Dr. Essam Abdallah, an Egyptian liberal intellectual, in an article published last October in the leading liberal pan-Arab journal Elaph, refers to certain reports coming out of Washington:
These reports reveal the depth of the below-the-surface coordination between the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan. This bloc of regimes and organizations is now becoming the greatest Islamist radical lobby ever to penetrate and infiltrate the White House, Congress, the State Department and the main decision making centers of the US government. All of this is happening at a time when the US government is going through its most strategically dangerous period in modern times because of its need to confront the Iranian Mullahs regime, which is expanding in the Middle East, as well as penetrating the United States, via powerful and influential allies.
Abdallah alleged that “the popular revolts in the Arab world — and the Obama Administration’s position towards them — were determined by political battles between various pressure groups in Washington.”
He followed up with another article this month in which he asks:
[W]hy isn’t the West in general and the United States Administration in particular clearly and forcefully supporting our civil societies and particularly the secular democrats of the region? Why were the bureaucracies in Washington and in Brussels partnering with Islamists in the region and not with their natural allies the democracy promoting political forces?
Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism said of this article: “This is one of the most important articles I have read in years.” He then made allegations of his own:
It was just revealed two days ago that FBI Director Mueller secretly met on February 8 at FBI headquarters with a coalition of groups including various Islamist and militant Arabic groups who in the past have defended Hamas and Hizballah and have also issued blatantly anti-Semitic statements. At this meeting, the FBI revealed that it had removed more than 1000 presentations and curricula on Islam from FBI offices around the country that was deemed “offensive.” The FBI did not reveal what criteria was used to determine why material was considered “offensive” but knowledgeable law enforcement sources have told the IPT that it was these radical groups who made that determination. Moreover, numerous FBI agents have confirmed that from now on, FBI headquarters has banned all FBI offices from inviting any counter-terrorist specialists who are considered “anti-Islam” by Muslim Brotherhood front groups.
This comes as no surprise to me. In August of 2011, after making the case, I wrote, “To my mind, the alliance between the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood is the cornerstone of Obama’s New Middle East policy.”
The most damning bit of evidence was reported by Herb London in his article, “U.S. Betrays Syria’s Opposition“:
In an effort to understand and placate Syrian opposition groups, Secretary Clinton invited them to a meeting in Washington. Most of those invited, however, have links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Missing from the invitations are Kurdish leaders, Sunni liberals, Assyrians and Christian spokesmen. According to various reports the State Department made a deal with Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood representatives either to share power with Assad to stabilize the government, or replace him if this effort fails. One organization, the Syrian Democracy Council (SDC), an opposition group composed of diverse ethnic and religious organizations, including Alawis, Aramaic Christians, Druze and Assyrians was conspicuously — and no coincidentally — omitted from the invitation list.
Caroline Glick wrote in August of last year:
What these observers fail to recognize is that Erdogan’s interests in a post-Assad Syria have little in common with US interests. Erdogan will seek to ensure the continued disenfranchisement of Syria’s Kurdish minority. And he will work towards the Islamification of Syria through the Muslim Brotherhood.
This week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn’t she hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House?”
Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in Syria. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al Qaeda terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.
By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.
The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC), above mentioned, is self-described thus:
The Syrian Democratic Coalition (SDC) is an emerging coalition of diverse Syrian organizations coming together to help bring an end to the Assad regime and promote the transformation of Syria into a secular democracy based in liberty. The coalition is founded upon a belief in the separation of religion from state and is dedicated to establishing a new constitution and transparent federal republic in Syria, based in reason that equally protects minority rights, promotes gender equality, and embraces the rights and liberties of every individual as enumerated in the United Nations Declaration for Human Rights. This growing coalition crosses all ethnic, religious and tribal lines to represent all Syrians. It currently includes members of Save Syria Now!, the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria, the Union of Syrian Arab Tribes and the Syrian Christian Democratic Movement.
Sherkoh Abbas is secretary general of the Syria Democracy Council and president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria. I first met him when he invited me to be a director of the American Kurdish Friendship League some five years ago.
