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The Apocalyptic Islamic Global Jihad Groups and International Relations: the 7th Century is Back (B)

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The main question is whether the West is capable of halting its internal decay and to revive itself, or whether it will be accelerated, leading to surrender to the Islamic civilization. At this point, we seek to make an important analogy. An analysis of the economic, religious and geopolitical parameters indicate that the era in which we live is astonishingly and frighteningly similar to the reality extant at the beginning of the seventh century: The Byzantine and Sassanid Empires were in the process of decay, while aggressive Islam, driven by religious ideology, rode by the expansionist wave, with wide-ranging processes of Arabization and Islamization of the conquered areas.

Indeed, the Apocalyptic Islamic Global Jihad Groups pose an existential threat to the free world in four conspicuous trends: a) Utilization of indiscriminate terrorism, the Jihad of homicide bombers, lynching and slaughter; b) Operating an onslaught religious preaching to bring the believers back to the true Islam, and to convert infidels (Da’wah); c) Gaining control of the West by means of a combination of pleasantries and sweet-talking, while accusing it of colonialism and racism, and at the same time: using a thorough diplomacy of deceit; d) The uncontrolled immigration to the West and the demographic victory, by the Muslims’ women womb.

In contrast to these severe trends, the free world stands consumed by doubts and ignorance regarding the vital need to fight for its life and its freedoms. Why? a) Post-colonialist and post-modernist perceptions which are unfortunately so pervasive within the so-called the liberal intelligentsia, the media, and public opinion in the West. b) Strengthening the devastating influences of the “political correct” and the “mirror image” approaches in Western public opinion and policy-makers. c) A deep appeasement accompanied with hedonism, which is so characteristic to Western democracies. d) Conspicuous policy of attaining quiet and order at all costs, which sometimes becomes a sort of “protection money” to the violent and the aggressor. e) Weariness of violence, a deep wish of war-avoidance at all costs, a phenomenon concerning especially Europe.

Oriana Falacci, in her The Pride and the rage, addresses these trends:

Wake up people, wake up. Paralyzed by the fear of appearing racist, you do not understand or do not wish to understand that the reverse crusade has commenced. Drugged by the stupidity or shortsightedness of the adherents of political correctness, you do not internalize or do not want to internalize that a religious war is transpiring here. A war, whose objective is to conquer our souls and rob us of our freedoms. A war conducted with the goal of destroying our civilization and our way of life. Stunned by the preponderance of false propaganda, you do not or do not want to get it into your heads that if we do not defend ourselves, if we do not battle, jihad will win. It will win and destroy the world which we were able to build. It will make our culture and identity disappear.

Debating them is pointless; conducting a dialogue with them is useless; and demonstrating tolerance towards them is suicide. How is it that leftists never open their mouths against the Muslim world’s primitive, theocratic regimes, which have no democracy, no freedoms and no individual rights? Why were we killed and did we die in wars declared against the enemies of freedom and civilization? Are these principles invalid to the despotic Islamic regimes?

Enough of your double standards of morality; enough of your opacity; enough of your hypocrisy. Crickets of all countries and languages stop the confusion and start along the path to sobriety. The mountain of Islam has not moved for 1400 years; a mountain that consciously opts for primitiveness and ignorance and is ruled by fanatics. Europe is becoming a province of Islam.

Indeed, the religious foundation is the most decisive and significant in understanding the phenomenon. Huntington determined that civilizations are analyzed by means of history, language, traditions, and above all – culture and religion. The Free World, due to primal fears of returning to the religious wars of the Middle Ages, refuses to characterize the threatening reality as a religious conflict. In contrast, the leaders of the Islamic organizations intentionally employ religious terminology when coming to define their terrorist struggle and clearly declare that this is a religious war. For them it is a holy war, Jihad against the infidels, in which religion is the essence of the struggle integrated with colonialist dimension, and the model is Saladdin al-Ayubi, who fought the Crusaders.

Then, hypocrisy combined with much naiveté and ignorance and designed with an approach of political correctness, runs rampant: True, there are radicals among the Arabs and Muslims just as there are in all societies, but they are a minority, “weeds”. On the other hand, the majority is different and peace-loving, and one must not generalize. This is the problem with all of its severity. The relevant questions are:

a) If that is the true situation – how do we know this? Are there corroborating studies and data to substantiate this view? Or we only assume this is the reality, and perhaps the opposite is true, and the fanatics are the majority?

b) Even if a different majority exists, is its voice heard and does it influence the shaping of policy and the decision-making processes? Or we only supply excuses to the horrific phenomenon we don’t understand? Or is it only in our mirror image personality?

c) How many pressure groups and interest groups are there which actively function against Islamic fanaticism and Jihad terrorism? To what extent do they influence? Or we just ignore reality out of confusion? Or we think that our presumptions are true?

d) Where is public opinion voice, the political parties, the media, which prove, through their clear and loud activity, that there are other tendencies and other voices? Or we assume that this is the situation?

e) How many NGO’s are there acting against the terrorist organizations and preventing aid from their reach? Do they just even try to convince that the terrorists are mistaken? Or we just want to, we terribly wish to believe that there are?

f) If there are moderate peace-loving political leaders, where are they? What influence do they have? Is their voice heard? What do they declare and what do they do after the horrible acts of terrorism, except of blaming the US and the CIA, Israel and the Mossad?

g) Indeed, there are intellectuals, educated liberals, condemning wholeheartedly the hideous terrorist acts of the fanatics. However, what influence do they have? Who controls the Islamic communities and in the streets? Which voice is heard and is written in the communication Media? Who is more influential and admired by the youth, in the Madaris (religious schools) and in the mosques?

h) How many peace movements, pro-peace demonstrations and masses marching and rolling for peace and against the terrorist perpetrators can be identified in the streets? Or is it our imagination alone that we see?

