Rabbi Lerner’s reaction to the Obama brilliant speech.
Rabbi Michael Lerner’s commentary to President Obama.March 21, 2013
An editorial preface from Rabbi Michael Lerner in the Tikkun publication:
If only Obama could go beyond the brilliant principles he articulated today to Israelis in Jerusalem—to follow through with action based on those principles!!!
Obama had an amazing opportunity to paint a detailed picture of what a peace agreement could look like between Israelis and Palestinians. Very few Palestinians or Israelis have ever heard one of their leaders present such a vision in a way that seemed detailed enough to be plausible.
Instead, President Obama stayed at a very general level—urging people to not fear, reminding them that they are not alone. And those reminders were brilliantly done, and very important. The best was when he asked Israelis to imagine themselves into the consciousness of Palestinians living under occupation—for this alone, Obama deserves our thanks.
But even so, doing what he did can’t break through the consciousness that has been daily shaped by a distorted picture of what is possible, drawn for them by the settlers and right-wing extremists who today run the Israeli government.
This was the moment for the US to say, “here is a plan that can work” and lay it out. I’ve done that in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2012), and when I met personally with Obama in 2006 he agreed with much of that plan.
But Israelis and Palestinians have never been told by the US, “here is what you have to give up and here is what you will get,” and then followed through and laid out the plan. Without that, the words eventually and in retrospect will seem as hollow as Obama’s speech about democracy in Egypt which was then followed by Obama not supporting the Egyptian people when they went to the streets to overthrow their dictator Mubarak.
A U.S. backed plan will not only have to include an economically and politically viable Palestinian state on at least 95% of the 22% of pre-48 Palestine that was left to the Palestinian people after that first war—and trade of 4-5% of the land of the West Bank to Israel in exchange for equally valuable land given to the new Palestinian state. It will ALSO have to include Palestinians allowing Jewish settlers to stay on the West Bank and settle wherever they wish, but only as law-abiding citizens of a Palestinian state who have given up their Israeli citizenship and have accepted an Israeli declaration that it will not interfere with the judicial process inside Palestine if the new state prosecutes those who have illegally seized the personal property and land of Palestinians. It will have to include Israelis acknowledging partial (not full) responsibility for Palestinian refugees, and allowing 20,000 per year—each year for the next 30 years—to return to Israel and live in Israeli housing provided to them on the same basis Israel provides housing for new Jewish immigrants (20,000 a year being a number small enough to not threaten a Jewish majority, but large enough to be a strong symbolic statement of caring for Palestinian refugees). The Arab world will have to acknowledge its responsibility for the one million Jews who fled Arab lands in fear of their lives in response to anti-Zionist riots and murders that terrified the Jews who fled—and provide reparations, just as the international community and Israel will have to join in funding reparations for the Palestinian people who lost their homes, and at a level sufficient to make Palestine a thriving economy and not just one dependent on Israeli jobs. And all sides will have to join with generous support from the international community to fund an international force to work with both the Israeli and Palestinian police forces to repress extremists on both sides who will resort to violence to prevent the implementation of any agreement and to enforce an end to the teaching of hatred in the media and classrooms of both Israel and Palestine.
Without that kind of a concrete vision (and there’s more detailed in Embracing Israel/Palestine), the call for hope and trust will fall on deaf ears. Netanyahu may agree to negotiations, but not to substantive concessions. Only a clear plan from the US would change that, and Obama flubbed the opportunity to present such a plan.
And yet, speaking to the deep fears of the Israeli people is exactly what is needed, and he did it brilliantly. But it won’t change anything until the US is willing to paint the picture of a viable peace agreement with major concessions form each side, and to energetically push for it.
So what is Obama willing to push for energetically? Legitimation of a first strike against Iran for the sin of having the nuclear weapons that Israel and the US already have at much higher levels than Iran could likely achieve. This doctrine will backfire in the long run against both Israel and the US. His most concrete point was not about peace-making, but about war-making against Iran, once again signaling that Israel could take this (illegal by international law and stupid by common sense) first strike and have the full military backing of the US. That approach will do far more damage to the security of the US than anything Jonathan Pollard did, and yet Pollard remains in jail when its time to give him clemency (though I detest his politics). By suddenly discrediting the whole notion of nuclear deterrence, Obama has made Israel and the US less secure. There will come a day when other countries will use the same logic to defend a first strike against Israel or the US. Yet deterrence has worked well in the even worse dictatorships of the Soviet Union, and the Iranian leadership understands that using nuclear weapons would lead to Iran being wiped out as a country by a massive Israeli nuclear counter-attack. Iran is not Nazi Germany, and its leaders are far more interested in perpetuating an Islamic state than ended it in one moment of nuclear war. We ask friends to stop friends from driving when drunk—can’t we expect Obama to ask Israelis to not follow a path that might someday lead to the people of the world ganging up on Israel for this violation of international law?
So even though Obama was saying he spoke as a friend, it was not really what a friend needs to do. A friend needs to stand up against self-destructive behavior. Even if Israel “gets away with” a first strike, backed by the U.S. military, it will earn for itself the enmity of people around the world who rightly fear that such a precedent, which already led to the disastrous Iraq war, will set other countries into believing that they too have a right to take first strikes against countries whom they believe MIGHT at some future time use their weapons in a destructive manner. Moreover, we at Tikkun wish to see the oppressive and dictatorial and hate-generating regime in Iran overthrown by its own people, and an Israeli strike will have the opposite effect, forcing Iranians to rally around its own government and giving the Islamic dictatorship the credential of being the representative of all Iranian nationalists while isolating the forces that wish to overthrow it.
And yet, what Obama did do, in trying to speak to the need for feeling safe that so shapes Israeli consciousness, was done brilliantly, a great first step. Unfortunately, given Obama’s track record on human rights and peace, it is unlikely that the next necessary steps will be forthcoming. So we can appreciate the good, including pushing the peace process back into public consciousness in Israel, but notice and bemoan a huge opportunity lost at the moment before the new Israeli government consolidates itself around Netanyahu-sponsored intransigence.
—Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor Tikkun RabbiLerner.email@example.com
‘I Speak to You as a Friend …’
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: March 21, 2013, THE NEW YORK TIMES.
Related: In Israel, Obama Seeks to Offer Reassurance of ‘Unbreakable Bonds’ (March 21, 2013)
Four years ago, President Obama used his Middle East trip to reach out to the Arab world and try to build a new basis for regional understanding to replace the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 policies of fear and vengeance. Mr. Obama failed; skipping Israel and pursuing a poorly conceived peace initiative backfired.
Now, Mr. Obama has made Israel the first overseas trip of his second term. If young Israelis held power, their enthusiastic reaction to his inspiring speech in Jerusalem on Thursday would bode well for making progress toward a two-state solution. But they don’t, and despite Mr. Obama’s much-needed recommitment to peace efforts, he has not yet offered a clear-cut plan for moving forward.
The speech did offer rhetoric that was eloquent and politically astute. It was replete with biblical and cultural references as Mr. Obama tried to do what many had faulted him for not doing previously, connecting with Israelis on an emotional basis and persuading them that he would defend them if necessary, including against an Iranian nuclear weapon. He spoke of the centuries of suffering and exile that Jews had experienced and said that like his own daughters, the children of the border town of Sderot deserve to sleep at night without worrying that Hamas will fire rockets from Gaza.
We should note that rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday — a reckless and provocative act — while the Israelis showed good faith by avoiding the sorts of defiant acts, like announcing new settlements, that have marred American visits in the past.
Mr. Obama invoked values and dreams shared by Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, including the idea that “people deserve to be free in a land of their own.” He also spoke bluntly about what’s at stake if the status quo persists, given that the Palestinian population on the West Bank and international frustration with Israel are both growing and the Arab world is in turmoil.
Will Mr. Obama also take the risks that will be needed to be a credible mediator and nudge the parties forward? His new secretary of state, John Kerry, is eager to begin and will be in Israel this weekend, but will he have the space to conduct real diplomacy? And is there a sense of urgency on anyone’s part? In recent years, Israel has built so many settlements that the options for finding a two-state solution are dwindling.
Mr. Obama spent four years tweaking his relationship with Israel. On Thursday, he said “peace is possible.” The question is: How much will he, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority invest to make it happen?
Dissecting the case of Tunisia where The Arab Spring started and seemingly still continues despite two political assassinations, we get to how Qatar tries to build influence behind the back of Saudi Arabia. Is this an outcome from them sitting on gas rather then oil?
Tunisia and the divided Arab Spring.
Mutual fear may prevail and the use of force be felt necessary. Exactly this plays into the hands of the parasites inside the apparatus who are busy transforming themselves into a self-governing body within the state (especially the Interior Ministry) that can exploit, if not directly manipulate, such contradictions.
On July 25, Mohamed Brahimi, the Nasserist leader of the opposition party ‘The People’ (chaab) was assassinated. He is the second Tunisian political leader to be killed after the removal of former dictator Ben Ali. It happened in the environs of the capital city, Tunis, near his house and with the same weapon used to kill Chokri Belaid, the first victim of such a terrorist act. According to the initial security communiqué this was planned and carried out a similar manner to the previous one, six months before. If the first assassination on February 6 left many questions hanging in the air, this time it left a strong feeling that someone was calculatedly planning such actions with a specific political strategy in mind. This was if anything confirmed by later events, in which eight soldiers were killed in an ambush during their patrol in the frontier region of Mountain Chaambi.
Since the beginning of July, in the aftermath of the deposing of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, tension has risen amongst Tunisia’s governing parties, fearing an attempt to sabotage the only ‘successful Arab spring democratic transition’. The opposition has been trying since then to replicate the Egyptian scenario. The Popular Front, the Marxist-Pan Arabist alliance to which Chokri Belaid belonged, demanded an immediate and total dissolution of the government and the Constituency Assembly, working together with the newly-created group of Tamarrod Tunisia (inspired by the anonymous group that triggered the mobilization in Egypt). After some holding of its breath, the governmental camp was initially reassured by the reaction from Tunisian society at large, which seemed skeptical about the Egyptian scenario.
The many differences between Tunisia and Egypt are significant: since the beginning, a constitutional path has been chosen in Tunisia, which created an elected Constitutional Assembly in order to draft a new constitution; in this assembly the Islamist party procured 41% of the members and so needed a larger coalition in order to run the government; the Islamist party elected, Ennahda, chose to work in coalition with the two main secular parties (CPR and Ettakatol). Despite this important difference, in Tunisia as in the rest of the Arab world, a new era of conflict was ushered in by the Arab Spring; a huge hegemonic change is under way with the coming to power of Islamic parties and the marginalization of both the former nationalist parties and the democratic secular camp.
Tunisia went through its highest point of tension six months ago, before the dramatic developments unfolded in Egypt. In the aftermath of the assassination of the leftist leader, Belaid, an emotional wave of spontaneous demonstrations packed the public spaces throughout this country. It appeared to many, even those not much engaged in politics, that the Ennahda party must have had some responsibility. The crisis was survived though, and the ruling troika showed great flexibility in accepting change in all the strategic ministries – Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs – with the introduction of neutral technocrats in top positions. From those in power the political message was: “we are ready to make concessions” on condition that the legitimacy of the elected government will be respected. They made it clear that any move aimed at overthrowing elected institutions and the constitutional transition process would be considered a coup d’etat.
However, in successive months, criticism of the government has continued. The main preoccupation has become the security situation of the country and the threat of terrorism. Heightened tensions returned between April and May when several mines exploded in the Chaambi mountain, on the border with Algeria (the same area where eight soldiers were killed last week). The reaction of the security apparatus was amateurish, giving contradictory statements and showing the IDs of alleged suspects later identified by the press as individuals who had died years ago. These developments provoked increasing unease in some Tunisians, and in others, further skepticism at the elite power play known to be occurring in certain spheres.
The assassination of Mohamed Brahimi was interpreted by many as resulting from the same political strategies and splits that were behind Chokri Belaid’s assassination. The Nasserist leader had been a strong supporter of the ‘Egyptian solution’, speaking out loud publically and even engaging in polemics with his own party when it disagreed with some of his declarations. He denounced ‘the infiltration’ of Islamic elements in his party. The political process became destabilized as a result of this loss of common ground and the clash of conflicting ideological orientations that ensued. For the opposition there was clear responsibility on the part of the government; many suspect the direct implication of Ennahda, accused of creating a ‘parallel apparatus’ inside the security system aimed at dealing with their political opponents. For the government camp the responsibility belongs to the ‘deep state’ motivated by a counter-revolutionary strategy and supported by prominent ‘liberal’ and ‘leftist’ secular leaders, bitter about their marginal role in the elected government. Yet others have accused the salafist-jihadis, though their direct responsibility has yet to be established. For all parties, this is a ‘terrorist attack’, but attributed by the press and the Interior Minister to an ‘isolated takfirist group’ with foreign involvement. Interestingly, there is common ground between the salafist and secular opposition analyses, both of whom berate the government for scapegoating and instrumentalizing the salafi component as a way of avoiding exposing the truth behind the assassinations.
These opposing views of the political situation are key to understanding the evolution of the political situation in Tunisia. The main contenders (Islamist and anti-Islamists) don’t trust each other, and the suspicions may turn into open conflict if events further exacerbate this divide.