Recently, he confided in me that in all his dealings with the State Department over the last two years, no interest was shown in his coalition, and instead, he was continually pressed to support the Syrian National Council (SNC), made up of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists and Arabists. He believes that the U.S. is working with Salafi groups, and the Turkish government, to create an opposition in Syria that is strictly Islamist. Such an opposition would serve Turkish economic interests in Syria and keep the Kurdish issue dormant in Turkey as well as in Syria.
For the last six months at least, Obama has been cultivating a relationship with PM Erdoğan of Turkey. The budding relationship prompted Barry Rubin to ask, “Why Is an Anti-American Islamist, Obama’s Favorite ME Leader?”
According to Sherkoh Abbas, one faction of the SDC had family connections in various Gulf States at the highest level and went to them for financial support. They were turned down, as Obama had instructed them to give money only to the SNC.
Nevertheless, the SDC is gaining traction amongst the Kurds, Druze, Sunnis, Christians, and even the Alawites. This is so because these various minorities are beginning to think of a post-Assad Syria, and they all want a region of their own. They have expressed their willingness to be secular, democratic, and a friend of Israel and will be asked to commit to this in writing. They don’t want Islamism or Arabism. They prefer peace, freedom, and prosperity. So why isn’t Obama embracing them?
The Obama administration is totally in sync with the Muslim Brotherhood. At the renowned Herzlia Conference this year, I met Salman Shalkh, one of the speakers from Qatar. We had a long conversation in which he kept pushing for the Saudi Plan to be embraced by Israel. This is the plan that Obama is committed to — i.e., ’67 borders with mutually agreed-upon swaps.
Shalkh argued that Israel should talk to Hamas, and I countered, “What’s the point? We have nothing to offer to them.” Shalkh was also an apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood. These arguments should be expected from someone from Qatar. Unfortunately, the same arguments are being made by the White House. It is instructive to note that Shalkh is director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, the Arab offshoot of the Brookings Institute that has so much influence with the State Department. He told me that he was one of the people who drafted the Roadmap on behalf of the State Department. I told him that it didn’t surprise me and suggested that he probably drafted the Saudi Peace Plan for them as well.
What is going on now in American foreign policy is not so much a product of the Islamist lobby fueled by both the Muslim Brotherhood and the gulf states as it is a product of a strategic alliance that has existed between the U.S. and the gulf states led by Saudi Arabia since before Israel declared her independence. Unfortunately, President Obama, with his overt outreach to Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has taken it to another level.
It would appear that the ideas expressed by Mearsheimer and Walt in their book, The Israel Lobby, are being embraced by both the State Department and the White House. These include the idea that the Israel lobby is too strong for America’s good and that Israel is a liability to America.
But the truth is otherwise, as John R. MacArthur pointed out in 2007, in “The Vast Power of the Saudi Lobby“:
Somehow, though, I can’t shake the idea that the Israel lobby, no matter how powerful, isn’t all it is cracked up to be, particularly where it concerns the Bush administrations past and present. Indeed, when I think of pernicious foreign lobbies with disproportionate sway over American politics, I can’t see past Saudi Arabia and its royal house, led by King Abdullah.
This article is a classic and should be read in full.
Obama has decidedly moved from an alliance with Israel to an alliance with the Islamists.
MK Aryeh Eldad, in a speech given in the fall in the U.S., when Israel was intending to act against Iran militarily, said word came down from the White House that “if you act alone, you will remain alone.” Because Israel is so dependent on the U.S. for resupply of weapons and munitions in a prolonged war, this threat changed the calculus immediately. It is true that when Mahmoud Abbas was threatening to go to the U.N. for recognition, the Obama administration lobbied around the world for negative votes. But at the same time, Obama threatened Netanyahu that Obama would withhold his veto if Israel took punitive action against the PA by annexing some of the territories or by withholding funds. Finally, he used the same threat to get Israel to instruct AIPAC to lobby Congress not to punish the PA by withholding U.S. funds.
Over the last six months, Israel has been warned by a succession of senior military and administration officials not to attack Iran, at this time, all in the name of giving sanctions a chance. But who believes that sanctions will stop Iran? And who believes that that the U.S. will in the end attack Iran to stop them?
So while Obama is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, he is keeping Israel under his thumb.