Indeed, Nonie Darwish (FrontPageMagazine, January 7, 2005) is correct by blaming on the “silent Muslim majority”.

He is silent seeing the outrageous brutal inhumane terrorist attacks; and he do not act against the medieval-style behavior and practice in the Arab-Muslim world. Generations after generations, Muslims lived under dictatorships were trained to look the other side when Muslims torture and terrorize others. Their silence is in fact means aiding and abetting the cruel culture of hatred, terror, torture and beheadings. Most Islamic studies professors and Islamist groups in the West exercise their freedom of speech given to them, only to speak and argue against the West, Judaism and Christianity. However, they never criticize their culture of origin, and usually support it and serve as Da’wah agents. No matter what the West does, they voice criticism and aligning themselves with the liberal ‘hate America’ crowd in Western academia and media.

Islamism and the old defeated and failed ideology of pan-Arabism is what many of them advocating. They are silent in the face of Muslim poverty, corruption, neglect of human rights, oppression of women, honor killings, beheadings and stoning. They are not using Western freedoms as an opportunity to change their countries of origin, but as an opportunity to influence and change the West to be like the countries they came from. Their goal is also to keep Muslim communities in the West under their control and the control of Muslim world Mullahs, Sheikhs and religious fanatic dictators. Indeed, the silent majority is the problem. Their silence empowers terrorism and brutal dictatorships.

The trends so characteristic of Western democracies, the daily political give-and-take, the heated political debate, the variety of positions and opinions, the pluralism of attitudes – where are they in the Arab-Islamic world? The reality is that there are few who take a stand against, and they almost non-existent from influence and shaping policy point of view. This phenomenon does not stem out of fear of repressive government, but rather it is due to a tradition of authoritarianism at the foundation of the Arab tribal frameworks and the Islamic religion and due to lack of awareness and consciousness of sovereign citizenship. Although there is a reawakening of Arab intellectuals who harshly criticize Arab and Islamic regimes and societies and fanatical terrorism, the problem is that they remain an inconsequential minority lacking any influence.

Although they must be encouraged and provided with all forms of assistance, it is yet the hope that their entreaty will be larger in size and have more influence. Unfortunately, the opposite happens: Western policy suppresses them, because it does not fight fanaticism and aggressiveness, and pays lip service to the issues out of political considerations.

It is clear that the Muslim majority does not play an active role in terrorism and incitement, and the perpetrators of the Apocalyptic Islamic Global Jihad Groups are perhaps a small minority. But one has to bear in mind that all the great revolutions in history were taken and executed by small groups of revolutionary vanguards. Moreover, it is also equally true that the majority does not oppose terrorism, fanaticism and violence. On the contrary, all indications are that they support it, admired the heroes, and are willing to assist them. He who wishes to comprehend the severity of this issue, all he needs is to investigate the place and the role of the youth, those youngsters in all Arab-Islamic states, including where they reside abroad in the West.

A second perspective to bear in mind is that the Arab masses were never in history a significant political player, and the leaders never took their opinions into consideration. The masses never participated in politics and did not influence decision-making processes and policy making. They have never chose leaders or overthrew regimes. Arab-Islamic politics have always unfolded at the level of a small group of the political elites. Indeed, the majority does not make its voice heard and does not express opposition to the atrocities, and this inaction transforms them into collaborators with evil.

The relevant questions to be asked compare to the situation in 50-40-30-20-10 years: are there more mosques than in the past? Are there more people returning to their religious roots? Are there more children named Usama (Bin Laden) and now Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi)? Are there more Islamic communities operating in the framework of Da’wah politics? Are there more terrorist acts or less? Is there more political stability in the Arab-Muslim states or less? Is the Islamic education more modern or does it continue to be traditional-religious? Are there more women wearing traditional clothes and a veil (Hijab, Niqab, Chador) covering their faces? Are the youth more open to other opinions and positions or are they leading the extremist fanatic trends?

There are more questions and indications to observe and to realize that the Muslim world is climbing the radical-fanatic path and accelerating its aggression and not vise versa. Or perhaps we are dealing with the fallacies of Western thinking and distorted mirror images that don’t want to realistically accept the situation? As long as there is no indication of these and other dimensions, perhaps it is more correct to say that no such Arab-Islamic majority exists.

Sigmund Freud was correct when he emphasized: When it comes to self-deception, human beings are geniuses. Albert Einstein claimed that there are two things that are infinite: The universe and human stupidity, although he was not quite certain about the former. He also claimed that the difference between the stupid and the genius is that the genius knows his limitations. Karl Marx noted that the third most significant force moving the wheels of history, after capital and violence, is human stupidity.

Erik Hoffer determines that the obsessive dealing with the chimera of the future is the flight of one unable to confront the present. Barbara Tuchman spoke of the March of the Folly, in which leaders led their people into national catastrophes. And in the Bible we find (Ezekiel, 13:10): “Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untampered mortar”. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah, 5:20).