The political situation could evolve in either of two directions. One option is that a new form of mediation is found, but that the institutions created by the transition process (the Assembly and the three presidencies – of parliament, of the Republic and the government) are preserved in order to finish the drawing up of the constitution in the next three to four weeks. In this case a new road map must be decided in common with the opposition parties and a precise date for the election must be assigned before the end of the year, as well as giving convincing guarantees to the opposition that such a clear electoral process is under way. Alternatively, tension may grow and further terrorist acts may lead to chaos with the dissolution of the assembly, the cessation of the transition process and the creation of a Salvation government led by a special committee of technocrats committed to a new draft of the constitution. This would be a scenario very similar to the Egyptian one, with the significant difference that, at least until now, the Tunisian opposition has looked unlikely to have the strength to bring an important mass of protesters onto the street.
The evolution of the political situation therefore in a sense depends upon the degree of trust that the process is able to generate between the various actors. Three factors may be the most influential in determining the direction this takes: the first is the willingness of Ennahda to share power; the second is the social and economic situation; and the third, the regional and geopolitical context.
The most common complaint lodged by the opposition camp against Ennahda and the coalition in power (Troika) is their unwillingness to share power. Ennahda and its allies have as their sole aim the ‘monopoly’ of power, they aver; and even the way the Government resists a government of ‘technocrats’ is proof that the only thing they care about is staying in power for as long as it takes to eventually enforce a new authoritarian political system. For their part Ennahda insists that it is willing to share power, pointing for proof to the formation of its coalition government with two secular parties, including a large majority in the Assembly. They do reject the prospect of a technocratic government because they interpret it as an attempt by the opposition to outmanoeuvre a government that fully respects the political balance determined by the electoral outcome. They agree on the need to form a larger coalition including all the parties in the assembly, each contributing according to their electoral weight. Yet they point to the stonewalling of the opposition parties in relation to their overtures to this end.
If Ennahda’s argument is to be believed, this still does not entirely explain the capacity the opposition have had until now to threaten its stability and question its legitimacy. This has to be explained more in terms of the struggle for hegemony that has been taking place than on the election result. The modern state of Tunisia was, more than the other states in the region, founded on the basis of a radical secular vision of modernity. Its middle class, educated by an educational programme that lauded the rational virtues of the western heritage and minimized the importance of achieving compatibility between modernity and the religious and Arab patrimoine. This framing of national identity has not taken hold to the same extent for the popular masses of the people. The proof is that on average Tunisians were willing to vote in a party that referred to Islam as the basis for its principles.
However, Tunisian ‘laicité’ is an ideology firmly rooted in the apparatus of the state, first of all in the bureaucracy that constituted the backbone of the former Bourghibian party (those who propagate Tunisian nationalism – Tunisianité – and constitute a clear political and sociological interest group). The same middle class also produced critics of this model – not in its basic principles, but in its acceptance of the authoritarian regime. Those belonging to the first category today are divided between Nidaa Tunis, led by the Bourghibian Caied Essebsi, and isolated groups of interests that still exist inside the state apparatus and feel themselves threatened by the new ‘revolutionary’ scenario. The first group is often defined as the ‘Bourghibians’, meaning the ones who believed in the national modernist project, who are ready to fight to prevent the country falling in the hands of a ‘backwards’ Islamic vision of the world. The second element consists of the ex-regime parasites who exploited power under Ben Ali’s regime through the opportunistic system of patronage. The critics of authoritarianism, also stemming from the same middle class, are however more ‘democratic’ and have developed over recent decades a secular appreciation leading to their opposition to dictatorship. But they share the same vision of modernity and may be willing to support a repressive action in order to deal with what they consider the ultimate threat, Islamists.
These positions can all be traced back to the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ben Ali started a repressive campaign against Islamists, carried out with the support of a large part of this ‘modernist’ and ‘democratic’ middle class. The main challenge for any Islamic party nowadays is not only to win elections, but to convince this core state constituency that they have a stake in and may be integrated into the construction of a post-revolution nation, without threatening its highest values. Trust between these two highly contrasted social and political components can only be generated through each assuring the other of its good intentions. This trust-building exercise is especially vital in such a transition from dictatorship to democracy, a period in which it is only natural that the loser thinks that the winner will not give them another chance. This is an obligatory step if democracy is to be achieved. However, if the split gets more profound, the mutual fear may prevail and the use of force may be felt to be necessary. Exactly this latter recourse plays into the hands of the parasites inside the apparatus who are busy transforming themselves into a self-governing body within the state (especially within the Interior Ministry) that can exploit, if not directly manipulate, such contradictions.
When it comes to the second consideration, the social and economic situation, it is quite surprising how little attention this aspect receives from the analysts and commentators. The truth is that what is being analyzed in terms of ‘political events’ is largely down to the narrow categorisation of a small political elite. But participation in politics, up to the present day, is in fact quite marginal. There are practically no new political leaders thrown up by the revolution, and even the participation in the elections was pretty low (51%), and for many not exactly representative of a general public opinion (because of the ‘apolitical’ orientation of most of the voters). This means that the political struggle, as it might be understood in the sense of a liberal transition process from an authoritarian power to a democracy, is reliant on the same middle class we have just discussed, with the addition of the conservatives represented from this new power of Ennahdha.
While the elite contenders are struggling to gain hegemony or recognition from one another, trying to draw up a new shared social contract, most of the rest of the entire population is concerned with day-to-day realities, including the dramatic economic situation. The deep discontent which drives the situation is coming from an apolitical population that is desperately frustrated because of the deterioration in their standard of living. These social and economic problems were the reason why the former system collapsed, and it has already bequeathed to the successor nation a large section of society profoundly alienated from the country’s future development. As a result a generation of apolitical, but nonetheless actively engaged, youth has engaged in what has been called ‘street politics’. Amongst the most visible of these movements is the Ultras, the football supporters, organized in groups very popular among young people. This movement never misses an occasion to confront the police and to be a destabilizing element in an open conflict between the two political blocs, with the sole qualification that they themselves are more comfortable on whichever side can be considered at any one time as more anti-system.
Another important element in the self-expression of this disenfranchised youth is the jihadi-salafi movement. Though the movement is large (thousands of young people) – not all are really participating in the political struggle, with many so far concentrating on preaching or proselytizing to others (dawa). It is still the case that this movement, especially in its jihadi version, is very attractive to young people who have lost all their reference points (beginning with any chance of economic and social integration). That is why jihadi terrorism still has a chance to flourish in any situation in which the political transition leaves an institutional vacuum. Though there has not been until now any proof of the infiltration of terrorist groups into the Tunisian salafist movement, at each moment of tension the Interior Minister becomes increasingly shrill in voicing his suspicions and conspiracy theories. What is more important is that a factor such as the economic frustration of large segments of the people, may become an accomplice if the split in the political class deteriorates into outright confrontation, so that people’s desperation in the face of economic decline is transformed into a political consensus to overthrow the institutional process, such as has happened now in Egypt.
The third point concerns the new regional developments and its influence on the process. To understand this very crucial determinant it is first of all necessary to point out how the definition of the Arab Spring has changed and how it has become part of a rhetoric solely the preserve of the Islamists. The Islamists, and the part of the secular political class still in coalition with them, are the only ones who invoke the rhetoric of ‘freedom’. For them revolution still represents the sole opportunity for freedom and for democratization – a transition process driven by elections constituting the necessary means. To them, the new opportunities witnessed in Tunisian society today, whereby most people can show off their Islamic faith and their sense of belonging without inhibition (described by those who have taken fright at this as the ‘Islamization’ of Tunisia), is a precious step towards a new free society.
The opposition camp, consolidating its position in the light of the growing complications of the Syrian conflict and role of Tunisian jihadis within it, is built on a familiar Arab nationalist foundation, but also operates on the logic that ‘the enemy of my enemies are my friends’ – the enemies being those who oppose the ‘Islamization’ of the political and social process. They oppose the ‘occupation’ of public spaces by religious symbols and practice as a threat. They believe that Islamists in power within the institutions, and salafists gaining ground in the social sphere, are part and parcel of one strategy, aiming to establish a new backwards Islamic authoritarian system. They interpret the support of Qatar, Turkey, France and US for the Arab Spring as a big plot to keep the Arab countries enslaved to the west and avoid a true emancipation. They point to examples of a US administration that is harsh towards secular Arab nationalist presidents, while providing unconditional support to the Zionists (the Israeli state). Islamists in their Muslim Brotherhood version are, for them, the new ‘servants of the West’, with Qatar serving as the big puppet/proxy in the region, and Turkey as a neo-Ottoman imperialist country.
This explains in part why it is feasible that salafists and Arab nationalists may find themselves on the same side against the ‘Muslim Brotherhood plot’, as was the case in Egypt. When the struggle is anti-imperialist, they may form a concerted bloc. In the case of Tunisia, though, because the radical leftist anti-MB camp is comprised of a different political and social composition which is not especially anti-western or anti-Zionist, but rather primarily anti-Islamic, this coalition is less viable an option.
The landscape of the Arab Spring’s countries has increasingly divided into two very visible political orientations: Islamic and anti-Islamic. Both camps are made up of two ‘parties’ adopting a different degree of radicalism toward the anti-imperialist cause. The Islamist camp contains an appreciably greater range of animosity towards anti-imperialist causes, in also embracing those who cite Palestine and Algeria and argue that the west was never remotely interested in working with Islamists, or allowing any real democracy. But indeed we can safely say that that all these political parties or ideological orientations are wary of a certain western policy in the Middle East, especially when it comes to the Palestinian cause. On that subject alone, you will find no division between these two camps.
What is true, though, is that we may distinguish between a ‘moderate’ attitude on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood and the modernist camp in Tunisia; and a ‘radical’ stance on the part of salafists and Arab nationalists alike. And it is here that the geopolitical framework has played its part in providing each of these sides with a perceived ‘common enemy’. On the one hand, Qatar has become, since the beginning of 2000, an important centre for the propagation of the so-called ‘wasatiyya’. The famous Egyptian clerk, Youssef Qaradawi, has been living there for long time as a refugee, and has been given both academic and TV space (as the special host of Al-Jazeera’s religious programme shariaa wa hayat for some years) to ‘propagate’ the new idea of a moderate Islam (the word wasat in Arabic means centre, taken from a basic Koranic concept explaining that Islam is the religion of the centre, interpreted as ‘moderation’). This was in part prompted as a response to the terrible reputation Islam had acquired in the west after Bin Laden’s decade of terrorist acts, and in part by the larger geopolitical imperative on the part of the Al-Thani royal family to introduce a new policy of modernization (closer to that of the west). This was supported by the US, of course, until Qatar became – even militarily – a new strategic pawn in the regional policy of the US.
Qatar’s geopolitical pursuits must themselves be read in the wider context of the Arabic peninsula, in which Saudi Arabia is the biggest super-power, with Qatar historically feeling encircled. So this small country elaborated an intelligent policy to gain a larger piece of the action under the shadow of its big brother. Saudi Arabia, on the contrary was and still is very uncomfortable with this new bid for power, especially since it was based on an ideological-religious theorem seen as very dangerous to the survival of the Saudi royal family. The new ideology arose from the ‘democratic’ shift that occurred within the Muslim Brotherhood leadership. One must not forget that Saud’s family was very seriously under threat in the 1990’s from a reformist Islamic movement largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The new scenario created in the Arab Spring seemed to justify Qatar and certain American Democrat circles, which had placed their bet on a democratic evolution of Islamism which might be integrated into the larger democratization scenario of the region as a whole. Yet what was a victory for Qatar was a threat for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was very much on the defensive in the first year following the Arab Spring uprisings. This changed when it appeared that they could still find an ally in the region to balance against the overwhelming presence of the MB: the salafists. Salafism in its Wahhabist version of course (and not jihadi), were supported everywhere, even in Tunisia, in the classic manner; the financing of charitable and Koranic Wahhabit associations.
A further geopolitical actor, with an important influence on events in Tunisia, is Algeria (increasingly important since regional developments that included the French intervention in the northern regions of Mali and the supposed expansion of jihadi towards Libya). From Tunisia’s point of view there cannot be any solid base for its process of transition without having the solid support of its two Arab neighbours. This geopolitical factor emerged clearly enough during Libya’s rebellion against Gaddafi, supported logistically and politically by the new Tunisian Government.
From the perspective of Algeria, these evolving events appeared quite different. The Algerian government remained highly suspicious of the hidden intentions of the new Tunisian ‘revolutionary’ government: the Algerians feared a knock-on effect. Their skepticism only deepened when the Islamic party, Ennahda, took power, which seemed a real nightmare to them. Rached Ghannouchi (the Tunisian Islamic leader) was at the time of the civil war in the 1990’s in fact a good ‘friend’ of the Algerian Islamic FIS.