Isi Leibler takes exception to all this and reminds everyone:
[T]his organization [The Muslim Brotherhood] represents one of the most fanatical and dangerous of the radical Islamist groups in the region, with a dark record of violence and terrorism imbedded in its DNA. It is rabidly anti-Western, anti-Christian, antisemitic, committed to imposing sharia law and a global Caliphate – and willing to employ any means to further its objectives.
Many would argue that Obama is also “anti-Western, anti-Christian[, and] antisemitic.” Judging by his policies, they would be right.
- Biden Admits Obama is Arming Muslim Brotherhood to Take Over Syria (itmakessenseblog.com)
- Is This the Next Mideast Domino to Fall? (lynleahz.com)
- Muslim Brotherhood now targeting Jordan (wnd.com)
- Selling the Muslim Brotherhood to America (deceptionation.com)
NZOG (New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd) has executed an agreement to take a 40% stake in a Tunisian concession that contains an oil field which could be brought into production as early as 2014. The Cosmos Concession in the Gulf of Hammamet, offshore Tunisia, contains the Cosmos South oil discovery. The concession was held by a joint venture comprising Storm Ventures International (80% and Operator) and Tunisia’s state-owned oil company L’Enterprise Tunisienne d’Activites Petrolieres (ETAP) (20%).
Storm is a wholly owned subsidiary of Toronto exchange-listed Chinook Energy Inc, and will reduce its share of the concession to 40% under the farm-in agreement.
A formal signing of the agreement by NZOG and Storm has been completed in Tunis.
Under the terms of the farm-in agreement, NZOG is paying a US$3m contribution to past costs, securing the right to participate and earn an interest in the development of the Cosmos concession.
A development plan is in preparation. If the development is approved through a Final Investment Decision (FID), NZOG will pay the first US$19m of Storm’s share of the development costs.
Independently evaluated proved and probable oil reserves of 6.3 million barrels have been attributed to the Cosmos South block, with additional potential from adjacent lobes. Further work on assessing the recoverable oil resource will take place ahead of FID.
The development plan is currently based on three wells, a small platform and a floating production and storage offtake vessel (“FPSO”), with initial production rates of 15,000-20,000 barrels of oil per day.
The partners intend to decide on FID in mid-2012. If the project proceeds, first oil production is anticipated in mid-2014.
NZOG CEO Andrew Knight says Cosmos is a good fit for NZOG.
“NZOG’s initial cost exposure is relatively small. If the numbers stack up we will commit to the Final Investment Decision and will be able to comfortably fund the capital commitment from our balance sheet. This is a near term, low risk development opportunity, with both production upside and exploration potential. This is a promising step forward in the expansion of our overseas interests.”
By Andrew Hammond and Tarek Amara
(Reuters) – Islamists are expected to do well in Tunisia‘s first democratic election Sunday, 10 months after the ouster of autocratic leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising that set off protest movements around the Arab world.
The Ennahda party will almost certainly win a share of power after the vote, which will set a democratic standard for other Arab countries where uprisings have triggered political change or governments have tried to rush reforms to stave off unrest.
Sunday’s vote is for an assembly which will draft a new constitution to replace the one Ben Ali manipulated to entrench his power. It will also appoint an interim government and set elections for a new president and parliament.
Polls open at 2 a.m. EDT and close at 2 p.m.
The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the young man whose self-immolation last December set off the Tunisian revolt, said the elections were a victory for dignity and freedom.
“Now I am happy that my son’s death has given the chance to get beyond fear and injustice,” Manoubia Bouazizi told Reuters. “I’m an optimist, I wish success for my country.”
Ennahda, banned under Ben Ali who is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, is expected to gain the biggest share of votes. But the Islamist party will probably not win enough to give it a majority in the assembly and will seek to lead a coalition.
The North African country’s elite fear the rise of Ennahda puts their secular values under threat. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has centered its campaign on stopping the Islamists, vowing to seek alliances to keep it out of power.
Ennahda has been at pains to assuage the concerns of secularists and Western powers, fielding several women candidates including one who does not wear the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, and promising not to undermine women’s freedoms.
Tunisia was a pioneer of secular modernization among Arab and Muslim countries in the post-colonial period, banning polygamy, equalizing inheritance rights, giving women the right to vote and discouraging the veil.
Fundamentalist Islamists known as Salafists have attacked a cinema and a TV station in recent months over artistic material deemed blasphemous. Ennahda says they have nothing to do with them, but liberals do not believe them.