Amnon Dankner, an Israeli journalist, relates to the free world’s opacity:

Most of the Western world has yet to internalize the fact that it is in the midst of a bitter war, which will last many years. Inundated by fear, ignorance and stupidity, they blame the United States and Israel, and claim that if only all of the Western countries would leave the Muslim world alone and if only Israel would submit or be eliminated, there would be no more claims and allegations by the Muslims; al-Qaeda attacks would cease; Usama Bin-Laden would settle down to his Qur’an studies; and the Islamic Caliphate State would become a charity organization.

Since the days of Hitler, the world has not witnessed propaganda as vitriolic as that emerging from the Arab-Muslim world. This is an ordered doctrine of burning hatred, animosity and contempt for the Western world, Western progress and Western culture. Just as with Hitler: One who fails to listen and read, one who does not take interest and scrutinize, one who ignores and ridicules – will not understand where he lives and what the future has in store for him and what is the meaning of the rhetoric, which is so venomous and the hatred, which is so fiery.

Western culture terrifies the Arab-Islamic soul, and that terror is joined by the profound sense of inferiority of a backward society, which lives a parasitic existence at the expense and thanks to the abilities of Western civilization. The Iranian advancement towards nuclear capability, the existence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan and the availability of biological and chemical capabilities in the hands of Islamic terrorist organizations should terrify everyone.

Translation of the unprecedented hate rhetoric vis-à-vis the West with those capabilities – are awful portents for humanity. It is impossible to satisfy the monster by feeding it bits and pieces, like the weakening or elimination of Israel. The West must understand that it is confronting a voracious appetite of hatred. All of those advocating conciliatory steps, aid and rehabilitation are clueless as to what is really happening.

The issue of liberalization and democratization will be dealt separately. Yet, preliminary questions are to be asked: does Islam want to change and develop? Do the Arab-Islamic regimes aspire to achieve democracy? This is something that Western culture should bear in mind: Arab politics is comprised by authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leaders. There is no democracy, no political liberalism, no civil rights, no citizenship by a sovereign electing “people”, and no governmental responsibility accepting political transparency and responsibility. The political systems are not committed to socio-economic progress. In fact, they are against any action leading to this target, beyond a controlled framework.

Arab and Islamic leaders know that any real economic progress would bring overthrow of the regime and their own political liquidation. You cannot bring economic liberalization without political liberalization, and political liberalization means the total elimination of the authoritarian regimes, and theirs, as patrimonial leaders. They recall time and again the rapid economic and social changes that led to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, Ceausescu in Romania, and Gorbachev, in the Soviet-Union.

According to the Islamic religious groups it is very clear that there is no need for change, since everything is controlled by Allah, and due to the profound belief that the Qur’an contains all human knowledge from the beginning of history through the end of days, and that any change is heresy punishable by death.

In the Middle East, the problem is not economic development that will bring democratization and leads to political moderation. Arab-Islamic political culture demands strong political institutions and governmental authoritarianism, under the code of political stability. This reality is strengthened by the Islamic religion, which emphasize total obedience to the government, whatever are the deeds of the leader. Everything is due to the will of Allah, so, there is no regime responsibility.  

Haim Harari claims that the root of the problem is “the entire Muslim region is non-functional”. Twenty-two Arab countries, with a population of four hundred million, “with all of the oil and their natural resources have half of California’s GNP. This creates an unprecedented hothouse for the development of cruel tyrants, terrorism networks, zealotry, incitement, suicide murderers and economic deterioration”. They blame Western culture, the United States and Israel – everyone but themselves.

Four dimensions underscore this phenomenon: a) the Suicide Bomber. This is impressive and frightening, drawing hysterical media coverage. Money, power and murderous incitement are behind. b) Lies of hatred and murderous incitement. c) Money. One of the largest industries in the world in channeled to the cycles of murder and by means of charity and educational organizations, they program the minds of the young generation with hatred, lies and ignorance. d) Absolute violation of the rules. Fanatical terrorism violates of the rules of culture and morality. The Arab regimes externalize the frustration and misery of the masses to colonialism and to xenophobia.

To this reality the former Kuwaiti Communications Minister, Dr. Sa’d Bin-Tafla (June 8, 2004) has referred:

The violence of slaughter, anarchy and bloodshed is a cultural phenomenon. The religious faction sets the rules: To achieve victory or martyrdom in order to restore the Islamic Empire, which stretched from China to Andalusia; The Arab media assists them by painting the world in black and white; and the Arab culture stokes the fire. Are Zionism and Western imperialism connected to this? Absolutely not. A hundred thousand people were massacred in the name of Islam in Algeria over the course of ten years, by Algerians; in Iraq, before the American invasion, violence claimed the lives of more than a million Iraqis, Iranians and Kurds. In Saudi Arabia there is no occupation and no American army, and Moslems are murdered and massacred there. In Palestine there was violence before the advent of the Israelis and there is violence unrelated to them. Genocide is transpiring in Sudan, and the Arab world is indifferent. The Sudan is perpetrating genocide.