But after almost two years since those revolutionary events, the political climate has changed again, and now it is the fear of external interference that is largely mutual. Despite the exchange of official visits, the Islamic Tunisian party continues to suspect Algerian infiltration of conspiring to overthrow the Ennahda-led government, encouraged by regional developments in Egypt. Bouteflika, the Algerian president, could take advantage of the new Arab nationalist feeling abroad in the region and in Tunisia as well. He has come to be represented, in a line with Assad and the new strongman in Egypt, Sisi, as resistant to the western plot to overthrow the Arab nationalist governments. At the same time he has come to be seen as a saviour against the Islamist wave, and the one who ‘knows how to deal with terrorists’ (because of the experience of the civil war of the 1990’s). It has been pointed out many times in Tunisian public debate how important the Algerian experience was in the struggle against terrorism.
The Algerian press often intervenes in Tunisian debate to underline the Islamic danger coming from this side of the border. It is very likely that those in power in Algeria, especially at this sensitive systemic moment, in which the country is preoccupied with the imminent post Bouteflika transition, are concerned about jihadi or salafi infiltration. The fear on the Algerian side is of a repetition of the Syrian scenario. There are enough elements here coming together to make one take very seriously the role of this important neighbour, and its influence on the process going on in Tunisia.
The outcome of this most recent Tunisian crisis may tell us much about the future of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ and the democratization process of the country. If it is able to emerge from this dangerous minefield by relying on the institutional tools already in existence, this will be an important step forward. The consequence will be the development of a system that will start to believe in itself and be more confident in future conflicts in relying on the mechanism of state institutions. That is why it is so important that the state, with its apparatuses and institutions, ‘plays by the rules of the game’.
The transitional process in Tunisia has been until now exemplary, and despite the tensions and the social and economic crisis, it has shown itself well-suited to the country and its traditions. The Islamic option is still perceived as a threat by many, and Ennahda is still lacking a political hegemony (in the sense of conquering the elites). But what has emerged from the recent dramatic events, exacerbated by all the latest regional developments, is that obscure forces are trying to divert the accomplishments of the transition and crush all remaining elements of the myth of ‘The Arab Spring’. This is the moment for Tunisia to reveal itself as a true exception, and a model for the future of the other countries in the region.
Has the US decided that the leadership of the Arab world goes to Saudi Arabia?
What is indisputable is the pivotal role played by the radical and regressive Wahhabi Salafi religious establishment in giving religious legitimacy to the Saudi regime, which in turn provides it with the vital funding to propagate and export its violent ideology. According to the Wahhabi ideology it is strictly forbidden to oppose the ruler. Thus, in the Saudi regime’s eyes the MB’s explicit endorsement of political Islam, which underlines explicitly that legitimate rule can only stem from democratic elections, is an existential threat aimed at the very legitimacy of the Saudi King’s absolute power. Making matters even worse, Qatar had enthusiastically embraced and even offered citizenship to the influential and highly controversial spiritual leader of the MB, Yusuf Al Qaradawi.
As the protest in Syria became increasingly militarised, the Qataris ramped up their full-blown support to the MB. However, the Saudi regime has consistently considered the Syrian regime, since the days of the late, Hafiz Al Assad, Bashar’s father, a major thorn in its side and an irreplaceable strategic ally to its principal adversary Iran. The regime moved swiftly to shore up the armed insurgents by deploying its intelligence services, whose instrumental role in establishing and funding Jabhat Al Nusra (JN) was highlighted in an online intelligence review released in Paris in January 2013. The Saudi regime also used its huge influence and leverage on not only Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq, but also on Saudi members of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to convince AQI that its principal battlefield must be Syria and that its ultimate goal should be deposing Bashar Al Assad’s Alawite regime, since its overthrow would break the back-bone of the Iraqi Shia-led government and inevitably loosen Iran’s grip on Iraq.
Creating a new branch of Al Qaeda in Syria under the new label of ‘JN’, which was not yet designated a terrorist organisation, was not only an unmissable lifeline to AQI, on its back foot in 2011, but also it provided Saudi Arabia and Qatar with a window of opportunity to bolster AQI and JN and destabilise Syria and Iraq simultaneously, under the perfect pretext of supporting democracy in Syria. So AQI scrambled to send Abu Mohammed Al Jolani, in July 2011, to form JN, while Aymen Al Zawahri, the overall leader of Al Qaeda, instructed all of his fighters in February 2012 to converge on Syria.”
Daniel Kahneman of Israel and Princeton, who established the link Psychology and Economics, will get the US Presidential Medal of Freedom: Israel of a split personality even before watching neighbouring Syria become the Spain of the 21st Century.
Israel’s Professor Daniel Kahneman, 79, who received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, has been named one of the 16 recipients of the 2013 United States Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor, recognizing individuals who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the U.S., world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The awards will be presented at the White House later this year.
“Daniel Kahneman is a pioneering scholar of psychology. After escaping Nazi occupation [in France] in World War II, Dr. Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. Alongside Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He is currently a professor at Princeton University,” the White House’s statement said.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1934, Kahneman spent his childhood years in Paris. After his family escaped the Nazis, he immigrated to Israel in 1948. Kahneman is professor emeritus at Princeton University’s Department of Psychology and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a fellow at Hebrew University and a Gallup Senior Scientist. He is considered one of the world’s foremost researchers in the fields of the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology.
JERUSALEM — Israel has just embarked, yet again, on U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians.
Zeev Elkin, the deputy foreign minister and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, gives it to me straight: “Netanyahu changed his mind. It was some kind of revolution. Ten years ago he was responsible for the decision of our party against a two-state solution.” He continues: “We have a big argument between him and us on this. I respect his position and he respects mine.” And what is Elkin’s position on two states for two peoples? “Now I don’t believe in it.”
Netanyahu is opposed by his own party. He is opposed by the man who is in effect his acting foreign minister. He is opposed by prominent members of his own government, including Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.
Israel has just agreed to release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill. Elkin says he cannot understand how “to release terrorists and murderers with blood on their hands is something good for peace” but “building a kindergarten in Judea and Samaria is worse for peace.”
The West Bank is referred to as Judea and Samaria by religious nationalists and others committed to holding all Eretz Israel.
The gesture of goodwill comes as Israel Hayom reports that “as of July 1, 2013, the size of the Jewish Israeli population in Judea and Samaria stood at 367,000. In the first half of 2013, roughly 7,700 new residents were added. This is, as noted, a 2.12 percent rise in the population in a six-month period.” So this year, it seems, population growth has been faster in the West Bank settlements than in the rest of Israel.
Do goodwill gestures and settlement expansion make sense? Often Israel’s personality seems split. Its prosperity purrs. Its unease lurks. I listen to friends here. Like Goethe’s Faust, two souls seem to beat within them.
Yakov would be my liberal Israeli composite, an imaginary guy who spends a lot of his week working on a big business project in Turkey (“Don’t believe what you read in the papers”) while developing the killer app that will make his fortune in his spare time. His internal dialogue swings wildly between confidence and disquiet: “Hey, we just sold Waze, a navigation app for smart phones that helps you beat traffic, for over $1 billion to Google and now AOL is paying $405 million for another fruit of Israeli genius — don’t ask me what that does, puh-lease. And, hey, check out the Tel Aviv skyline. See the cranes? This place is Boomland, man. The French are pouring in — they even love our wine!”
Then a darker voice surfaces: “Woke up in a cold sweat. We’re isolated! Same old story, Jews getting blamed for everything. I know we don’t need the European Union, but what’s with cutting off E.U. funding to institutions based or operating over the Green Line? Talk about preempting a negotiation, it’s not like we know where the border is yet…. And Stephen Hawking, canceling his appearance at the Israeli Presidential Conference, how rude is that…. I mean, the Arabs hate us, O.K. The Turks pretend to hate us, O.K. The Persians try their best to hate us, O.K. But we’re part of the West, of Europe, they can’t hate the Jews (again), that’s not O.K.”
Yakov’s mood swings are sharpest over the conflict. A voice says: “I am completely supportive of the peace process — so long as it does not get to a solution. A solution could be problematic. You have to hand it to Netanyahu, by starting the peace process he has made peace. With Obama! Do I accept the idea of two states? Yes I do. Do I want two states? That is a different question … ”
At which point an angry voice will be raised: “Of course you don’t want two states.
Deep inside Yakov there is a white Ashkenazi Israeli liberal, that dying breed. He knows the Jews are not going away; nor are the Palestinians.
Another rebukes him: “You prefer Syria? You prefer Egypt? Our ‘conflict’ is a haven of Middle East stability.”
And that brings us to our own position:
Yes, Israel is troubled but when viewing the neighborhood it is nevertheless an island of peace already.
Syria is fractured many-ways and outsiders are pouring in to bolster their preferred sides. In a short time it will be like in Spain in the thirties – it will be the foreigners fighting each other on Syrian soil – and with the US and Russia backing different sides – if not careful – a major conflagration might occur – right there on the door steps of Israel. Who can dare to tell the Israelis to return the Golan Heights to Syria under such conditions. Do the Palestinians have a dream of becoming another Syria? If there is any chance for the Israelis and Palestinians to get together – this can come only when these two sides decide that the Syrian model is even worse and that a model of Israeli-Palestinian trust – in order to avoid the Syrian model requires the end of Hamas militancy – the closing of the door to the Outside Hezbollah movement and a true attempt at making peace based on aq psychology of the best economic joint interests. This is not just a dream – it is Nobel Prize material indeed. Syria is doomed by the Arab World at large and this ought to be the cause of the awakening of the Palestinians who finally ought to get it that their enemies are not just the Israeli invaders but as well the Arab despots that never cared about them but used them for their own methods of shunning internal criticism of the way they exploited their own States.
Without mentioning anymore The American Petroleum Institute on its electronic masthead or Chinawatch, the new income source from advertising, some of today’s main Headline issues are still in the Muslim oil sales countries of Iran and the Arab world.
“Everyone who voted for me or for other candidates and also those who did not vote at all are all Iranian citizens and have equal civil rights,” Rouhani said. “I am the legal representative of the entire nation.”
Rouhani, who won a landslide victory in the June 14 presidential election, wasted no time in distinguishing his style from that of his often-provocative predecessor, delivering an inauguration speech that touched on his campaign promises of improving the country’s economy, mending international relations and giving greater social freedom to Iranians, but not at the expense of national interests.
For the first time, foreign dignitaries were invited to the swearing-in of an Iranian president. Diplomats from dozens of countries and several heads of state, including president of neighboring Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, attended the ceremony.
Rouhani also used his first speech as Iranian president to send a message to the United States and its Western allies, which have imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
“The only way to interact with Iran is to have dialogue from an equal position, creating mutual trust and respect and reducing enmities,” Rouhani said. “Let me state it clearly that if you want a positive response, talk to Iran not with a language of sanctions but a language of respect.”
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but the United States and its Western allies suspect that the country wants to build a nuclear weapon.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jay Carney congratulated Rouhani and said his inauguration “presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.”
“Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States,” Carney said in a statement.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1979.
Although foreign policy issues are a priority for Rouhani, so, too, are regaining the public trust and helping repair the damage suffered in recent years by Iran’s economy, which faces an inflation rate of more than 40 percent, decimated purchasing power and rising unemployment.
“The government of hope and prudence wants to bring back happiness to Iranians’ lives,” Rouhani said, referring to his campaign’s motto. “To achieve this, we have to increase national wealth and power, and assign those with wisdom as decision makers, trust nongovernmental organizations, increase privatization and have trust in people.”
The event was presided over by the powerful siblings Ali and Sadegh Larijani, who are the speaker of the parliament and the head of the country’s judiciary, respectively, and longtime foes of Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani is likely to find a parliament more willing to cooperate with him than it was with Ahmadinejad, who had multiple public spats with the Larijani brothers.
“The experience of recent years shows that development of the country is only possible by applying scientific theories and that hasty and unplanned projects will result in economic chaos in the long run,” Ali Larijani said in his opening remarks, an apparent jab at the conservative management style of the Ahmadinejad government.
Although Rouhani has repeatedly stated his commitment to improving Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, Sadegh Larijani provided a reminder that no matter how committed to diplomacy the new president is, he will face challenges domestically from political figures who believe that the country must adhere to its fundamental ideological roots.
“The Islamic republic, while respecting other nations and using their experiences, will follow its own path based on the teachings of the Koran and sees no reason to imitate other countries,” Larijani said.
In indirect references to the civil war in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rouhani stuck to Tehran’s familiar lines.
Iran, he said, opposes “any change in political systems through foreign intervention,” an apparent reference to Western and Arab efforts to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Rouhani also submitted his list of cabinet nominees for parliament’s consideration, well ahead of the two-week deadline allotted in Iran’s constitution. Their résumés indicate that he will push early in his presidency to find diplomatic openings, perhaps even with the United States.
Several of the cabinet picks were educated in the United States, including the nominee for foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was a longtime ambassador to the United Nations and is perhaps the Iranian official best known to U.S. counterparts.
Zarif held the U.N. post in New York from 2002 to 2007 under President Mohammad Khatami and holds a PhD in international law and policy from the University of Denver.
Like Zarif, other nominees share Rouhani’s pragmatic approach to foreign policy, and most held positions in the cabinets of either Khatami or Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The period from 1989 to 2005, when Rafsanjani and Khatami were presidents, is considered the brightest in terms of the economy and international relations in the Islamic republic’s 34-year-old history.
Muslim World Must Declare Zero Tolerance for Militant Jihadists.
By: Fahad Nazer for Al-Monitor Posted on July 28, 2013.
