The Middle East Today / Prof.B.Rubin

August 12, 2011
Summary: Turkey moves toward Islamism; Syria heads toward bloodbath; Egypt strides toward anti-Americanism, Afghanistan heads toward a Taliban comeback. Palestinian leader threatens to murder Americans if they don’t get everything they want. Obama Administration continues to be clueless. The good news? You’re among the first to hear about it!

All of these are “little stories” that reflect wider trends.

Another day, another senior officer arrested in Turkey. This time, a top serving admiral accused of a ridiculously fabricated plot to assassinate other admirals. Get it? If the regime accuses officers of acting against others, it splits the armed forces and can claim to be acting on behalf of the military while gutting the military. Step by step Turkey is turning into an Islamist police state. Today many would mock that assertion, a year or two from now it will be obvious to all.

A friend of mine who is a close observer of Syria said it best: It doesn’t matter anymore what President Barack Obama says about ead Syria. As in the case of Iran’s upheaval a couple of years ago, he waited too long. The United States has no influence and no credibility with the opposition any more. The battle is going to be determined by force with massive bloodshed.

Anti-Americanism is rising in Egypt. What? Didn’t Obama support the revolution? Doesn’t he make nice speeches about how great Islam is? There are calls there to reject U.S. aid, at least to democracy-oriented groups. Of course, they will go on taking the money but reject American influence and policies. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development has left the country as a result of these disputes.

As the U.S. begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban is making a comeback. The Taliban knows how to play Afghan politics, the U.S. government doesn’t. I favor a withdrawal from Afghanistan but the proper alternative has to be put into place to prevent another Taliban takeover and that isn’t’ being done. What’s needed is not U.S. troops delivering sheep for slaughter in Ramadan observances but paying off the right people there so they can fight in their own interests. If they don’t deliver, the money is cut off and they have the incentive—in Afghanistan as in Iraq—that if they lose the Islamists will cut their heads off.

Marwan Barghouti gave an interview to Egypt’s news agency from an Israeli prison, where he is serving a life sentence for organizing the 2000 intifada that cost thousands of lives. Now he’s threatening the United States. If it vetoes a unilateral Palestinian statehood proposal at the UN, Barghouti threatens, there will be massive anti-American riots around the world. To underline the point, he called such a decision a “historic, deadly mistake.” The word “deadly” here is chosen deliberately by him, a threat to kill Americans. Obama got himself (and all of us) into this mess by not acting toughly early on to squelch the Palestinian Authority (PA) attempt to violate every Palestinian commitment made in the last two decades. It is quite possible that in September the almost three years of Obama Administration attempts to apologize, flatter, and make friends with enemies policy will go up in smoke. Literally.

There’s a terrific article from Khalid Abu Toameh about this issue. Whether the statehood bid fails or succeeds, the Palestinian Authority is calling for massive demonstrations including marches on Jewish settlements. The distance between that kind of thing and violence is very short. At present, Abu Toameh notes, Palestinian leaders “have expressed disappointment over the fact that the number of foreigners and Israeli Jews participating in the protests is higher than the number of Palestinians.”

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