This is the “culture of backwardness”, which dominates the Arab world, in the words of Said al-Hammad of Bahrain (al-Ayyam, August 17, 2004), which led the Arabs and Muslims into quixotic wars against the West and globalization. The culture of backwardness also includes the “culture of terrorism”, which adopts the approach of beheading and crushing people; and the “culture of hatred”, which propagates in the minds and consciousness of the youth hatred for the world and for people whose opinions and thoughts are different than theirs.

In political-religious terms: There is an aspiration to bring the entire world under the rule of Islam, in the dynamic terms of perpetual expansion: the Chief Muslim Mufti of Australia and New Zealand, Taj al-Din Hamad Abdullah: “Australia was discovered by Afghani Muslims and the time has come to restore it to its rightful place within Islam.” That too was the resolution of the Islamic Conference, which was held in Riyadh and noted that Muslims remember Andalusia and seek to return to it (Saudi Gazette, March 1, 2005). Yusuf al-Karadawi: Islam will succeed in conquering Europe for the third time: after its two previous failures (in the 7th and the 17th centuries) – by means of the Da’wah.

Yet, it was the former first editor of the Israeli newspapwe, Maariv, Azriel Carlebach, who already in October 1955 wrote:

Has anyone ever gotten anywhere with the Muslims? And why is everyone constantly trying? This is the ignorance, which causes statesman to depict other nations as exact replicas of themselves. However the truth is simple and clear:

There never was, and never will be, any understanding between the world of Islam and the Western world. In all social and cultural areas, Islam is fascism. It is the paradigm of fascism. For generations Islam has educated to violate human nature: Not to utilize the mind and to reject individual rights. Islam has no aspiration towards a better world and the concept of advancement is non-existent.

There is no initiative and no attempts at improvement. They do not adapt the will of Allah and do not challenge the interpretation of the clerics. The motivation pushing Western man to have the land produce more bread has been stifled in the hearts of the Muslim man. Islam has stifled it. The cultured world defended itself against the monster for two or three hundred years. However, over the last two generations, the European nations have committed the fatal error of viewing Muslim man in their own image.

An inchoate mass of hundreds of millions Muslims throughout the world has arisen, a nightmare whose potential threat is enormous. The threat of the psychology of Islam, which lives in a world of delusion, afflicted with attacks of inferiority and delusions of grandeur, which repudiates all that is sacred to the civilized world.

The threat posed to the West by Islam is incalculably greater than that posed by communism. It is possible to speak to communism with the logic of give-and-take. But not with Islam. It is possible to forgive the ignorant “experts” in the State Department who do not understand Islam, however it is impossible to forgive the Israeli people. We should know. We help the world draw an image of Arabs that is the product of our wishful thinking. And we add insult to injury when we distort the picture and confine the debate to a border dispute. The Arabs proffer claims, acceptable to the West. However, that is not the source of its hostile position. And without the occupation and without the refugees, they would continue to oppose Israeli existence just as vigorously.

Above all, we have committed the sin of provincialism against the world and against ourselves. Most of the statesmen in the countries around the world can still sleep soundly. However, we, ourselves, minimize the nature of the true calamity, of which we are merely its incidental and marginal victims. As long as we don’t make an effort and succeed in bequeathing this insight to the world, the truth regarding Islam, we will always be the first victims of its ignorance.

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Politics by Other Means: A Case Study of the 1991 Gulf War

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War has been around since the dawn of man and is spawned by innate human characteristics. Often, when efforts at resolving conflicts fail diplomatically (be it at the nation or international level), war is what follows and seemingly the only other option. As Clausewitz, the famed Prussian military commander and military theorist, once said, “War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce” and, despite the horror and destruction of war, war is necessary for the conduct of foreign policy. War and physical combat allows for resolutions that cannot come about from any other way, once all legitimate foreign policy tactics have been exhausted. With the U.S. there are an abundant amount of examples showing how direct military conflict has solved a foreign policy problem. The 1991 Gulf War is a prime example.

               The Gulf War began in August of 1990, when Iraqi tanks rolled over the Iraqi-Kuwait border, claiming vast oil reserves and annexing the country. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had just come out of the Iran-Iraq War, an almost eight-year, prolonged war of attrition which ended with, “an estimated quarter of a million dead…over 60,000 Iraqis [as] prisoners of war…[and] had run up a debt of over $80 billion…[with] the collapse of world prices meant that Iraq’s oil revenues in 1988 amounted to $11 billion, less than half its 1980 revenue”. Not only this, but Iraq had been fighting what was essentially a civil war in Iraqi Kurdistan, which involved the use of chemical weapons against civilians. The hundred year plus dispute between Iraq and Kuwait about sections of the border with essential waterways leading to the Gulf, the economic hardships and falling price of oil, the U.S. severing ties with the Middle Eastern nation due to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the fear of decreasing power and influence in the region, and the desire to attain the funding for nuclear weapons programs were all central factors in Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

               International outcry was swift and critical of Saddam’s actions. This was largely due to the fact that Iraq was now closer to Saudi Arabia and the threat of him and Iraq controlling a substantial portion of the world’s oil reserves was very real. Richard Kohn, a professor of military history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, discussed this with NPR, stating, “The stakes in 1990 and ’91 were really rather enormous. Had Saddam Hussein gotten control of the Saudi oil fields, he would have had the world economy by the throat. That was immediately recognized by capitals around the world”. Immediately following the invasion, on August 03, the United Nations Security Council demanded that Iraq withdraw from the country and, when Iraq did not abide by this demand, the UN “imposed a worldwide ban on trade with Iraq (The Iraqi government responded by formally annexing Kuwait on August 8)”. The U.S. too engaged and tried to push the Iraqis out of Kuwait by placing U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, utilizing this military presence as a deterrent.