Islamo-fascism is a malicious term. It is meant to draw an analogy between the doctrines of contemporary militant Islamist groups and those of the defeated World War II Axis powers. Primarily used by people who are experts on neither Islam nor fascism, the term intends to stoke fears of “Islamic” armies marching across the world, oppressing non-Muslims and imposing Sharia. That is, unless they are first “stopped.”
While this narrative bolsters the argument of Islamist militants, who maintain that the West is waging a “crusade” against Muslims everywhere, Muslims are in dire need of a paradigm shift: They must re-evaluate the centrality of the doctrine of “jihad” in Islam, and consider its militant variant as more than a source of tension with the West.
Much like the ideology that brought unspeakable pain and destruction to the entire European continent and beyond, militant jihad — as opposed to its spiritual variant — must be seen as posing an existential threat to Muslim civilization.
As luck would have it, I was living in Washington, DC on Sept. 11, 2001; in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia on Nov. 20, 1979, when militants seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and declared the coming of the mahdi (the Islamic equivalent of the Messiah); and in Alexandria, Egypt on Oct. 6, 1981, when militants assassinated President Anwar Sadat. I have also had the misfortune of attending a handful of Friday sermons delivered by Anwar al-Awlaki — the al-Qaeda propagandist who was killed in Yemen in 2011 — when I lived in Virginia. Just as importantly, I analyze the discourse of militant Islamists for a living. The tendency of a small but vocal minority of Muslims to advocate violent actions to correct perceived injustices is a serious malady that should concern Muslims everywhere.
Extremists readily declare Muslims with whom they disagree over doctrinal — or even political — issues to be “unbelievers,” and enjoin their followers to defend “true” Muslims against these “collaborators” who are assisting the West in its onslaught against Islam. This call to arms resonates when it is framed in the context of ongoing political conflicts in which Muslims are portrayed as being besieged by the “enemies of God.” One can see this phenomenon most clearly in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Contrary to their rhetoric, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Somalia’s al-Shabab, the different variants of Ansar al-Sharia and a host of other militant groups, including Hezbollah, have not engaged in a war against the West: Their victims have overwhelmingly been other Muslims.
A 2010 study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point confirmed what many of us Muslims knew all along: 85% of al-Qaeda’s victims between 2004 and 2008 lived in Muslim-majority nations. A more recent study by the RAND Corporation similarly found that about 98% of al-Qaeda’s attacks between 1998 and 2011 were “part of an insurgency where operatives tried to overthrow a local government or secede from it — and were not in the West.”
The ruthless terrorist attacks in places as varied as Baghdad, Peshawar, Sanaa, Algiers, Kandahar, Riyadh, Amman, Mogadishu and Timbuktu show the dubious nature of the militants’ claims. Both Sunni and Shiite militants who have jumped into the fray in Syria have characterized their brutal attacks against Muslims of the opposing sect as “jihad.”
While the West is mostly concerned with sporadic terrorist attacks that Islamist militants have conducted in cities such as New York, Madrid and London, Muslims should be more concerned about the sustained onslaught against Muslim-majority states. In places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, militants have eroded not only any semblance of peace and stability, but have injected an insidious sectarianism that has seriously weakened social fabrics. It is no wonder that nations where militants have established a foothold and continue to contest state legitimacy find themselves topping the lists of failed states year after year.
Oddly enough, the country most often singled out as the main “exporter” of militant Islam across the globe — Saudi Arabia — seems to appreciate the danger that this politicized jihad poses to Muslims more than most. While Saudi authorities have not completely expunged jihadist rhetoric from public discourse — the presence of Saudis among militants in Syria indicates that more work is needed — the multi-pronged approach Saudis have implemented to uproot militants and their ideology aims to delegitimize the notion that engaging in violence is the ultimate act of religious devotion.
The Saudi counter-terrorism effort has been part security operation, part public awareness campaign. Although authorities have arrested hundreds of militants and killed many of their leaders, it is the pre-emptive measures that authorities have taken that are the most noteworthy, as they target the root of the problem.
Saudi authorities suspended hundreds of mosque imams and school teachers who espoused militant views. They also apprehended militant sympathizers and put hundreds of them through rehabilitation programs that aim for the renouncement of their violent views. They have even revised their school curriculum, and tried to more narrowly define and limit the concept of jihad: when Muslims can wage it and who can declare it. Mosque imams have also been warned not to deliver politically charged sermons.
This holistic, zero-tolerance approach should be attempted in other Muslim-majority countries. Thousands of Muslims have already paid with their lives. To say that millions more lives are at stake is not an exaggeration.
Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/original…
Coal, tar sands and their pipelines, and fracked shale gas, just do not mix with wind, solar and water. At 400ppm, Reverend Billy and his choir will lead the green children in a protest when Obama is in New York Town Monday May 13, 2013 so he notes that 350ppm is the acceptable limit.
United Against Pipelines, Forward on Climate! Tomorrow, Monday May 13th, New Yorkers will march and rally to greet President Obama when he attends a fundraiser in NYC––his first visit since his post-Sandy inspection. In his Inaugural Address just a few months ago, Obama promised “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
Join us if you stand against fossil fuel pipelines, against fracking, against tar sands, and FOR a country powered by wind, water and solar.
Gather in Bryant Park starting at 5 (meet near the fountain off 6th avenue at 41st Street). Reverend Billy and his choir will lead us off with a rousing blessing and song. We’ll begin to march at , then rally in front of the Waldorf Astoria at .
If you can, please wear yellow and orange (the colors of Occupy Sandy) to demonstrate your support for a clean energy future.
Event Partners: 350 NYC, 350 NJ, 350.org, Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP), CREDO, CUNY Divest, Food & Water Watch, Global Kids Inc., Green Party of NY, Human Impacts Institute, NYC Friends of Clearwater, NYU Divest, Occupy the Pipeline, Occupy Sandy, Restore the Rock, Sane Energy Project, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Sierra Club National, United for Action, World Can’t Wait, WESPAC, YANA (You Are Never Alone).
Chasing Islamists in the Mountains of Mali, or is it the Dunes? What goes on in Sahelistan – Is this a new Islamistan? Is it a fight for resources? A World of Multi-Partnerships? Will there be an AZAWAD?
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Our old posting is:
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad – National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.
04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
Thank you very much.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad, Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
Under French rule
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux. The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils. The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
The new Pope Kissed the Feet of a Muslim Woman in an Italian Prison this Easter, and Professor Juan Cole finds here a good place to reject the Catholic Islamophobes who criticised the Pope’s move, and he said that a poor Muslim woman is now the lowest standing person in global societies.
Dear Rightwing Catholic Islamophobes.
By Professor Juan Cole on his blog
31 March 13
ope Francis on Maundy Thursday declined to address enormous crowds. Instead he went to a prison to emulate Jesus’s act of humility before his crucifixion in washing the feet of his 12 disciples. The pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 inmates, two of them women and two of them Muslim (one of the women was Muslim). It is reported that some of the prisoners broke down in tears.
Pope Francis’s willingness to wash the feet of a Muslim woman shows his concern for the very lowest stratum of society. Europe has millions of Muslims, and some are well off and well integrated into society. But many Muslims who immigrated into France and Italy for work got caught when the jobs dried up, and live in poor areas of the cities, being excluded from mainstream society or much hope of betterment. Women have lower status than men in such communities, so a poor Muslim woman in jail is just about the bottom of the social scale.
Pope Francis is from Argentina, which has a large, successful Arab-heritage community that includes Muslims, and he is said to have deeply disagreed with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, over the latter’s Regensburg speech in which he said things that Muslims found insulting.
The thing that strikes me about all this is that there is a small strand of American Catholic conservatism that frankly despises both the poor and Muslims, and is one of the pillars of prejudice against Muslims (some call it Islamophobia) in the United States. Most Catholics in opinion polls have a more positive view of Islam and Muslims than is common among evangelical Protestants, but the rightwingers among them have a thing about Muslims (and about poor people).
An example is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. Rep. Peter King of New York also comes to mind. Robert Spencer has made a career of defaming Islam and Muslims. Then there is professional bully Sean Hannity of Faux News. Paul Ryan uses the insulting language of “Islamic fascism” (fascism is a Western invention; most fascists in history have been of Christian heritage; and it has nothing to do with the Muslim faith). Ryan, far from serving the poor, wants to cut social services to them by savaging the government budget, and openly boasts of following prophet of selfishness Ayn Rand.
These purveyors of hate speech against Muslims claim to be Catholics, and some of them are annoyingly Ultramontane, insisting on papal infallibility and trying to impose their values on all Americans.
Yet the person they hold to be the vicar of Christ has just given humankind a different charge, of humility and of service to the least in society, many of whom are Muslims.
So when will we see Rudy Giuliani, Sean Hannity and the others go to a prison to comfort inmates, and serve the Muslims among them? When will we see them kiss a Muslim’s feet? Or are they cafeteria Catholics, parading only the values that accord with their Ayn Rand heresy?
Since 2007 we have posted quite a few of the events Prof. Juan Cole expressed an opinion about them.
“Statelessness as the Core of the Palestinian Issue”
Dr. Juan Cole
The Palestine Center
The Israeli-Palestinian issue makes the area one of the world’s longest-running geopolitical hotspots. It has been characterized as a territorial dispute, or a refugee problem, or even a problem of terrorism. It has been the subject of negotiations and agreements that always seem to fall apart. Dr. Juan Cole argues that the core of the issue is the statelessness of the Palestinians and that all the other problems stem from this condition. He will explore the meaning of statelessness for human and civil rights, property rights, and standing in negotiations, as well with regard to international regimes of law and diplomacy.
Dr. Juan R.I. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia and has given numerous media interviews on the war on terrorism and the Iraq War. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (2009), and his Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East was published in 2007.
Cole was the recipient of the Hudson Research Professorship in 2003, the National Endowment for the Humanities grant in 1991, and the Fulbright-Hays Islamic Civilization Postdoctoral Award in 1985-86. In November 2004, he was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and in 2006 was the recipient of Hunter College’s James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Since 2002, he has published the blog Informed Comment.
Sergey Biryukov and David Faiman of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Israel National Solar Energy Center, developed a – Dusting Off Solar Panels With an Electric Charge Sytem – to be used immediately by the evolving Solar Energy industry in the Arab Desert Lands.
An ongoing review of President Obama’s Comet swiping the Middle East and what next. This first Update includes the brilliant Obama Jerusalem Speech of March 21, 2013 (by coincidence the Summer Equinox of Spring Renewal, Nowruz, and Passover), Rabbi Michael Lerner’s reaction, and Uri Avnery’s pre-speech draft.
In Jerusalem – March 20, 2013:
In Jerusalem – March 21, 2013 – In the Binyanei Haumah – to the People of Israel and the Arab World as well – before an audience of Israeli students and others.
(Obama’s full speech and Rabbi Michael Lerner’s reaction included in this posting.)
Obama’s charm offensive was the top story in today’s Israeli papers, which decidedly agreed: it was a success! But on the tough subjects, Maariv reports that there were no understandings between the US President and the Israeli Prime Minister on the red line for Iran.
It began working almost as soon as he stepped off the plane. When Obama gave his arrival speech on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport, he broke the hostile image he had among Israelis. He began by declaring what he didn’t in his 2009 Cairo speech: that Jews have a 3000-year connection to the land of Israel. This has long been a sore point between Israelis and Obama. Indeed, even the pro-settler party chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Naftali Bennett, said so afterward. Israel Hayom wrote that many observers consider it a reversal of his Cairo speech – in which he said that Israel was born from the Holocaust. Morevoer, he didn’t even mention a Palestinian state, whereas both President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu both did. Netanyahu called the visit a “historic moment” and thanked Obama profusely for his support of Israel.
The sense of warmth and lack of formality was highlighted in the Israeli media. Walking down the red carpet Obama took off his jacket and was followed by Netanyahu. The photo of the two of them jacketless was on the front page of all the papers, noting the casual friendliness between them. Even better were the jokes. Instructed to follow the red lines marked on the floor at the airport, Obama jokingly referred to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “He’s always talking about red lines.” Netanyahu answered: “It was carefully planned.” See the video here of the best of Obama’s airport comments. Also, you can hear his fairly long exchange with Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid, who also said he believes he will soon be prime minister. At the airport the operators of the Iron Dome anti-missile battery awaited him and said afterwards they were moved by Obama’s ‘warmth.’ Ynet reported that there was criticism from the US media, which said his visit was symbolic, not substantial. They called his visit a photo-op.
But commentators say Obama’s goal is to make the Israelis like him so that later he can convince them to make peace (see commentary below.) Atlantic magazine columnist, Jeffrey Goldberg told Haaretz+ that Obama is using his visit to ‘create the space to combat Israeli policy.’ He also said that ‘The president is a faithful representative of those American liberals who love Israel but don’t quite understand the path Israel is taking.’ Later, at Peres’ official residence, Obama even charmed Israeli kids who sang to him upon his arrival.
Full text of Obama’s BRILLIANT speech in Jerusalem – March 21, 2013 – The Spring Equinox – A TIME OF RENEWAL:
“So long as there is a United States of America, ah-tem lo lah-vahd” (you are not alone). “
The full text of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to Israeli students in Jerusalem on March 21, 2013.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel. Thank you. I bring with me the support of the American people — and the friendship that binds us together.
Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs. This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation. Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.
But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people — especially so many young people who are here today — to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.
Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet. That’s the only thing that was going on. We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material.
I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday — the celebration of Passover. And that is where I would like to begin today.
Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods. After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House. I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.
It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah. It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land. And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become. But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.
It’s a part of the three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred. And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.
In the United States — a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew — we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land. To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.
For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon. For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.
Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we also know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world. That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations. It means us working through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.
As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.
For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide. Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland. That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.
Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins. And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora — welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.
Israel has built a prosperous nation — through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space. Israel has established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties, and a tireless free press, and a lively public debate -– “lively” may even be an understatement.
And Israel has achieved all this even as it’s overcome relentless threats to its security — through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror.
This is the story of Israel. This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life. And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America.
Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, “I believe it has a glorious future before it not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” And since then, we’ve built a friendship that advances our shared interests.
Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our own countries. Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.
But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders. America is a nation of immigrants. America is strengthened by diversity. America is enriched by faith. We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws. We’re fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to reimagine and renew our union once more. So in Israel, we see values that we share, even as we recognize what makes us different. That is an essential part of our bond.
Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times. We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries, and we face dangers and upheaval around the world. And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we’ll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.
But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy, their ambition always gives me hope.
And I see the same spirit in the young people here today. I believe that you will shape our future. And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours. (Audience interruption.)
No, no — this is part of the lively debate that we talked about. This is good. You know, I have to say we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.
I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say “we,” in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times — security, peace and prosperity.
Let me begin with security. I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger. Never. More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge. These are the facts. These aren’t my opinions, these are facts. But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet. I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal.
Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues. When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.
That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself. And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
When I think about Israel’s security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families. That’s why every country that values justice should call Hezbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.
The fact that Hezbollah’s ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists. The world is watching; we will hold you accountable.
The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power. Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin. Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them.
These are the things I think about when I think about Israel’s security. When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.
But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism. It would undermine the non-proliferation regime. It would spark an arms race in a volatile region. And it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.
That’s why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing. It is isolated. Its economy is in dire straits. Its leadership is divided. And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.
I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Peace is far more preferable to war. And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That’s what America will do, with clear eyes — working with a world that’s united, and with the sense of urgency that’s required.
But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day. You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist. Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world. Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state. Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.
So that’s what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges –- that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it. And that’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important. It cannot be taken for granted.
But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad. You are not alone.
The question is what kind of future Israel will look forward to. Israel is not going anywhere — but especially for the young people in this audience, the question is what does its future hold? And that brings me to the subject of peace.
I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets. Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis — maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today — are skeptical that it can be achieved.
But today, Israel is at a crossroads. It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers. There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention. And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future. I recognize that.
I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace. I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future. And that’s part of a democracy. That’s part of the discourse between our two countries. I recognize that. But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends. I also believe that.
Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.
First, peace is necessary. I believe that. I believe that peace is the only path to true security. You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future. Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine. That is true.
There are other factors involved. Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war. Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.
And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world. I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace. Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over. Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.
No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions. No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda. But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division. It would make a difference.
So peace is necessary. But peace is also just. Peace is also just. There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities. That is all true. And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement. And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations. It has to be done by the parties. But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.
Put yourself in their shoes. Look at the world through their eyes. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own. Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.
I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say,
I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them. I believe that.
Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have. But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.
As Ariel Sharon said — I’m quoting him — “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel. If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.” Or, from a different perspective, I think of what the novelist David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace — “A peace of no choice” he said, “must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice.”
Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. I believe that. And they have a track record to prove it. Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago. So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.
There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point: Peace is possible. It is possible. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed. I can’t even say that it is more likely than not. But it is possible. I know it doesn’t seem that way. There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk. There are costs for failure. There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act.
I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo. And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, “Ah, enough. Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control.” But it’s possible.
Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples. Two states for two peoples.
There will be differences about how to get there. There are going to be hard choices along the way. Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed. The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity, or government corruption or mismanagement — those days need to be over. Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.
Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security. Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.
I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks. But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process. I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people.
Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people — politically, religiously, they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.
That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people. Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections — that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.
And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
I know this is possible. Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today. Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope. Your hopes must light the way forward.
Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that. And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children — a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time.
There will be many who say this change is not possible, but remember this — Israel is the most powerful country in this region. Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world. Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but — this is in your nature — Israel also has the courage to see the world as it should be.
Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change. That’s a lesson that the world has learned from the Jewish people.
And that brings me to the final area that I’ll focus on: prosperity, and Israel’s broader role in the world. I know that all the talk about security and peace can sometimes seem to dominate the headlines, but that’s not where people live. And every day, even amidst the threats that you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities that you’re creating.
Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy.
Israelis understand the value of education and have produced 10 Nobel laureates. Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors. And that spirit has led to economic growth and human progress — solar power and electric cars, bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives, stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease, cell phones and computer technology that changed the way people around the world live.
So if people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers. Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.
That innovation is just as important to the relationship between the United States and Israel as our security cooperation. Our first free trade agreement in the world was reached with Israel, nearly three decades ago. Today the trade between our two countries is at $40 billion every year. More importantly, that partnership is creating new products and medical treatments; it’s pushing new frontiers of science and exploration.
That’s the kind of relationship that Israel should have — and could have — with every country in the world. Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region. There’s a program here in Jerusalem that brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business. An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups. Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank — which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people.
One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for — education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy — those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity.
Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy. And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.
Here, in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history, so much triumph and so much tragedy, Israelis have built something that few could have imagined 65 years ago. Tomorrow, I will pay tribute to that history — at the grave of Herzl, a man who had the foresight to see the future of the Jewish people had to be reconnected to their past; at the grave of Rabin, who understood that Israel’s victories in war had to be followed by the battles for peace; at Yad Vashem, where the world is reminded of the cloud of evil that can descend on the Jewish people and all of humanity if we ever fail to be vigilant.
We bear all that history on our shoulders. We carry all that history in our hearts. Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you — the young people of Israel — must now claim its future. It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.
And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend — I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead. And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam -) — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world. That’s your job.
That’s my job. That’s the task of all of us.
May God bless you. May God bless Israel. May God bless the United States of America. Toda raba. Thank you.
Were the two most important Islamist leaders of the Sahara killed? What was the part of France and Japan in the fight to exterminate the rebels that became active when the Algerian military coup tried to stop Islamists from taking over the government by the elective process.
What does the following mean when viewing what we got to call the Arab Spring and the dichotomy between twigs of democracy hope and trunks of solid Middle Ages religious zeal?
Al-Qaida loses key leader in Africa
Mastermind of Algeria attack ‘killed in Mali.’
AP, Kyodo, The Japan Times on-line, March 4, 2o13
N’DJAMENA – Chad’s military chief announced late Saturday that his troops deployed in northern Mali had killed Moktar Belmoktar, the terrorist who orchestrated the attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria that left 36 foreigners dead.
Local officials in Kidal, the northern town that is being used as the base for the military operation, cast doubt on the assertion, saying Chadian officials are attempting to score a PR victory to make up for the significant losses they have suffered in recent days.
Belmoktar’s profile soared after the mid-January attack and mass hostage-taking on a huge Algerian gas plant, during which 10 Japanese employees of engineering firm JGC Corp. were killed. His purported death comes a day after Chad’s president said his troops had killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaida commander operating in northern Mali.
If both deaths are confirmed, it would mean that the international intervention in Mali had succeeded in decapitating two of the pillars of al-Qaida in the Sahara.
“Chad’s armed forces in Mali have completely destroyed a base used by jihadists and narcotraffickers in the Adrar and Ifoghas mountains” of northern Mali, Chief of Staff Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue said. “The provisional toll is as follows: Several terrorists killed, including Moktar Belmoktar.”
The French military moved into Mali on Jan. 11 to push back militants linked to Belmoktar and Abou Zeid and other extremist groups who had imposed harsh Islamic rule in the north of the vast country and who were seen as an international terrorist threat.
France is trying to rally other African troops to help in the military campaign, since Mali’s military is weak and poor. Chadian troops have offered the most robust reinforcement.
In Paris, French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said he had “no information” on the possibility that Belmoktar was dead. The Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the report.
Belmoktar, an Algerian, is believed to be in his 40s, and like his intermittent partner, Abou Zeid, he began on the path to terrorism after Algeria’s secular government voided the 1991 election won by an Islamic party. Both men joined the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, and later its offshoot, the GSPC, a group that carried out suicide bombings on Algerian government targets.
Around 2003, both men crossed into Mali, where they began a lucrative kidnapping business, snatching European tourists, aid workers, government employees and even diplomats and holding them for ransom.
The Algerian terrorist cell amassed a significant war chest, and joined the al-Qaida fold in 2006, renaming itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Belmoktar claims he trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s, including in one of Osama bin Laden’s camps. It was there that he reportedly lost an eye, earning him the nickname “Laaouar,” Arabic for “one-eyed.”
Until last December, Belmoktar and Abou Zeid headed separate brigades under the flag of al-Qaida’s chapter in the Sahara. But after reports of infighting between the two, Belmoktar peeled off, announcing the creation of his own terrorist unit, still loyal to the al-Qaida ideology but separate from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
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‘Darker Sides’: The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of ‘Sahelistan.’
By Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke
This article originally appeared in German in issue 5/2013 (January 28, 2013) of DER SPIEGEL and reached us via UNWire.
There is an old church in the Niger River town of Diabaly. It was built in the days when Mali was still a colony known as French Sudan. The stone cross on the gable of the church had never bothered anyone since the French left 50 years ago and Mali became independent, even though some 90 percent of Malians are Muslim.
Now, what is left of the cross lies scattered on the ground. For the Islamists who overran Diabaly two weeks ago, bringing down the stone symbol was worth a bazooka round. They also smashed the altar and toppled wooden statuettes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
But their reign of terror in Diabaly lasted only a few days — until the French returned. Acting on orders of French President François Hollande, French troops fired on the Islamists’ pickup trucks from the air, striking them one at a time with apparent surgical precision. According to local residents, not a single civilian died in the airstrikes.
By Tuesday morning, the last of the extremist fighters had disappeared into the bush, fleeing on foot in small groups, likely headed north.
The church has been declared off-limits, for fear that it may have been booby-trapped by the Islamists. But the colonel in charge of the French troops in the area, a muscular man with close-cropped hair, says proudly: “Diabaly is safe again.”
France’s advance northward continued through the weekend, with the military announcing they had seized control of both Gao and, on Monday morning, Timbuktu. Just as they had in Diabaly, the Islamists melted away in front of the advancing force. But they will not disappear entirely.
Larger than All of Europe
Northern Mali is just one part of the vast hinterland in which the Islamists can hide. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius refers to the rocky and sandy desert, spanning 7,500 kilometers (about 4,700 miles) from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east, as “Sahelistan.” The Sahel zone is larger than all of Europe and so impassable that no power in the world can fully control it. The French have deployed all of 2,400 troops to the region, the Germans have contributed two transport planes.
Sahelistan is the new front in the global fight against violent Islamists. Should other countries — Germany or Britain, for example — join the French with ground troops, it is quite possible that the West will become just as entrenched there as it has in the other front against global terror: Afghanistan.
The Sahel zone is a lawless region. It begins in the southern part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, where the power of the Arab countries begins to fade, and where the already weak sub-Saharan countries like Mali, Niger and Chad were never able to gain a foothold. It is a no-man’s land honeycombed with smugglers’ roads and drug routes, an El Dorado for the lawless and fanatics.
The war has become increasingly brutal. Although an Islamist faction from Kidal in northern Mali announced on Wednesday that it was willing to negotiate, there was also news of atrocities committed by the Malian army, which reportedly killed at least 30 people as it advanced northward. Eyewitnesses say that people were shot to death at the bus terminal in the central Malian town of Sévaré. An army lieutenant made no secret of his hatred for the insurgents, saying: “They were Islamists. We’re killing them. If we don’t they will kill us.”
After the Arab spring and the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, many hoped that terrorism could finally be drawing to a close. But even former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi once predicted that chaos and holy war would erupt if he were toppled. “Bin Laden’s people would take over the country,” Gadhafi said.
Now it is becoming apparent that his prophecy applies to even larger swathes of the desert. The crisis in northern Mali and the ensuing bloodbath at the natural gas plant in Algeria are only two indications. In northern Niger, Islamists are targeting white foreigners, hoping to kidnap them and extort ransom money. In northern Nigeria, fighters with the Islamist sect Boko Haram attacked yet another town last week. They shot and killed 18 people, including a number of hunters who had been selling game there, and then disappeared again. Muslims consider the flesh of bush animals to be impure.
‘One of the Darker Sides’
On Sept. 11 of last year, Islamists murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three embassy employees in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Last Thursday, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands withdrew their citizens from Libya, fearing new attacks.
In Sudan’s embattled Darfur region, militias hired by the Islamist junta were harassing the local population until recently. And in Somalia, Kenyan and Ugandan soldiers are trying to drive back the fundamentalist Al-Shabaab militants.
Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group referred to it as “one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” in a recent conversation with the New York Times. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged al-Qaida and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
Islamism in the Sahel zone is backward and modern at the same time, ideologically rigid and perversely pragmatic. In Timbuktu, fanatics are cutting off the hands and heads of criminals, and yet the Islamists have become wealthy by taking over the cocaine and weapons business, as well as human trafficking operations.
Sahelistan’s new masters are forging alliances with local insurgents and internationally operating jihadists. In Mali, they took over the unrecognized state of Azawad, formed after a Tuareg rebellion in April 2012 — a relatively easy task, after many Tuareg switched sides and joined the ranks of the Islamists. Ansar Dine, the largest Islamist group with its roughly 1,500 fighters, consists largely of Tuareg tribesmen.
After Islamists had captured the Malian city of Gao in June 2012, journalist Malick Aliou Maïga observed delegations of bearded men going to see the new rulers almost daily. “They were supporters from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Qatar. They were bringing money.”
Cynical Political Opportunist
Al-Qaida and its splinter groups in Sahelistan are no longer under the command of a charismatic leader like Osama bin Laden. Instead, they have many commanders, including ruthless fighters like Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is held responsible for the attack at the In Amenas natural gas plant, the largest terrorist incident since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In Mali, there is Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, a cynical political opportunist.
These people pose an enormous threat in West Africa. Neighboring countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have only recently emerged from civil wars and could plunge back into chaos at any time. It stands to reason that members of the West African economic community ECOWAS were the first to join France by deploying troops to Mali, beginning with a contingent of 1,750 soldiers.
General Carter Ham, commander of the US Army’s Africa Command, told the Telegraph that the “growing linkage, network collaboration, organization and synchronization” among the various terrorist groups in the region is what “poses the greatest threat to regional stability and ultimately to Europe.”
Only one border separates Mali’s extremists from the Mediterranean, the 1,376-kilometer border between Mali and Algeria. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 75, still controls Algeria with an iron fist. Nevertheless, Algeria is the birthplace of Salafism in the Maghreb region, the radical Muslim school of thought that many extremist groups, including Al-Qaida, invoke today.
In the late 1980s, the regime permitted the first Islamist party in the region, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). When the FIS seemed headed for victory in the 1991 elections, there was a military coup. The FIS then went underground and fought a brutal war of terror against Algiers that claimed up to 200,000 lives.
The combatants who became radicalized at the time include Abdelmalek Droukdel, born in northern Algeria in 1970. As an adolescent, Droukdel joined the mujahedin and fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Upon his return, Droukdel and others formed the “Salafist Group for Call and Combat,” which is now called “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM). The group has long since moved beyond its original goal of overthrowing the government in Algiers. Instead, its leaders dream of establishing a caliphate across all of Sahelistan.
Not Particularly Successful
Droukdel’s fiercest adversary is the Algerian intelligence chief, Mohammed Mediène, trained by the KGB in the former Soviet Union. He has headed the fight against the Islamists for years and takes an unrelenting approach that categorically excludes negotiating with terrorists.
Mediène is a difficult partner for the West. He was likely the one responsible for ordering the Algerian army to storm the natural gas plant in the desert in the week before last. Algerian special forces opened fire on the terrorists, despite the risk to the lives of hundreds of hostages. The assault ended in the deaths of about 40 foreign hostages.
In the other countries of the Sahel zone, however, regular military forces tend to be on the losing end against Islamist insurgents. A year ago, the Ansar Dine extremists overran the Malian army within only a few weeks. The troops in the region are all as weak and corrupt as the countries that deploy them. They are poorly equipped and the soldiers suffer from poor morale, partly because the men must often wait months for their pay.
The US is seeking to arm the countries in the region to combat the threat from the desert with a secret US government program called “Creek Sand.” Washington has stationed small aircraft in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and at various other strategically important locations in the region. The Pilatus PC-12 aircraft are unarmed but filled with state-of-the-art surveillance technology. The information they gather as they fly over the desert is meant to help local military leaders in the hunt for terrorists, but the program has not been particularly successful thus far.
Whether brutal military action, such as that which took place in Algeria, will deter Islamists is also disputed. The countries of Sahelistan are among the poorest in the world, and the region is regularly plagued by famine. “A young person from there has no chance of leading a good life,” says deposed Malian President Amadou Touré.
‘You Don’t Even Recognize Them’
The terrorists, on the other hand, are comparatively well off, offering young men a monthly salary of about €90 ($121). Each recruit also receives a Kalashnikov, daily meals and a modicum of power over the rest of the population.
Shortly after recruitment, the new fighters are sent to training camps called Katibas, many of them in northern Mali and along the eastern border with Mauritania. In addition to receiving training with machine guns and hand grenades, the recruits also study the Koran. “You don’t even recognize them when they come back from there,” says a Tuareg tribesman in Bamako.
Experts say that the Islamist fighters in Mali are generally better equipped and better fed than government soldiers. They have rocket-propelled grenades, SA-7 rockets and other modern weaponry. Their main weapons are the poor man’s tanks known as “technicals” — pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the bed, and bags of ammunition hanging off the sides for the fighters on foot.
After the collapse of the Libyan regime, most of the weapons and ammunition were stolen from Gadhafi’s weapons stores, mostly by the dictator’s former Tuareg mercenaries. Fresh supplies of ordnance aren’t a problem either, now that Africa’s Islamists are hoarding many millions of dollars.
A little over three years ago, Malian police officers made a strange discovery in northern Mali: a Boeing 727, parked in the middle of the desert, without seats but apparently equipped for carrying cargo. It was found that the plane was registered in Guinea-Bissau and had taken off from Venezuela.
The find confirmed the authorities’ fears that South American cocaine cartels are sending large quantities of drugs to West Africa, sometimes using aircraft. Gangs that cooperate with the Islamists then take the drugs to the Mediterranean region. The business is said to have generated billions in profits.
‘Throats Are Slit Like Chickens’
Kidnappings are the Islamists’ second financing mainstay. “Many Western countries pay enormous sums to jihadists,” scoffs Omar Ould Hamaha, an Islamist commander who feels so safe in the western Sahara that he can sometimes even be reached by phone. Experts estimate that AQIM has raked in €100 million in ransom money in recent years.
About half of the kidnappings have ended violently. Boko Haram terrorists murdered a German engineer in northern Nigeria a year ago, and French engineers are often targeted. France depends on Niger for uranium and the state-owned nuclear conglomerate Areva is mining there on a large scale. It’s impossible to completely protect Areva’s employees. Two years ago, kidnappers even ventured into the dusty Nigerien capital Niamey, where they kidnapped two Frenchmen from a restaurant.
For the victims, being kidnapped usually marks the beginning of an ordeal lasting months or even years. To shake off pursuers, the Islamists constantly move their hostages across hundreds of kilometers of desert, either in the beds of their pickup trucks or in marches that can last weeks. Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler titled his book about his time in the hands of extremists “A Season in Hell.”Fowler was released in April 2009, after 130 days in captivity. Ottawa denies having paid ransom money. The Frenchmen kidnapped in Niamey, however, died when a French special forces unit tried to liberate them. “At the slightest sign of an attack, the prisoners throats are slit like chickens,” says Islamist leader Hamaha.
At least seven European hostages are currently waiting somewhere in the desert to be rescued — at least that’s what security forces hope. Islamists have threatened to kill them all, as revenge for the air strikes France has now launched in Mali.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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Abu Dhabi’s Sustainability Week – Green Prophet Was There!!!
UNSG Ban Ki-moon, who has difficulty doing business with the permanent missions in New York, finds it much more promissing when he travels to Davos, Switzerland. From Davos the UNSG also Addressed by video the Commemoration of the Holocaust and of Rescuers – those few that refused to denny their own humanity.
Take for instance the problem called Syria that after 60,000 people killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced, during 2011-2012 continuing now in the same way - or a two years of disaster – still does not move the UN Security Council seat-holders to find a way to control the centripetal forces in that Member State.
Arriving to Davos on Thursday morning – to the World Economic Forum – first action of Mr. Ban Ki-moon took was to deliver a special address focusing on Syria and the African Sahel region. The address was noticed by governments, business, and civil society. A unity must be found that allows meaningful action and humanitarian and political efforts must be given security cover. He met the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in this context. He also spoke at a meeting on water resources and connected the events in the North Africa – Middle East MENA States to active effects of drought and Climate Change and people migration that spill over to neighboring States that also suffer from environmental degradation.
On the one end of this arc of destruction – by fighting people and by disaster creating activities elsewhere – Mr. Ban Ki-moon met with the Prime Minister of Lebanon – H.E. Mr. Najib Milkati, and a large group of US Members of Congress from the Republican Party – Messrs. Eric Cantor (Virginia), Jeff Fortenberry (Nebraska), Mario Diaz-Balart (Florida), Darrell Issa (Californis), and Ms Kay Granger (Texas). With this unusual group questions of Human Rights and UN reform were as important as the Middle East Peace Process between Israel and its neighbors, as the unrest in the Sahel region on the other side of the MENA arc of destruction and its neighbors of the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, and West Africa.
Regarding Mali, Mr. Ban warned that the crisis is deepening with repeated reports of sexual violence, child soldiers, and reprisals by the Malian army against Tuareg and Arab populations. The African story repeats itself now also in the Western part of the Sahel. A toxic mix of poverty, extreme climatic conditions, weak institutions, drug smuggling, and the easy availability of weapons, is causing now also in this rather new region the dangerous insecurity we know from the other parts of MENA and its neighboring States.
The UNSG came to Davos in order to tell to whoever will listen that the problems of Mali engulf 18 million people of the Sahel, and if we want to address the problems – the whole set of problems will have to be addressed. Ditto when looking at Darfur and the region stretching into the Horn of Africa.
Mr. Ban took a look also at Egypt and Bahrain and expressed his wishes that these two States do not regress into difficult situations as well.
Regarding Mr. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq misadventure into Kuwait, the UN panel allocated from Iraq funds the equivalent of $1.3 billion as reparations to Kuwait.
While the UNSG was making these presentations to leaders, academics, and business tycoons in Davos, his Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr.Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal presented the Ban Ki-moon video address to the 2013 International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in the UN General Assembly Hall at the New York City Headquarters of the UN. This year’s Memorial Ceremony was held under the secondary title: “THE COURAGE TO CARE.”
The Holocaust, though a very special event without anything in human history to compare it with, according to Mr. Jan Karski, one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Jerusalem Yad Vashem, for his efforts to inform the World of the extermination of the Jews activities of the Nazis of the German Reich, ought nevertheless be remembered when watching crimes performed in full TV light before our eyes and right in front of us.
Jan Karski was awarded posthumously, by President Obama in 2012, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. and the UN lobby has now an exhibit on display about him as his book “Story of a Secret State” was released this year with details of US inaction while he provided information of what was going on in Europe during WWII. He started out as a Polish Nationalist, but even though faced with the dismemberment of the Polish State – he recognized that what was happening to the Jews was immensely worse.
The US Lobby is displaying as well material about the Holocaust, the extermination machine and the Righteous people who even by saving the life of just one Jew – got themselves the right to be considered as if they saved the whole world. Considering that the UN is ever so often visited by Holocaust deniers, and the UN continuously watching crimes being committed by member States – the event at Headquarters was at least just as important, if not more, as what the UNSG was trying to achieve in Davos.
We bring thus the text of the UNSG video presentation to those assembled at the UN General Assembly Hall on Friday, January 25, 2013.
25 January 2013
Secretary-General, in Memorial Message for Holocaust Victims Day, Hails‘Unsung Heroes’ Who Risked All to Help Targets of Persecution.
The original title was:
VIDEO MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST.
Airing 25 January 2013
It is a great pleasure to greet all the good friends of the United Nations who have gathered for this observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. I welcome in particular the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who have joined this solemn ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Courage is a rare and precious commodity. Today, we celebrate those who had the courage to care. Throughout the Second World War, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and others who failed to conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection were systematically murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
But some were able to avoid the slaughter. They escaped because a few brave souls risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews and other victims of persecution from almost certain death. Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others helped families to obtain safe passage.
Some of the accounts of the rescuers have achieved iconic prominence. But many are known only to those whose lives were saved. This year’s observance is meant to give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve. I thank the Righteous among the Nations Programme at Yad Vashem, which is celebrating its fiftieth year, for identifying and rewarding them. The Holocaust and the United Nations programme has produced an education package on the rescuers that will be used in classrooms around the world.
I also congratulate another crucial partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on its twentieth anniversary. Its theme of “Never Again: What You Do Matters” resonates deeply.
Acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend. But the examples of the brave men and women we celebrate today also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.
On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care — the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity. Their example is as relevant today as ever.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant. Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.
The League of Arab States urges Arab Israelis to vote in Israel’s elections – their reason may be unfriendly but THIS IS AN ALL-STATES RECOGNITION DE FACTO OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL – and that is a good start. If the Arab citizens vote they could win up to 20% of the Knesset seats and form a voting bloc to impact the formation of a stable ruling coalition.
We have read of the death of 23 foreigners and many more Algerians in the fight between Algeria’s secular generals and the Islamist take-over of gas fields in this OPEC-member Nation. Had the industrialized countries made themselves independent of the slavery to the petroleum use in their economies – this would not have happened and, who-knows, perhaps there would not have been an Al-Qaeda either. But, nevertheless, considering the world we live in, and the dependence on oil and gas imported from the Islamic countries that benefits only the ruling few of those countries, all we can afford to do now is applaud the resolute handling of the resultant marauders.