Observers says Ennahda’s intentions are not clear. Its election campaign has scrupulously avoided offering policy details that mark it out as much different from its rivals.
At a final election rally Friday, Suad Abdel-Rahim, the female candidate who does not wear a veil, said Ennahda would protect women’s gains.
But illustrating the party’s contradictions, many of the books on sale on the fringes of the rally were by Salafist writers who believe women should be segregated from men in public and that elections are un-Islamic.
“In the country’s interior, where it’s more conservative, they use different rhetoric,” said commentator Rachid Khechana. “It’s about stopping culture from outside, moral corruption of youth, defending Islam, which they say has Shura (consultation), not democracy.”
“ARAB SPRING” REPERCUSSIONS
An Ennahda victory would be the first such success in the Arab world since Hamas won a 2006 Palestinian vote. Islamists won a 1991 Algerian election the army annulled, provoking years of bloody conflict.
Ennahda’s fortunes could bear on Egyptian elections set for next month in which the Muslim Brotherhood, an ideological ally, also hopes to emerge strongest.
Libya hopes to hold elections next year after a protest movement that transformed into an armed rebellion with NATO backing managed to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Unresolved violent conflict continues in Syria and Yemen, and many other governments have begun reforms to avoid civil unrest.
With so much at stake, there are concerns that even the smallest doubt over the legitimacy of the Tunisian vote could bring supporters of rival parties onto the streets.
Ennahda’s leader, Muslim scholar Rachid Ghannouchi, riled opponents this week when he described the party as Tunisia’s biggest and warned that the Tunisian people would start a new uprising if they suspected any poll rigging.
Prime Minister Beji Caid Sebsi said in a televised address Thursday that Tunisians should vote without fear of violence or cheating, a feature of Ben Ali’s police state.
“No one can doubt the elections, they will be transparent and clean. Rigging will not be possible. The ballot boxes will be open to everyone,” Sebsi said.
The government says 40,000 police and soldiers are being deployed to prevent any protests escalating into violence. Shopkeepers say people have been stockpiling milk and bottled water in case unrest disrupts supplies.
- Tunisian Islamists to do well in first “Arab Spring” vote – Reuters (news.google.com)
- Tunisian Poll To Provide Bellwether For Arab Spring (npr.org)
- Tunisia to vote in historic poll (bbc.co.uk)
- Campaigning ends for Tunisia’s first free elections (ctv.ca)
- Pride, tears as Tunisians in Canada vote in first ‘real’ election (thestar.com)
- Enthusiasm builds for Tunisia’s 1st free elections (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
By Peter Apps
(Reuters) – The uprisings that swept the Middle East this year have cost the most affected countries more than $55 billion, a new report says, but the resulting high oil prices have strengthened other producing countries.
A statistical analysis of International Monetary Fund (IMF) data by political risk consultancy Geopolicity showed that countries that had seen the bloodiest confrontations — Libya and Syria — were bearing the economic brunt, followed by Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen.
Between them, those states saw $20.6 billion wiped off their gross domestic product and public finances eroded by another $35.3 billion as revenues slumped and costs rose.
But as the major oil producers such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait avoided significant unrest — often through increasing handouts as oil prices rose — they saw their GDP grow. Oil prices rocketed from around $90 a barrel of Brent crude at the start of the year to just short of $130 in May before retreating to around $113 now.
“As a result, the overall impact of the ‘Arab Spring’ across the Arab realm has been mixed but positive in aggregate terms,” the report estimated, saying overall the year to September saw some $38.9 billion added to regional productivity.
Libya looks to have been the worst affected, with economic activity across the country — including oil exports — halted at an estimated cost to GDP of $7.7 billion, or more than 28 percent. Total costs to the fiscal balance were estimated at $6.5 billion, roughly 29 percent of gross domestic product.
In Egypt, nine months of turmoil eroded some 4.2 percent of gross domestic product with public expenditure rising to $5.5 billion just as public revenues fell by $75 million.
HANDOUTS NOT REFORM?
In Syria, where protests have continued throughout the year in the face of a bloody crackdown, the impact is hard to model but early indications suggested a total cost to the Syrian economy of some $6 billion or 4.5 percent of GDP.