Despite such action by the most powerful international foreign policy and diplomatic body in the globe, and diplomatic action on the part of the U.S. and other foreign nations, war still occurred in January of 1991, which eventually pushed Saddam out of Kuwait via aerial and naval bombardment and, by February, had armor and infantry troops rolling towards Baghdad. The question that remains is, was the war necessary to solving the situation in Iraq and did such military action further international foreign policy goals of the United States?

               War was the only other option that the United States could take when dealing with Saddam. The United Nations, the Arab League, and the United States had all vitriolically and openly opposed Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. When Iraq tried to open diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis (while not complying with the UN’s order and keeping troops in Kuwait), the U.S. requested that the Iraqis comply with the decree and pull out of Kuwait, following Margaret Thatcher and Britain’s line of thought that concessions to a dictator would strengthen the Iraqi influence and desire for more power.

               While the fact that the United States did not try to pursue a diplomatic avenue with Iraq in this matter is certainly an interesting method, it is also understandable. Giving in to Iraq’s desires and granting them concessions when they had flagrantly disregarded international law and violated the sovereignty of a fellow nation state (in addition to committing horrendous crimes against their own population), capitulating to the Iraqi government would have been a mistake. It would have solidified their power and their influence within the region and would have seemingly legitimized their standpoint.

               Not only would negotiating on such terms have legitimized their view and stance, but it effectively would have been negotiating with a terrorist. The former Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 1989 to 1991, Joseph C. Wilson, (who would later play a key role in the Plame Affair during the Iraq War), discussed how, “several hundred hostages were held by Saddam, 150 Americans as well as another 70 in our care to keep them out of Iraqi hands…There is no doubt that our personnel and our families were at risk, in considerable danger in fact,”. Hussein’s motivation for holding these Americans and others of varying nationalities (notably British) was most probably to utilize them as a deterrent to an attack from the West. Engaging in capitulation and trying to negotiate with someone who was essentially a terrorist (utilizing terror and violence, or the threat of such action, to attain a political goal) was not something that the United States nor the United Kingdom was willing to do under any circumstances.

               The United States, in this instance, was dealing with a terrorist and a dictator, a megalomaniac who was determined to reclaim what he believed was rightfully Iraqi territory and gain access to further wealth through illegal means. The potential of his army in securing what were important and essential global financial centers in the Middle East was serious and it is possible he was planning to invade Saudi Arabia at some point. Saad al-Bazzaz, the former head of both the Iraqi News Agency and the Iraqi Radio and Television Establishment in addition to being an aide to Saddam, alleged in 1996 that, “the Iraqi leader ordered the elite Republican Guard to be ready to launch an offensive…nine days after the invasion of Kuwait…The invasion plans called for four divisions, or 120,000 troops, to thrust into the desert to capture oil fields more than 180 miles away”. The fact that Iraqi troops also, in January of 1991, after the initial aerial bombardment, captured the small, Saudi Arabian coastal city of Khafji, lends credence to the idea that Saddam may have been planning something larger. al-Bazzaz also alleged that Saddam again began planning an invasion of Saudi Arabia while the Battle of Khafji was ongoing, but resorted to defense when it was apparent he would lose Kuwait.

               Upon the conclusion of the Gulf War, what did the U.S. gain? One of the most significant achievements in the aftermath of the conflict was that the United States was able to create a coalition of military forces (including those from Middle Eastern nations like Syria and Egypt) to side with other nations (former colonizers like France and the United Kingdom) who are often opposed to their conduct of foreign policy or have fraught relationships. As well, the State Department’s Office of the Historian notes, “Although Russia did not commit troops, it joined the United States in condemning Iraq, its long-time client state”. The Office goes on to describe how Secretary of State Baker and his staff went about gathering allies and were instrumental in assisting in diplomatic and coordination efforts for the eventual air and ground campaign. The U.S. gained improved relationships that bonded by the pursuit of an enemy and the removal of a foreign power from a sovereign nation and were further solidified in the UN’s policing of Iraqi airspace and nuclear deproliferation programs.

               Often, wars can be prevented and all out avoided through the use of diplomacy and foreign policy. The Vietnam War, the 1898 Spanish-American War, and the Chaco War of the 1930’s between Bolivia and Paraguay are prime examples of when diplomacy should have been utilized to the fullest effect and in which foreign policy officials and avenues for conflict resolution were not fully considered or utilized. However, in this instance, war was the only viable option for removing Saddam from Kuwait and returning the country to its rightful citizens. Negotiating or trying to work with the Iraqi government on the terms they had decided (meaning working with them in a foreign territory they have illegally acquired) would have given their actions an aura of legitimacy and possibly emboldened Saddam to further push the boundaries of international law. By giving Saddam an ultimatum and proceeding with physical combat and engaging in a war, war with Iraq was the correct decision when considering the person and government being dealt with.

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Middle Eastern interventionism galore: Neither US nor Chinese policies alleviate

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A recent analysis of Middle Eastern states’ interventionist policies suggests that misguided big power approaches have fueled a vicious cycle of interference and instability over the last decade.

