority have allowed the spread of hardline influence.

Here, clerics apply their own interpretation of Islamic law at sharia courts independent of the state. “Decisions are for Allah alone,” declares a banner outside one of the courts.

“People need someone to solve their disputes and they found the answer in religious courts,” said Hamden Abu Faisal, a Salafi cleric who doubles as a judge in Sheikh Zuweid.

The Salafis are Muslims with a puritanical approach to their faith inspired by the official Wahhabi ideology of Saudi Arabia. Their brand of political Islam is a step removed from the more pragmatic, modernist Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest party in the Egyptian parliament, which is more moderate in its approach.

A Salafi group, the Nour Party, is the second largest party in the parliament following Egypt’s historic free elections late last year. It eschews violence in pursuit of its goal of tighter application of sharia religious law in the country of 80 million.

But even the Nour Party is beyond the pale for some in Sheikh Zuweid. Mohsen Abu Hassan, a member of the party, says he was declared an infidel by one young man, a member of Takfir wal Higra, during an election campaign rally in the town last year.

“There is a phenomenon we must confront,” Abu Hassan, now a member of parliament in Cairo, told Reuters.

“We shouldn’t turn a blind eye.”

A pile of rubble at a local shrine bears witness to the lengths to which zealots will go to impose their vision on how religion should be practiced here. On May 15 last year, five men blew up the shrine revered by Sufi mystics, whose beliefs are viewed as heretical by the puritanical Islamists.

A white flag raised by the Sufis flutters over what is left of the shrine of Sheikh Zuweid, viewed as one of the earliest Muslims in Egypt and after whom the town is named.

“WE DON’T FEEL LIKE EGYPTIAN CITIZENS”

Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, governor of North Sinai province, says religious groups are behind the trouble but denies the presence of al Qaeda or what he described as other “terrorist elements”.

But Israel is worried. It is building a barrier along its 266 km (165 mile) border with the peninsula. One Israeli officer described the frontier today as “a hot border”. Last August, Israel blamed Islamist militants from Sinai for attacks which killed eight Israelis. An Israeli counterstrike which left five Egyptian border guards dead did nothing to ease tense relations.

Israeli authority held sway in Sinai after it captured the region in the 1967 Middle East war. A theatre for more tank battles in 1973, the peninsula was restored to Egyptian control by the 1979 peace agreement brokered by the United States.

One of Israel’s concerns is that its Palestinian enemies in the Gaza Strip, including the governing Hamas Islamists, could use Sinai as a back door for attacks on southern Israel.

But the ideas spreading in Sinai could also present a threat to stability in Egypt itself and to Hamas, which looks to the Muslim Brotherhood for ideological inspiration and which has waged its own war against al Qaeda-inspired militancy in Gaza.

As in other waves of Islamist militancy that have swept Egypt in the past decades – it was Islamist gunmen who killed peacemaking President Anwar Sadat in 1981 – experts believe heavy-handed police tactics have only made the problem worse.

The security forces’ campaign to find the culprits in the 2004 and 2005 Sinai bombings has left a bitter taste. Police staged mass arrests, even rounding up suspects’ wives to force them to hand themselves in.

“THE MOTHER OF ALL PROBLEMS”

For the most part, South Sinai is a different story from the northern region. Bedouin in the mountainous south on the Red Sea maintain a nomadic lifestyle that differs to the urban development in the north, where many have settled in towns along the Mediterranean coast and have mingled with outsiders from Egypt’s Nile Valley heartlands and from neighboring Gaza.

Yet in southern Sinai, which is more sparsely populated than the north, Bedouin have similarly been alienated by years of state neglect and oppression. They too are staging acts of rebellion, though not in the Islamist form found in the north.

Seeking the release of jailed relatives, Bedouin have kidnapped two Americans, three Koreans and two Brazilians in the last two months, believing it is the only way they can get the Cairo government’s attention. They did not ask for ransoms and all were released unharmed after talks with the authorities.

The Bedouin say traditional tribal structures in the south have guarded against the infiltration of violent militant ideas. But their grievances against the state are just as profound.

The Bedouin say they have not felt the benefit of the income brought by tourist resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh, which have given many thousands of jobs to Egyptians from the Nile Valley.

“We don’t feel like Egyptian citizens,” said Sheikh Ahmed Hussein, a member of the Qararsha tribe, one of the biggest in the southern Sinai. A government report compiled in 2010 said a quarter of all Sinai’s population of some 600,000 did not carry a national ID card. The Bedouin, who make up the bulk of that number, are not allowed to own land or serve in the army.

Sensing the urgency of the problem, the military-appointed government of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri has taken action in the few months since it took office in November.

Seeking to alleviate tensions, Ganzouri has ordered the retrial of those imprisoned after the Sinai bombings. He also ordered the revival of development projects in the region, including a railway and a canal to supply water to central Sinai.

Abdullah Abu Ghama, a member of parliament from Sinai, says it cannot come too soon:

“The state has to speed up the process of development,” he said. “If not, the mother of all problems will occur and extremists will increase in numbers.”