The report said the number of Yemenis below the poverty line was expected to be pushed above 15 percent as a result of currency falls and protracted unrest. Total cost to the economy was estimated at 6.3 percent of GDP, with the fiscal balance deteriorating by $858 million, 44.9 percent of GDP.
Tunisia, where the protests began in late 2010, lost some $2.0 billion from its GDP, roughly 5.2 percent, with negative impacts across almost all sectors of the economy including tourism, mining, phosphates and fishing. Tunisia’s government increased expenditure by some $746 million, pushing its fiscal balance some $489 million into the red.
Saudi Arabia’s newly instituted handouts and wider public investment program, the report estimated, amounted to some $30 billion — perhaps seen by the kingdom’s rulers as a way of avoiding real reform. But increased oil prices and production helped boost gross domestic product by more than $5 billion and push up public revenues by $60.9 billion.
In Bahrain, oil helped cushion the impact of weeks of protest, with the fall in GDP relatively low at some at 2.77 percent. Public expenditure rose some $2.1 billion, partly because of cash transfers of $2,660 to each family.
None of these steps, the report argued, addressed the underlying causes behind the unrest. A better solution, it said, was much broader international support through the G20 or United Nations aimed at much wider reform.
- Arab Spring upheaval ‘cost $55bn’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Foreign direct investment for Arab region expected to fall; Iraq projected to double (thecurrencynewshound.com)
By Souhail Karam
CASABLANCA, Morocco | Sun Apr 24, 2011 1:12pm EDT
(Reuters) – Thousands took to the streets of Morocco on Sunday in peaceful demonstrations to demand sweeping reforms and an end to political detention, the third day of mass protests since they began in February.
Desperate to avoid the turmoil that toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, authorities have already announced some changes to placate demands that King Mohammed cede more powers and limit the monarchy’s extensive business influence.
Some 10,000 people joined the protest in Casablanca, the largest city in one of the West’s staunchest Arab allies. Marchers in the capital Rabat also denounced corruption and torture as well as unemployment, very high among youths.
Policing has been low-key for protests by the February 20 Movement, named after the date of its first march, particularly compared to the turmoil elsewhere in North Africa.
“This is more about the young ones than it is about us,” said Redouane Mellouk, who had brought his 8 year-old son Mohamed Amine, carrying a placard demanding “A New Morocco.”
“Our parents could not talk to us about political issues. They were too afraid. This must change,” said Mellouk.
Although levels of popular anger have risen, ratings agencies assess Morocco as the country in the region least likely to become embroiled in the type of unrest that toppled Tunisian and Egyptian regimes and led to the conflict in Libya.
In Rabat, several thousand people marched through poor districts with high levels of unemployment and away from the center, where the previous monthly demonstrations have been held. There was no sign of trouble.
A 74 year-old man in Casablanca who gave his name only as Ahmed said Morocco’s youths were right to protest.
“Look at them. They are educated and like most young educated Moroccans, they are idle,” he said. “Everything in this country is done through privileges. You need an uncle or a relative somewhere to get somewhere.”
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, but the constitution empowers the king to dissolve the legislature, impose a state of emergency and have a decisive say in government appointments.
King Mohammed last month announced constitutional reforms to give up some of his powers and make the judiciary independent, but protesters want more.
There is also resentment at the royal family’s business interests through its holding company SNI.
One of the banners waved by the Casablanca marchers depicted the King’s holdings as an octopus with tentacles stretching out to subsidiary companies. “Either money or power,” it said.
Islamists also joined in the protests, demanding the release of all political prisoners. Authorities freed 92 political prisoners, most of whom were members of the Islamist Salafist Jihad group, earlier this month.
In Rabat, the wife of Islamist Bouchta Charef, who has said he was tortured in prison while accused of terrorism, called for all Islamists to be freed.
“They have made my children homeless,” Zehour Dabdoubu told Reuters. “Every month I move from one house to another. I’m persecuted because people think I am the wife of a terrorist.”
The banned Islamist opposition group Al Adl Wal Ihsane has maintained a low profile at the February 20 demonstrations, but said it supports them.
“It’s excellent what’s happening in Morocco. It’s a quiet revolution,” Nadia Yassine, daughter of the movement’s founder, told Reuters by telephone. “We’re moving slowly but surely.”