Those approaches are abetted, if not encouraged by US and Chinese strategies that are similar, if not essentially the same, just labelled differently. The United States has long opted for regime stability in the Middle East rather than political reform, an approach China adopts under the mum of non-interference in the internal affairs of others.

As a result, both the United States and China de facto signal autocrats that they will not be held accountable for their actions. This week’s US response and Chinese silence about the suspension of democracy in Tunisia illustrates the point.

The policies of the two powers diverge, however, on one key approach: The US, unlike China, frequently identifies one or more regimes, most notably Iran, as a threat to regional security. In doing so, US policy is often shaped by the narrow lens of a frequently demonized ‘enemy’ or hostile power.

The problem with that approach is that it encourages policies that are based on a distorted picture of reality. The Obama administration’s negotiation of a 2015 international nuclear agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program proved that amending those policies constitutes a gargantuan task, albeit one that is gaining traction with more critical trends emerging in both the Democratic Party and among Evangelists.

The recent study, ‘No Clean Hands: The Interventions of Middle Eastern Powers, 2010-2020,’ published by the Washington-based Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, suggests by implication that China has at the vey least allowed instability to fester in the Middle East that is fueled as much by destabilizing Iranian interventions as by similar actions of various US allies.

The study was authored by researcher Matthew Petti and Trita Parsi, the Institute’s  co-founder and executive vice president and founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council.

To be sure China may not have been able to influence all interventionist decisions, including the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but potentially could have at times tempered the interventionist inklings of regional players with a more assertive approach rather than remaining aloof and focusing exclusively on economic opportunity.

China demonstrated its willingness and ability to ensure that regional players dance to its tune when it made certain that Middle Eastern and Muslim-majority countries refrained from criticizing Beijing’s brutal attempt to alter the ethnic and religious identity of its Turkic Muslim population in the north-western province of Xinjiang.

Taking Syria as an example, Li Shaoxian, a former vice president at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, articulated China’s approach in 2016 as Chinese President Xi Jinping paid his first visit to the Middle East. “China doesn’t really care who takes the presidency…in the future—as long as that person could stabilize and develop the country, we would agree,” Mr. Li said.

To be fair, the Quincy Institute study focuses on the interventionist policies of Middle Eastern states and recommendations for US policy rather than on China even if the report by implication has consequences for China too.

A key conclusion of the study is that the fallacy of US policy was not only to continue to attempt to batter Iran into submission despite evidence that pressure was not persuading the Islamic republic to buckle under.

It was also a failure to acknowledge that Middle Eastern instability was fueled by interventionist policies of not just one state, Iran, but of six states, five of which are US allies: Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The US allies, with the exception of Turkey and to a lesser degree Qatar, are perceived as supporters of the regional status quo.

On the other hand, the United States and its allies have long held that Iran’s use of militant proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen; its intervention in Syria and support of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip; and its armament policies, including its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, destabilize the Middle East and pose the greatest threat to regional security.

They assert that Iran continues to want to export its revolution. It is an argument that is supported by Iran’s own rhetoric and need to maintain a revolutionary façade.

Middle East scholar Danny Postel challenges the argument in a second paper published this month by the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies that seems to bolster the Quincy Institute’s analysis.

“The view of Iran as a ‘revolutionary’ state has been dead for quite some time yet somehow stumbles along and blinds us to what is actually happening on the ground in the Middle East. A brief look at the role Iran has played over the last decade in three countries — Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — reveals a very different picture: not one of a revolutionary but rather of a counter-revolutionary force,” Mr. Postel argues.

The scholar noted that Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon, and pro-Iranian armed groups in Iraq responded in similar ways to mass anti-government protests in 2019 and 2020 in Lebanese and Iraqi cities that transcended sectarian divisions and identified the Iran-aligned factions with widespread corruption that was dragging their countries down.

They attacked the protesters in an attempt to salvage a failed system that served their purpose and suppress what amounted to popular uprisings.

Do they really think that we would hand over a state, an economy, one that we have built over 15 years? That they can just casually come and take it? Impossible! This is a state that was built with blood,” said an Iraqi official with links to the pro-Iranian militias. A Hezbollah official speaking about Lebanon probably could not have said it better.

Iranian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal suppression of a popular revolt is no less counter-revolutionary and illustrative of the length to which Iran is willing to go to protect its interests.

“Indeed, for all the talk of Iran’s ‘disruptive’ role in the region, what the cases of Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon reveal is instead an Islamic Republic hell-bent on keeping entrenched political establishments and ruling classes in power while helping them quell popular movements for social justice, democratic rights, and human dignity,” Mr. Postel concludes.

“The idea that Iran is a revolutionary power while Saudi Arabia is a counter-revolutionary power in the region is a stale binary. Both the Islamic Republic and the Saudi Kingdom play counter-revolutionary roles in the Middle East. They are competing counter-revolutionary powers, each pursuing its counter-revolutionary agenda in its respective sphere of influence within the region,” Mr. Postel goes on to say.

Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt appeared to contradict Mr. Postel in a paper published this week that asserted that Hezbollah remained a revolutionary pro-Iranian force in its regional posture beyond Lebanon.

“Hezbollah’s regional adventurism is most pronounced in its expeditionary forces deployed in Syria and elsewhere in the region, but no less important are the group’s advanced training regimen for other Shi’a militias aligned with Iran, its expansive illicit financing activities across the region, and its procurement, intelligence, cyber, and disinformation activities,” Mr. Levitt said.

