Helen Thomas, the veteran journalist who covered the White House for fifty years, and who was serving as a columnist for the Hearst newspapers, was forced to resign from her job for saying on camera that the Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to where they came from: Germany, Poland, and America. She apologized for saying that and rightly so. She was wrong in her opinion, but being wrong should not be a deadly offense.
The real test of President Barack H. Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will emerge in his success to persuade those countries to support the U.S. in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Obama has reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies having such aspirations, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
Continue reading “Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran”
Professor Khaled Hroub’s review of Olivier Roy’s three books–The Failure of Political Islam; Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah; and The Politics of Chaos in the Middle East–published in your Journal, New Global Studies (Vol. 3, Issue 1, 2009, Article 6), is interesting but leaves the reader wanting more analysis.
The Financial Times, a right of center but highly respected newspaper, could not resist about coming up with a sensational headline: “Hizbollah confirms broad aid for Hamas.” The Hizbollah-Hamas connection is not exactly an unknown variable, only its specifics are. Even after the admission of Hezbollah’s deputy leader that his organization is providing military assistance to Hamas, the issue still remains murky and unconfirmed by other sources. Why, then, is there so much hoopla about Hezbollah’s admission of support for Hamas? Because that reality only underscores the effective exercise of “smart power” on the part of Iran–Hezbollah’s chief backer–in the Sunni Middle East. That is also worrying the United States, which, under the Obama administration, is relearning to come up with its own smart power-related maneuvers towards Iran.
The continuing public spat between Hezbollah and Arab states is a mixture of old and new styles of power play. The “old” part implicitly involves Iran–the chief supporter of Hezbollah–while the new aspect of this power play is between the antiquated monarchies and the nexus between Iran and Hezbollah. Iran is the “rising power” of the Middle East, while the Sunni Arab states belong to the category of “declining” powers. Hezbollah’s status will be determined most significantly after the impending elections in Lebanon. As an example of how the U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East is more of an expression of continuity than change (despite President Barack H. Obama’s rhetoric of “change’) Vice President Biden was dispatched to Lebanon to influence the outcome of the Lebanese elections, an action that is likely to backfire and, in the process, only enhance the political clout of Hezbollah.
dispatch reads: “Tony Blair makes his first trip to the Gaza Strip.” In the growing global economic meltdown, the world has forgotten the suffering of the Palestinians who became victims of Israel’s “war” against Hamas. How can there be a war between the most well equipped military of the Middle East and a state which does not even have an armed force of any credibility. But this is the era of asymmetric war, and Hamas did launch rockets or missiles on Israel. Those terror weapons did not cause much damage, but they provided a “justification” for Israel to let loose its military wrath on the civilian Palestinians.
Looking at the tepid global reaction to the massacre of the civilians in Gaza, one wonders whether the conscience of the international community is half asleep or is suffering from something called sympathy fatigue. Hundreds of civilian casualties, incessantly escalating human misery, and with no end in the Israeli military action in sight, even God seems to have abandoned them. At the same time, it should be said unequivocally that Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of missiles on Israeli cities is a repulsive act. One U.N. official involved in rescue attempts stated that Gaza has turned into hell. That, alas, seems to be the fate of Muslims in many places.
The United States never understood one feral rule of the Arab Middle East and Muslim South Asia: there is little hope left that the conventional politics will resolve the Muslim misery or problems of liberty either from domestic tyrants or from the tyranny of occupiers. That leaves only those who despise the U.S. and all it stands for in the Middle East and South Asia to attempt to resolve things their way. They are known as Islamists and terrorists in the West. But they appear to be doing their utmost to destroy the status quo. It seems that the conventional way of doing business or resolving conflict holds little promise in the aforementioned areas.
It has been happening in the occupied Palestine, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The same types of actors appear to challenge whatever political order exists in Lebanon. North Africa may not remain peaceful or stable for too long. Gaza has emerged as the most recent place of acute turbulence, and a place where the militants’ way of doing business will have the upper hand. .
Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated on February 12, 2008. He was the alleged mastermind of the massive attacks on the U.S. and French Marines in Lebanon in 1983. His cohorts were allegedly involved in bombing Jewish targets in Argentina and for terrorist attacks in France in the early 1990s, resulting in more than 100 deaths. Borzou Daragahi and Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times wrote an intriguing piece on August 31, 2008, several months after Mughniyah’s assassination.
The most interesting part of Mughniyah’s assassination question–which will never be answered–is who killed him. He was one of the most sought-after persons by American as well as Israeli intelligence. However, since he successfully defied both of those countries, one possibility is that he was murdered by Syrian intelligence–with whom he was working closely–as a favor to the Americans. The United States has been determined to push for the indictment of Syria’s President Bishara Assad by the U.N. He is suspected to have been involved in the assassination of Lebanon’s former Premier Rafiq Hariri of Lebanon in 2005. As a quid pro quo for Mughniyah’s life, according to this speculation, Assad will be given a respite on the Hariri murder inquiry.
Another possibility is that Israel demanded Mughniyah’s head as a price for continuing the indirect negotiations with the Syrians involving a potential withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
The most interesting aspect of Mughniyah’s assassination is how Syria is being pulled between Israel and Iran. Israel is getting desperate to take military and diplomatic action against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. However, it must ensure a diplomatic isolation between Iran and Syria. That would also weaken the Iran-Hezbollah nexus. If true, we might be witnessing a new power alignment in the Levant whereby Syria–for explicit promises of the return of the Golan Heights from Israel–might create a diplomatic distance with Iran. At the same time, it will be persuaded by Israel to tighten control on Hezbollah. Needless to say, Iran is not going to remain idle in this alleged diplomatic cat-and-mouse game between Israel and Syria.