We thus applaud the unilateral decisiveness of the Algerians, the decision of France to bomb in Mali and to lead the West Africans and hopefully some of the Maghreb Arabs as well, while we applaud as well the retreat of the West from Iraq and Afghanistan. This because the West did it all wrong in the above two countries, while Algeria and France did it right this time. With Al-Qaeda you do not negotiate – but you also should not go into a country just because of its oil. Had the US just overthrown Saddam and left the Iraqis handle their own affairs without staying in the country, that would have been fine – but the US went there for the oil, and forgot Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan while thinking only of potential pipelines for Central Asian oil. This created only more Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda clones.
And some of the West’s hadwringing as reported from Bamako, Mali:
Although the Algerian government declared an end to the militants’ siege, the authorities believed that a handful of jihadists were most likely hiding somewhere in the sprawling complex and said that troops were hunting for them.
The details of the desert standoff and the final battle for the plant remained murky on Saturday night — as did information about which hostages died and how — with even the White House suggesting that it was unclear what had happened. In a brief statement released early Saturday night the president said his administration would “remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place.”
The British defense minister, Philip Hammond, called the loss of life “appalling and unacceptable” after reports that up to seven hostages were killed in the final hours of the hostage crisis, and he said that the leaders of the attack would be tracked down. The Algerian government said that 32 militants had been killed since Wednesday, although it cautioned that its casualty counts were provisional.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who appeared with Mr. Hammond at a news conference in London, said he did not yet have reliable information about the fate of the Americans at the facility, although a senior Algerian official said two had been found “safe and sound.”
What little information trickled out was as harrowing as what had come in the days before, when some hostages who had managed to escape told of workers being forced to wear explosives. They also said that there were several summary executions and that some workers had died in the military’s initial rescue attempt.
On Saturday, Algerian officials reported that some bodies found by troops who rushed into the industrial complex were charred beyond recognition, making it difficult to distinguish between the captors and the captured. Two were assumed to be workers because they were handcuffed.
The Algerian government has been relatively silent since the start of the crisis, releasing few details. The Algerian government faced withering international criticism for rushing ahead with its first assault on the militants on Thursday even as governments whose citizens were trapped inside the plant pleaded for more time, fearing that rescue attempts might lead to workers dying. The Algerians responded by saying they had a better understanding of how to handle militants after fighting Islamist insurgents for years.
On Saturday, it was unclear who killed the last hostages. Initial reports from Algerian state news media said that seven workers had been executed during the army’s raid, but the senior government official and another high-level official, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, later said the number killed and the cause were unknown. The early reports also said 11 militants were killed, but later information suggested that some may have blown themselves up.
Whatever the goal, the message of the militant takeover of the gas complex, in a country that has perhaps the world’s toughest record for dealing with terrorists, seemed clear, at least to Algerian officials: the Islamist ministate in northern Mali, now under assault by French and Malian forces, has given a new boost to transnational terrorism. The brigade of some 32 Islamists that took the plant was multinational, Algerian officials said — with only three Algerians in the group.
“We have indications that they originated from northern Mali,” one of the senior officials said. “They want to establish a terrorist state.”
A Mali-based Algerian jihadist with ties to Al Qaeda, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility through spokesmen — and is blamed by the Algerians — for masterminding the raid.
The militants who attacked the plant said it was in retaliation for the French troops sweeping into Mali this month to stop an advance of Islamist rebels south toward the capital, although they later said they had been planning an attack in Algeria for some time. The group that attacked the plant, thought to be based in Gao, Mali, was previously little known and had splintered last year from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
The gas plant is operated by Sonatrach, Norway’s Statoil and BP of Britain.
BUT MUCH BETTER REPORTING FROM ISRAEL - Ynet.com
Algerian assault ends crisis, 23 hostages dead
Special forces storm natural gas complex in final assault that ends crisis; 23 hostages, 32 kidnappers killed
News Analysis – The New York Times
The French Way of War
Loic Venance/Agence France-Presse — GettyImages
Soldiers from the French Foreign Legion rehearsing in July for the Bastille Day parade down the Champs-Élysées.
Published on The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
Related - Africa Must Take Lead in Mali, France Says (January 20, 2013)
IN 1966, the French president, Charles de Gaulle, war hero and general nuisance in Allied eyes, wrote President Lyndon B. Johnson to announce that France was pulling out of full membership in NATO and would expel NATO headquarters from France.
“France is determined to regain on her whole territory the full exercise of her sovereignty, at present diminished by the permanent presence of allied military elements or by the use which is made of her airspace; to cease her participation in the integrated commands; and no longer to place her forces at the disposal of NATO,” de Gaulle wrote.
After the humiliating capitulation to the Nazis, a tremendous shock to a prideful and martial France, it was not especially surprising that de Gaulle should seek to restore France to a place at the top table of nations, capable of defending its own interests with its own means at its own pace and pleasure.
Even today, as French troops intervene in Mali, the French take pride in their military capacity and in their independence of action. French forces still march every year down the Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day, a military celebration unparalleled in the West. France has nuclear weapons and is the only country, other than the United States, with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. And even as Paris has slowly reconciled itself to full NATO membership, France has maintained its ability to send troops and equipment quickly to large parts of the globe, and it should soon overtake an austerity-minded Britain as the world’s fourth largest military spender, after the United States, China and Russia.
“The French, who are so gloomy and pessimistic about the situation in the country and the economy, have at least one reason to be proud of what their country can achieve,” Jean-David Levitte, the diplomatic adviser to former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the former ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations, told me. “We still have a foreign policy, a capacity to act beyond our borders, a capacity to make a difference.”
France cannot do everything on its own, Mr. Levitte freely acknowledges. “But if you don’t have the military means to act, you don’t have a foreign policy,” he said.
The French are willing to intervene militarily, but on the basis of new conditions, which differ, French officials argue, from the old colonial habits and traditions known as “Françafrique.”
In Mali, as they did in 2011 in Libya and in Ivory Coast, the French have intervened on the basis of a direct request for help from a legitimate government, the support of regional African groupings like the African Union and a resolution from the United Nations Security Council.
Even in Mali, France means to act multilaterally, even if it is leading from the front, as it did in Libya, in the name of saving an ally and helping the Sahel region combat the spread of radical Islamists, some of them foreign jihadists, strongly connected to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
So far, the decisive intervention by the French president, François Hollande, has been popular. A survey published on Wednesday by BVA for Le Parisien found that 75 percent of the French supported Mr. Hollande’s decision to take rapid military action against Islamist rebels in Mali, despite the risks, compared with 66 percent support for intervention in Libya last year and 55 percent for Afghanistan in 2001. An earlier poll on Monday for IFOP found that 63 percent backed Mr. Hollande’s decision.
More striking, perhaps, the consensus among the political elite has been unanimously supportive, says Bruno Tertrais, a defense analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “The French people are ready to support a military operation as long as the objectives are clear and seem legitimate,” he told me. While stopping the Islamist advance on Bamako, Mali’s capital, is such a goal, he went on to say, “if it were a matter of an operation to reconquer the north of Mali, the perception would have been different.”
The French have an all-volunteer military, which distances the population further from the cost of war and makes soldiers “less visible to the populace at large,” notes Sébastien Jakubowski, a sociologist at the University of Lille who studies the army. It has also made the army more popular, with an approval rating of between 80 and 90 percent, he says.
But in another change from the past, the French expect that a decision to use the military will be based on clear moral criteria, Mr. Jakubowski said. And the French take some pride in playing a leading role from a moral foundation, even if French national interests are also at play, pushing other allies to act.
Mr. Jakubowski cited an interview in Le Figaro on Jan. 3 with the American neoconservative historian Robert Kagan, whose study of American and European attitudes toward the use of force, comparing America to Mars and Europe to Venus, was much caricatured but highly influential.
In the interview, and later to me, Mr. Kagan praised the French for their willingness to use force in the pursuit of legitimate goals, even if they may not always have sufficient means to accomplish them. “Nobody asks France to be at the forefront of military interventions, but the willingness of the French to take the initiative is positive,” he said. “I have a new philosophy: If the French are ready to go, we should go.”
But the French also understand that their military limitations are real, and they are far better off acting with others, even if not always with Washington. Paris has been a constant prod to other European countries, and to the European Union itself, to develop better military capacities.
“We think it is absolutely necessary for other European countries to do what we do,” Mr. Levitte said. “Otherwise there will be a kind of strategic irrelevance of Europe as a whole.” It should be obvious, he said, that the United States has other priorities and is concentrating on Asia, and need not act everywhere. “So if we are both independent and true allies of the United States we should be in a position to act when need be.”
Steven Erlanger is the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times.
Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring.
Published, The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
WASHINGTON — As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2009. His warnings before his 2011 ouster and death sounded melodramatic, but proved prescient as the area has become easier for jihadists to operate in.
In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans.
Coming just four months after an American ambassador was killed by jihadists in Libya, those assaults have contributed to a sense that North Africa — long a dormant backwater for Al Qaeda — is turning into another zone of dangerous instability, much like Syria, site of an increasingly bloody civil war. The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.
“It’s one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa director at the International Crisis Group. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
The crisis in Mali is not likely to end soon, with the militants ensconcing themselves among local people and digging fortifications. It could also test the fragile new governments of Libya and its neighbors, in a region where any Western military intervention arouses bitter colonial memories and provides a rallying cry for Islamists.
And it comes as world powers struggle with civil war in Syria, where another Arab autocrat is warning about the furies that could be unleashed if he falls.
Even as Obama administration officials vowed to hunt down the hostage-takers in Algeria, they faced the added challenge of a dauntingly complex jihadist landscape across North Africa that belies the easy label of “Al Qaeda,” with multiple factions operating among overlapping ethnic groups, clans and criminal networks.
Efforts to identify and punish those responsible for the attack in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed in September, have bogged down amid similar confusion. The independent review panel investigating the Benghazi attack faulted American spy agencies as failing to understand the region’s “many militias, which are constantly dissolving, splitting apart and reforming.”
Although there have been hints of cross-border alliances among the militants, such links appear to be fleeting. And their targets are often those of opportunity, as they appear to have been in Benghazi and at the gas facility in Algeria.
In the longer term, the Obama administration and many analysts are divided about what kind of threat the explosion of Islamist militancy across North Africa poses to the United States. Some have called for a more active American role, noting that the hostage-taking in Algeria demonstrates how hard it can be to avoid entanglement.
Others warn against too muscular a response. “It puts a transnational framework on top of what is fundamentally a set of local concerns, and we risk making ourselves more of an enemy than we would otherwise be,” said Paul R. Pillar of Georgetown University, a former C.I.A. analyst.
In a sense, both the hostage crisis in Algeria and the battle raging in Mali are consequences of the fall of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011. Like other strongmen in the region, Colonel Qaddafi had mostly kept in check his country’s various ethnic and tribal factions, either by brutally suppressing them or by co-opting them to fight for his government. He acted as a lid, keeping volatile elements repressed. Once that lid was removed, and the borders that had been enforced by powerful governments became more porous, there was greater freedom for various groups — whether rebels, jihadists or criminals — to join up and make common cause.
In Mali, for instance, there are the Tuaregs, a nomadic people ethnically distinct both from Arabs, who make up the nations to the north, and the Africans who inhabit southern Mali and control the national government. They fought for Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, then streamed back across the border after his fall, banding together with Islamist groups to form a far more formidable fighting force. They brought with them heavy weapons and a new determination to overthrow the Malian government, which they had battled off and on for decades in a largely secular struggle for greater autonomy.
Even the Algeria gas field attack — which took place near the Libyan border, and may have involved Libyan fighters — reflects the chaos that has prevailed in Libya for the past two years.
Yet Colonel Qaddafi’s fall was only the tipping point, some analysts say, in a region where chaos has been on the rise for years, and men who fight under the banner of jihad have built up enormous reserves of cash through smuggling and other criminal activities. If the rhetoric of the Islamic militants now fighting across North Africa is about holy war, the reality is often closer to a battle among competing gangsters in a region where government authority has long been paper-thin.
Among those figures, two names stand out: Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the warlord who led the attack on the Algerian gas field, and Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, a leader of Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
“The driving force behind jihadism in the Sahara region is the competition between Abu Zeid and Belmokhtar,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a Middle East analyst at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.
Mr. Belmokhtar has generated millions of dollars for the Qaeda group through the kidnapping of Westerners and the smuggling of tobacco, which earned him one of his nicknames, “Mr. Marlboro.” But Mr. Belmokhtar bridles under authority, and last year his rival forced him out of the organization, Mr. Filiu said.
“Belmokhtar has now retaliated by organizing the Algeria gas field attack, and it is a kind of masterstroke — he has proved his ability,” Mr. Filiu said.
Both men are from Algeria, a breeding ground of Islamic extremism. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as the regional branch is known, originated with Algerian Islamists who fought against their government during the bloody civil conflict of the 1990s in that country.