Mr. Postel’s analysis in various ways bolsters the Quincy Institute report’s observation that tactics employed by Iran are not uniquely Iranian but have been adopted at various times by all interventionist players in the Middle East.

The Quincy Institute study suggests further that a significant number of instances in the last decade in which Middle Eastern states projected military power beyond their borders involved Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar on battlefields that were as much related to competition for regional influence among US allies or the countering of popular movements as they were to rivalry with Iran.

“Iran is highly interventionist, but not an outlier. The other major powers in the region are often as interventionist as the Islamic Republic – and at times even more so. Indeed, the UAE and Turkey have surpassed in recent years,” the report said.

The report’s publication coincided with the indictment of billionaire Thomas  J. Barrack, a one-time advisor and close associate of former US President Donald J. Trump, on charges of operating as an unregistered foreign agent in the United States for the UAE, widely seen as another case and form of intervention by a Middle Eastern state.

By implication, the study raises the question whether compartmentalizing security issues like the nuclear question and framing them exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than discussing them in relation to diverging security concerns of all regional players, including Iran, will lead to a sustainable regional security architecture.

There is little indication that thinking in Washington is paying heed to the Quincy Institute study or Mr. Postel’s analysis even though their publication came at an inflection point in negotiations with Iran suspended until President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in mid-August.

That was evident in a proposal put forward this month by former US Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross on how to respond to Iran’s refusal to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support of armed proxies  as well as Mr. Al-Assad as part of the nuclear negotiation. Mr. Ross suggested that the United States sell to Israel the GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000-pound mountain-buster capable of destroying hardened underground nuclear facilities.

Members of Congress last year offered legislation that would authorize the sale as a way to maintain Israel’s military edge as the United States moves to reward the UAE for its establishment of diplomatic reltions with Israel by selling it top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets.

The administration is expected to move ahead with the sale of the jets after putting it on hold for review when Joe Biden took office In January.

The Quincy Institute and Mr. Postel’s calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about the Middle East and/or Iran take on added significance in the light of debates about the sustainability of the Iranian clerical regime.

Contrary to suggestions that the regime is teetering on the brink of collapse as the result of sanctions and domestic discontent, most recently evidenced in this month’s protests sparked by water shortages, widely respected Iran expert Karim Sadjadpour argues that the Iranian regime could have a shelf life of at least another generation.

Mr. Sadjadpour draws a comparison to the Soviet Union. “Post-Soviet Russia… didn’t transition from the Soviet Union to a democratic Russia, but it essentially became a new form of authoritarianism which took Communism and replaced it with grievance driven Russia nationalism—led by someone from the ancient regime and a product of the KGB, Vladimir Putin,” Mr. Sadjadpour argues.

“Likewise, if I had to make a prediction in Iran, I think that the next prominent leader is less likely to be an aging cleric—like an Ayatollah Khamenei or Ibrahim Raisi—and more likely to be someone who is a product of either the Revolutionary Guards or Iran’s intelligence services. Instead of espousing Shiite nationalism, they will substitute that with Iranian nationalism—or Persian nationalism,” he goes on to say.

An Iranian nationalist regime potentially could contribute to regional stability. It would likely remove the threats of Iranian meddling in the domestic affairs of various Arab countries by empowering Shiite Muslim groups as well as support for political Islam. Iranian nationalism would turn aid to groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon militias in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen into a liability rather than an asset.

Mr. Sadjadpour’s prognosis coupled with the Quincy Institute report suggests that the Biden administration has an opportunity to reframe its Middle East policy in the long-term interests of the United States as well as the region and the international community.

The nuclear talks are one potential entry point to what would amount to the equivalent of turning a supertanker around in the Suez Canal – a gradual process at best rather than an overnight change. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan may be another.

Concern in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran about the fallout of the withdrawal suggests that stabilizing the greater Middle East in ways that conflicts can be sustainably managed if not resolved creates grounds for China, Russia and the United States to cooperate on what should be a common interest: securing the free flow of oil and gas as well as trade.

China, Russia, and Iran may be bracing themselves for worst case scenarios as the Taliban advance militarily, but the potential for some form of big power cooperation remains.

China scholars Haiyun Ma and I-wei Jennifer Chang note that in the case of Afghanistan “despite the Taliban’s advancement on the ground and its call for Chinese investment, the current military situation and the political process have not yet manifested a power vacuum created by the US retreat, which makes Chinese entry and gains…largely symbolic in nature.”

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Middle East

The Russian bear in Lebanon

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It turned out that the Biden-Putin summit on May 16 has established a wider effect than anyone would expect.

It exceeded by far political analysis, especially in Lebanon. The summit almost coincided with the Russian economic delegation’s visit to Beirut on the 18th of the same month and the announcement of its study results to initiate investments projects in Lebanon.

The results revealed the Russian delegation’s future plans in rebuilding the oil refineries in Zahrani and Tripoli and rehabilitating the latter’s port. Regardless of the projects, the Russian companies intend to deal with, if they are approved and encouraged by good signs changes can be relied upon. It means that Lebanon has taken an important leap in its economic policies by gradually moving towards the East.