(Editing by Tom Perry and Alastair Macdonald)

More Egyptian Sabotage as Extremists Take Advantage of Obama’s Weak ‘Leadership’

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by Jeff Dunetz
Posted on April 27 2011 2:01 pm

For the second time since the Egyptian upheaval began, the pipeline bringing natural gas from Egypt to Israel (and Jordan) has been shut down because of sabotage. The explosion took place early Wednesday morning, rocked the area and caused 65-foot flames, according to reports. According to Reuters, a security source has revealed that an unidentified armed gang attacked the pipeline.

This is not a simple act of sabotage; it is an attempt by radical forces within Egypt to make Israel the scapegoat behind the terrible economic situation.  It is this radical segment of the populace that seems to be winning the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people.  A Pew Study released this week, Egyptians Embrace Revolt Leaders, Religious Parties and Military, revealed that ” By a margin of 54 percent to 36 percent, Egyptians say their country should annul the treaty with Israel.”


The United States did not fare much better; 39% of Egyptians said that the United States response to the political protest movement had a negative impact on the situation, 22% said it had a positive effect, and 35% said the effect was neither positive nor negative. Additionally, 15% of Egyptians said they would like Egypt to have closer ties with the United States, 43% said Egypt distance itself from the United States and 40 percent said ties between the two countries should remain the same.

While this is the second time the gas pipeline has been blown up, there was an unsuccessful attempt a month ago.  The reason the pipeline is such a major target is that Egypt supplies Israel with about 40 percent of its natural gas, which the country relies on to produce its supply of electricity.

Israeli officials on Wednesday called for the country to find ways to reduce its dependency on other countries for gas, and urged the government to quickly develop newly found gas fields off the coast of Israel. Israel Electric Company said it had enough gas in the pipeline for the next few days and then would switch to alternative fuels such as coal and diesel to produce electricity.

Exploratory drilling off Israel’s northern coast this past December confirmed the existence of a major natural gas field — one of the world’s largest offshore gas finds of the past decade — leading the country’s infrastructure minister to call it “the most important energy news since the founding of the state.”

The US Geological Survey released a report saying the Levant Basin Province, which runs up the Mediterranean Sea the length of Israel (see above), through Lebanon and the bottom tip of Syria, contains an estimated 1.7 billion barrels of Oil and 122 TCF of natural gas (that’s the best guess estimate; some project the actual reserves may be double).

Since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptian natural gas sales to Israel have become a major issue. In fact, Egyptian authorities have extended Mubarak’s detention to question him regarding the gas deal with Israel, in which Egypt lost more than $714 million (according to the Egyptians). Candidates to replace Mubarak have said they plan to renegotiate the contract with Israel.

The fact that the pipeline has become a flash-point and the attitude of the Egyptian people, it is clear that Israel will have to redouble its efforts to tap those wells as soon as possible.

Gas and peace with Egypt are not the only Middle East crisis points exposed by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. For years, Mubarak was the intermediary in reunification talks between President Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas.  Mubarak had always insisted that in order for the deal to be made, Hamas must find a way to recognize Israel or the possibility of peace with Israel (ironically the Fatah party charter also refuses to recognize Israel).

Today with Mubarak gone, Hamas and Fatah have announced a reconciliation deal. While no details have been announced, based on previous statements it is almost certain that Hamas will not have to change its violent anti-Israel stance as part of the deal.  It is also certain that if the unification deal sticks, and Hamas retains its stance about the destruction of Israel, the E.U. and possibly even the United States will recognize the new terrorist government.  This will add momentum to the Palestinian’s goal of a unilateral declaration of statehood in September.

An article by Ryan Lizza in this week’s New Yorker gives the answer. The article called, “The Consequentialist (How the Arab Spring remade Obama’s foreign policy)” ends on an unusual note:

Nonetheless, Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the President’s actions in Libya as “leading from behind.” That’s not a slogan designed for signs at the 2012 Democratic Convention, but it does accurately describe the balance that Obama now seems to be finding. It’s a different definition of leadership than America is known for, and it comes from two unspoken beliefs: that the relative power of the U.S. is declining, as rivals like China rise, and that the U.S. is reviled in many parts of the world. Pursuing our interests and spreading our ideals thus requires stealth and modesty as well as military strength. “It’s so at odds with the John Wayne expectation for what America is in the world,” the adviser said. “But it’s necessary for shepherding us through this phase.”

Leading from behind does not work.  First of all true leadership starts with a call to “follow me!” not “go ahead and I will follow.” Secondly it ignores the fact that pure military might is respected in the Arab world, and the inconstancy of Obama’s “leading from behind” strategy is seen as nothing but weakness by the radical Islamist elements in the region.

Putting it all together, it seems as if the overthrow of Mubarak brings the Middle East much closer to a major war than ever before.  Not that it could have been prevented; Hosni Mubarak had been unpopular for a long time.  The real question is could our president have better managed the situation to ensure that the Egyptian government was turned over to more moderate elements? And there the answer is absolutely yes.

Original Article

Syria: Where is President Obama?

Posted on Sunday, April 24, 2011by Elliott AbramsOn Friday, the Syrian regime killed another hundred peaceful protesters, and then fired at people attending their funerals on Saturday, killing yet another dozen.