Algeria’s authoritarian government is now seen as a crucial intermediary by France and other Western countries in dealing with Islamist militants in North Africa. But the Algerians have shown reluctance to become too involved in a broad military campaign that could be very risky for them. International action against the Islamist takeover in northern Mali could push the militants back into southern Algeria, where they started. That would undo years of bloody struggle by Algeria’s military forces, which largely succeeded in pushing the jihadists outside their borders.
The Algerians also have little patience with what they see as Western naïveté about the Arab spring, analysts say.
“Their attitude was, ‘Please don’t intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,’ ” said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. “And then, ‘Please don’t intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.’ But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: ‘Goddamn it, we told you so.’ ”
Although French military forces are now fighting alongside the Malian Army, plans to retake the lawless zone of northern Mali have for the past year largely focused on training an African fighting force, and trying to peel off some of the more amenable elements among the insurgents with negotiations.
Some in Mali and the West had invested hopes in Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg who leads Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, one of the main Islamist groups. Mr. Ghali, who is said to be opportunistic, was an ideological link between the hard-line Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the more secular nationalist Tuareg group, known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
But so far negotiations have led nowhere, leaving the Malian authorities and their Western interlocutors with little to fall back on besides armed force.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Cairo, and Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
Up to 800.000 darker skin people are today slaves in Mauritania – a country of 3.5 million. Mauritania was now elected to Vice Presidency of the UN Human Rights Council – the official warden of the Declaration of Human Rights. A Medal of Shame to the voting Africans at the UN!
Revolution is female: the uprising of women in the Arab world
Sara Abbas 2 December 2012
The Arabic word for revolution, thawra, has a female gender. So does the word ’huriya (freedom), and so does the word intifada (uprising). Sara Abbas talks to the social media revolutionaries behind The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, a facebook group that is taking patriarchy head-on.
Yalda Younes, Diala Haidar, Farah Barqawi and Sally Zohney are four friends who are united in mission though separated by geography. Yalda (34) is a dancer and one of the founders of Lebanon’s Laïque Pride march. She lives in Paris. A fellow Lebanese, Diala (28), is a physicist by training and an activist by inclination. She resides in Beirut, along with Farah (27), a Palestinian relief worker with an avid interest in writing and the theatre. Sally (27) is a UN worker and rights campaigner who uses storytelling to challenge patriarchal ideas about women. She lives in her hometown of Cairo.
Like many others, the young women were captivated by the uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa last year. The moment was a poignant one for Arab feminists. Though few outside the Arab world know it, women’s radicalism in the region has long and deep roots that span more than a century. As the uprisings unfolded across the region, this legacy was there for all to see. Women stood not only in defiance of brutal dictatorships, but also cultural norms that many times encouraged, and in some cases enforced, women’s exclusion from the public sphere.
Yet, the euphoria following Mubarak’s fall had barely subsided when disturbing reports began to surface. In Egypt, women who had gathered in Tahrir square to commemorate the first international women’s day following the revolution, were, as Hania Sholkamy has reported “attacked, harassed, ridiculed, shouted down and ultimately chased out of the square.” In the months that followed, women protestors would be arrested and subjected to virginity tests, intimidation, and trial by military tribunals. In Tunisia, the future of the country’s famously progressive laws that safeguarded women’s rights was suddenly uncertain. As Deniz Kandiyoti wrote in June, questions on the prospects for gender justice post the Arab-Spring uprisings “are receiving increasingly disquieting answers.”
In Paris, Yalda Younes decided enough was enough. Conscious that social media had played a critical role as a mobilizing tool in the uprisings, she decided to utilize it in support of Arab women’s struggles for equal rights. The goal of the Facebook page was not to simply raise awareness; it was also to create a platform for solidarity with women activists, who may have felt isolated in their individual struggles all over the region. In October of 2011, she launched the “Uprising of Women in the Arab World” on Facebook. One year later, in October 2012, Yalda and her collaborators, Farah, Diala and Sally, launched a campaign to commemorate the page’s one-year anniversary, and to draw attention to the issues at its heart.
The premise was simple: post a picture of yourself that starts with the phrase, “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because…”, then fill in the blanks. The photos began trickling in. Soon, the site was inundated. The page’s membership grew exponentially – from approximately 20,000 at the beginning of the campaign, to close to 80,000 today. Women and men, young and old, from Morocco to Syria and everywhere in between, posted photos of themselves holding banners. Some used the banners to cover their faces. Others showed them proudly. Others still revealed only their eyes.
Despite the positive reaction to the campaign, it has not been free from controversy, much of which has centered on a young woman called Dana Bakdounis. The one time veiled-Dana posted a photo of herself holding a banner that read: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years, I was not allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body.” The photograph generated an intense reaction and hundreds of comments, some supportive, others outraged. Shortly after my interview with the campaign’s organizers, Facebook removed the photo, citing a number of complaints it received that the photo was “offensive”.
The organizers have fought back against what they perceived as censorship, and have pressed on with their photo campaign. They have also since experimented with various means of communication, including street graffiti and a “Tell your Story” campaign launched on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. I spoke to the four organizers about movement-building in the Arab world, the challenges facing women’s rights in the region, and why they feel social media can be a dynamic force for change in Arab society.
How did you meet and decide to collaborate?
Yalda: We met through Facebook. I added a lot of friends as administrators to the page, and by coincidence those friends recommended Diala.
Farah: Both Diala and Yalda worked alone until February . Then Diala talked to me about it, and I brought Sally in soon after. Sally and I had studied together at Cairo University.
Though the page has been there for more than a year, it really “exploded” in October. Why?
Farah: In February  we had around 3,000 members. Around 1st October, 20,000. The first reason for this is our diversity. When the team grew, there was a better grasp of the events happening in the Arab world. Each of us brought her own dimension and her own interests, and that made it more interesting to people. The second reason was the things that had happened mainly in Egypt and Tunisia after the revolution…We noticed that even revolutionary guys, who saw women fighting beside them, well, after they reaped the success (or semi-success) of the revolution, they tried to marginalize the women. They said “Thank you. You can go back to your ‘normal’ life now. We’ll take over from here. Stay at home, and don’t go to the streets after 8pm”. And then the Samira Ibrahim trial began against the army officers. It was the kind of news that made every Arab woman angry…this made the page grow, because we made it clear that we do not, and cannot forget.
Diala: Part of the page’s success was also due to the fact that we dared to tackle controversial topics related to women’s status that are known to be as a taboo in the region. We questioned all the stone written social and religious doctrines. This raised the number of our supporters, because people are yearning to have those forbidden debates openly.
Yalda: The greatest inspiration for the page were women of the Arab Spring, like Samira Ibrahim, like Fadwa Suleiman, Tawakkul Karman, Manal Al-Sharif, Zainab Al-Khawaja. Also, we do it for the Moroccan girl, Amina El-Filali who committed suicide after being forced to marry her rapist. We wanted to honor these women and to give them the place that they deserve, because they were not honored enough in the revolution. But also to show that they can be an inspiration to us.
Why did you decide to launch a social media network, as opposed to an NGO, or some other mechanism?
Yalda: The initial idea was inspired by the unprecedented solidarity the Arab Spring created created among Arab citizens…What I’m interested in is the networking with people, and what these new social media technologies offer us. I don’t really have a lot of faith unfortunately in NGOs, nor in political organizations. I’m interested in how you can create something with somebody you didn’t know, without money. This is what the Lebanese Laïque Pride is about, we’ve done it for three years in a row now without money, even though people have proposed to fund it. Having no money demands commitment and real engagement… In the long term what is needed in the Arab world and in the world more broadly is more activism, but more activism of the “personality”. You can be part of a political group or an NGO but be passive. It’s more interesting to have nothing in exchange and to do it as a duty. Social media gives us that opportunity- to connect on something where we have the same views but without ego, because [the medium] is more anonymous than mainstream politics.
Do you agree with Mona Eltahawy that “they hate us”?
Farah. No, I don’t agree. I don’t think men hate us per se. I think they just don’t understand us, or historically were not allowed to understand us. Maybe it’s to do with the education system in the Arab world; we are taught to memorize things. And what you memorize from watching [others] everyday, is what you do, and what you copy until your daughters and sons do it all over again.
Diala: First I want to state my respect and appreciation to Mona Eltahawy’s approach and activism, though I don’t agree with everything she mentioned in her article. It is true that many men do hate women, but misogyny is a widespread phenomenon that is not limited to Arab societies. It’s not bound to a culture or a religion, but is rather more complicated than that because women’s denigration is multi-layered. But we have to admit to ourselves that woman-hating is widely spread in our societies where it is coupled with a feeling of shame and disgrace towards women. One of the Yemeni women who participated in our campaign for instance used her full name in an act of rebellion, just to oppose her brother, who is ashamed of saying her name, or his mother’s, in public. When we think of a woman as a “hurma” (that is something not to be seen or violated) it means that we are objectifying and thus dehumanizing her. This is where all the hate starts.
Yalda: There are no “they” and “us”. The campaign proves that there are many men in solidarity with us and that some women are patriarchal also.
Why did you pick the word intifada rather than thawra (revolution)?
Yalda: The reason I used it is because the word intifada [alludes to] being “fed up.” There’s a boiling pan, and it’s pouring over. And with the word revolution, the question is, against whom? Our fathers? The other reason for using intifada is that it is more political. Usually, the excuse we hear when we ask for women’s rights is that we have priorities. It’s not time to talk about this; we have a country to liberate or to build or whatever. The personal liberties are put aside. So I think it was interesting to reappropriate this word and make it more human. The banner of a woman who posted from Palestine says it well. She wrote, I am with the women’s uprising because my country is under occupation, but all some men care about it is whistling at me when I pass them in the street.
An impressive number of men have joined your campaign, including men from Saudi Arabia and other countries that, going by stereotypes, we would not expect to be particularly supportive of women’s rights.
Elias from LebanonSally: My personal experience in the revolution has taught me that for a long time, men in our societies underestimated the strength of women, and saw them at times as something to be protected and put behind closed doors… It’s overwhelming how real this issue [of men’s solidarity] is. It’s not just the two or three friends we know, or the network we personally have. It’s men, as you said, from countries like Saudi Arabia where we didn’t expect support. The point of our page is not to address women specifically and say that women are victims, rather that we have to challenge each other and keep pushing the barriers placed on us by our societies, both as women and as men.
The pioneers of social media activism in the Arab world, such as Kulina Khaled Said (We are all Khaled Said), always had a dynamic relationship with the street. The two fed off each other. Do you see this site as moving from the virtual space to the streets? And is that even a goal?
Sally: The campaign is more than online. It is strong in challenging preconceptions and stereotypes. It’s interesting that a veiled woman who posts her photo gets a lot of reaction from people prejudiced against her, who then comment and say: can’t you see from your picture that you’re not free? Your clothing proves it. The woman responds, defends herself, and so on. There’s a constructive conversation.
Yalda: Extremists visit the page a lot to spread religion, or to say, “be careful, this page is western”, using the excuse that a woman has nail polish on, or whatever totally ridiculous thing they can think of. What’s interesting is that the page is allowing people from different horizons and opposite views to talk, people who would never have this discussion in the street because they just wouldn’t meet, or because they wouldn’t dare to, or because [the woman] would be in danger of being physically aggressed. This is a safe and secular place to have these conversations, and the conversations are long. It’s not a virtual thing. Having a dialogue can be very difficult and it is very much needed.
You called on people to show their faces when they post. Why?
Diala: We’re just trying to push the limits. We know that this is a sensitive issue that can be life threatening in some countries. But change comes with a risk. If we want to start an uprising, we first have to have the courage to uncover our identities. This is where everything begins after the fear barrier falls apart…
There is much anxiety about women’s rights in the transitions that have followed the uprisings, particularly when it comes to Egypt.
Sally: State violence against female revolutionaries started in the 1960s, but it did not get a lot of attention… after SCAF (the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces) took power on 11 February , this policy, as a tactic, became clear. The officers would tell women: you are bitches, you are prostitutes, we are going to do x and y to you because you’re not respectable. (I’m not sure because they were taught so, or whether they actually believe it.) In terms of the virginity tests, most of the girls that were picked up on March 9th  were from outside Cairo. They came from conservative backgrounds…So when one of them is put behind bars or subjected to a [virginity] test, either she won’t be able to tell her family, because she won’t get support, or she will speak up like Samira [Ibrahim], but face all those people that will accuse her of having lost her honor, and that will try to make a liar out of her. No one in the media wanted to speak about Samira’s case; I personally approached all those that I knew, and they told me it was a red line. This shows the dominance of this mentality, which plays on women’s honor, and that looks to shame women into silence…. After SCAF left and the Muslim Brotherhood took over, the game became to play on the theory of values and religion, that women shouldn’t be in certain places. Salafism is widespread, and the Islamic current in general is strong. The media is also centralized. You see these issues in the constitution-writing process now taking place…In the draft we’ve seen so far, article 36 says that we will rely on Sharia laws when it comes to women’s rights. Which interpretation of Sharia is being used is not clear. This is the only article in the entire constitution that mentions the principles of Sharia. The entire constitutional committee, which is mostly from the Brotherhood, supports the article, save for 10 members. The committee has said that we will negotiate on anything in the constitution save this article.
President Mohammed Morsi has announced that a referendum on the draft constitution will be held on 15th December……
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