Naturally, Lebanon’s orientation towards the East “if it happens” will not be absolute and definitive, but rather principled and partial. This is an important matter by itself. It is marked as a qualitative leap that may minimize the private companies’ monopolization of energy imports, which will be directly reflected, firstly, in electricity production in Lebanon, and secondly in facilitating the provision of petroleum products in Lebanon. Such projects became a necessity, in particular, after the collapse of the Lebanese lira against the American dollar.    

Logically, changing the reality of the production of electricity will reveal immediate results. It will be reflected in the change in the rehabilitation of the economic infrastructure fields in Lebanon. It will also positively reflect in other vital areas, such as determining the prices of food commodities, which became outrageously high. 

Accordingly, one of the most important reasons for the obscene rise in food prices is related to the high costs of transportation in the last month alone. It is almost above the purchasing power of the Lebanese. For example, the prices of vegetables and fruits, a non-imported commodity, which is not supervised by government support, remained within reasonable prices; however, once the diesel prices started rising, it directly affected the prices of the seasonal vegetables and fruits.

In addition, there are unseen accomplishments that will go with the entry of Russian companies, which is creating new job opportunities in Lebanon. Lately, it was reported that unemployment in Lebanon will reach 41.4% this year. It is a huge rate, which the Lebanese media, in general, use to provoke people against the current resigned government. However, it neglects to shed the light on the importance of the Russian investment in creating new job opportunities, which will affect all social groups, whether they were transporters, building workers, porters, cleaners, or university graduates.

The companies coming to Lebanon are directly supported by the Russian state. However, they are private companies, a fact that has its advantages. They are familiarized with dealing with other Western international companies. Russian companies have previously coordinated with French and Italian companies in Lebanon, through contracts concluded for the extraction of gas in Lebanese fields and in other fields outside Lebanon. Russian- European coordination process is also recognized in rebuilding Beirut’s harbor. A German company will rebuild the docks, while the French will rebuild the containers or depots, and the Russian companies will rebuild the wheat silos.

It seems that the process is closely related to the future of Lebanon and the future of the Chinese project, the New Silk Road, [One Road, and One Belt]. However, it is not clear yet whether the Russian companies will be investing in Tripoli’s refinery and in regenerating and expanding its port or it will be invested by the Chinese companies. If this achievement is accomplished, then Tripoli will restore its navigating glorious history. Tripoli was one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean. Additionally, there is a need for the Russian and the Chinese to expand on the warm shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

Secondly, the project will boost Tripoli and its surroundings from the current low economic situation to a prosperous economic one, if the real intentions are there. The results in Tripoli will be read as soon as the projects set foot in the city. Of course, this will establish another Sino-Russian victory in the world of economy and trade, if not in politics as well.

The entry of the Russians and the Chinese into the Lebanese field of commerce has international implications. It will come within international and global agreements or understanding. Nevertheless, it is a sign that the Americans are actually losing their grip on Lebanon. This entry will stop the imposition of a limited number of European-oriented Lebanese monopolizing companies, which have dominated the major Lebanese trade of oil and its products. Dominance is protected with the “illusion” of meaningless international resolution. It is true that the Americans are still maneuvering in several places; however, this is evident to the arbitrariness of decisions making in the U.S. today. It is the confusion resulting from ramifications of the “Sword of Jerusalem” operation in Palestine; it seems that they do not have a clear plan towards policies in the region, other than supporting “Israel”.

If the above is put into action, and the Russian companies start working within a guarantee agreement with the Lebanese state. This means a set of important issues on the international and regional levels. And it also means that the Americans would certainly prefer the Russians to any Chinese or Iranian economic direct cooperation in Lebanon.

Firstly, it is clear that in their meeting Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin reached a kind of consent to activate stability in the region. Two years ago, the Americans had a different plan. According to an established source, the Americans actually intended to strike internal stability in Lebanon and ignite another civil war round, before finalizing stability in Syria. This assertion tunes with David Hale’s, an American envoy to Lebanon, a declaration about the American anger over the $10 billion spent in Lebanon to change the political reality and overthrow Hezbollah from the government. Consequently, the American project is behind us now. Russia and China need to invest in the stability of Lebanon, in order to secure their investments in the process of rebuilding Syria.

Secondly, the Lebanese state guarantee, which the Russians require, is directly related to the lack of confidence in the Lebanese banking policies, which have lost their powers as a guarantor for investments after the role they played since November 17, 2019 till today. It proved the inefficiency of the financial policies of the Lebanese banks, which was based on the principle of usury since the nineties of the last century. In addition, a state guarantee will enable the Russian companies to surpass the American sanctions. 
The state guarantee increases the value and importance of the Lebanese state as an entity in the region, and this can be understood from Macron’s statements after the explosion of Beirut port last August when he said that Lebanon’s role in the region as we know it must change. 

Thirdly, if we consider the history of international unions in the world, including the European Union, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and others, they started as economic alliances before they end as political alliances. Therefore, at this historical stage and in order to work on the economic recovery of Lebanon, which needs more investments instead of falling under the burden of more debts. Lebanon needs to head East towards economic unity with Syria. In cooperating with two superpowers, Lebanon and Syria can form an economic bloc on the Mediterranean shores, a bloc that can get Lebanon out of the vortex of Western absurdity and expand its alliances and horizons to be a real economic and cultural forum where the East and the West can meet.

From our partner Tehran Times

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