What has been the Obama Administration’s response?  To toughen up its rhetoric a bit, but to do nothing.

On Friday, after an especially weak performance by the President’s press spokesman (who contrasted the terrible situation in Libya with what he apparently thought was a far better one in Syria), the White House issued a new statement from the President.

“The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of force by the Syrian government against demonstrators,”  the statement said.  And, “We strongly oppose the Syrian government’s treatment of its citizens,” it concluded.  What’s wrong with that?

First, where is the President?  This statement carefully avoided using the word “I” and was handed out by the White House.  The President’s appearance on camera, delivering such words personally so that they can be carried into Syria on al Jazeera and YouTube, would be much more effective.  With hundreds now dead in the streets of Syria, it is past time for him to speak.

Second, the Friday statement continues to appeal to Assad: “We call on President Assad to change course now, and heed the calls of his own people.”  That might have been acceptable 300 deaths ago, but it is now absurd.  The President called on Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a long-time American ally, to leave; why the reticence about Assad, a long-time American enemy?

Third, the White House statement is just words.  It does not promise, suggest, or announce any actions.  This Administration has spent two years engaging with the Assad regime and loosening U.S. sanctions on it.  “The World Trade Organization’s 153 members granted Syria observer status after the U.S. dropped its opposition in a sign the Obama administration is softening its stance toward the Middle Eastern nation,” Bloomberg reported a year ago, noting also that “President Barack Obama’s administration has already loosened export-license curbs on aircraft repairs for state-owned Syrian Arab Airways.” So this  Administration, having followed a foolish policy of engagement with this barbaric regime, has a special obligation to correct its course.  The first action should be recalling our ambassador to Syria, who should never have been given his recess appointment to the post last year.  Second, the United States should be calling immediately for special meetings of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, to bring additional focus on the murders of peaceful protesters in Syria and seek sanctions against the regime, in the hope that this attention will constrain its bloody hand.

As in Tunisia, as in Egypt, as in Libya and Bahrain, the President has been slow to react.  This is inexcusable in the face of the mounting death toll—and the very real gains for the United States if the vicious Assad regime falls.

Original Article

Letter: Middle East politics troubling

Monday, April 11, 2011

Aaron Klein, bureau chief for World Net Daily, reported that Frank Wisner, former ambassador to Egypt, secretly met with Issam El-Erain, senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, at the request of President Barack Obama. This is not the first time that Obama has been charged with affiliating with Egypt’s opposition. U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scoby was aware of the coup since 2008 and kept Obama apprised of her continuing talks with activists.

A senior in the Egyptian Parliament told WND that they were concerned why Obama supports Muslim interests. Prior to the last election, Obama encouraged President Hosni Mubarak to use voter monitors to ensure a fair election. Having lost almost all seats, the Muslim Brotherhood lost little time getting Obama involved. Obama was quoted saying he was deeply concerned about a possible fraudulent election and asked Mubarak to hold another. According to WikiLeaks, a senior Egyptian diplomat told WND he suspects Obama has been aiding protest planning through Mohamed Elbaraei.

Elbaraei just happened to arrive in Egypt shortly after protesting began and was asked to become the key negotiator for the Muslim Brotherhood with an eye toward the presidency. Coincidentally, Elbaraei just happens to serve on the board of the International Crisis Group, headed by George Soros. Recently, Fox News reported that Obama and Soros, plus other socialist colleagues, just happened to visit Mubarak after the last election. Why would Obama take Soros and his band of socialist/Marxists to Egypt when clearly Soros lives and breathes socialism/Marxism. The Washington Post (Feb. 3) said Soros hates Jews and seeks an Egyptian government comprised by the Muslim Brotherhood with Elbaraei as its leader. Don’t forget that Egypt owns and operates the Suez Canal.

I’m not very proud of what I learned this week.

CONNIE TIPPET

Winterville

( Original Article )

reflector.com

U.S. is Trying to Mend Relationship With the Saudis

Posted by Angela Khan on April 8, 2011

Robert Gates, the U.S. Defense Secretary, had a private meeting with King Abdullah on Wednesday, in Riyadh, for an hour and a half, trying to repair the increasingly damaged relations between the two countries.

Gates described the discussion as “extremely cordial”. He said that he refused to address one of the most controversial topics: Abdullah’s decision to send troops in an effort to ending the uprising in Bahrain, disregarding the call of the President Barack Obama, who asked him not to do so.

The relations between U.S. and its main ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, were especially deteriorated because of the support that Obama has provided to the protesters in Egypt.

Abdullah, angry at Obama

After the resignation of the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis have canceled the Riyadh visit that Gates and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to pay, saying that the king does not feel well. But Pentagon officials and State Department had every reason to wonder whether Abdullah was more angry than sick.

As per the later declaration of an Arab official, the willingness of the King Abdullah to listen to the Obama administration has “evaporated” after the ouster of Mubarak. A correspondent of NBC conveyed yesterday that Saudi Arabia is “so angry” at Obama, that it has sent senior officials in China and Russia to seek business opportunities in both countries.

( Original Article )

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