links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter

Saudi Arabia:


Posted on on April 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Brazen Hamas Billboard Links Hamas to Turkey, Qatar.

April 3, 2014    1 comment
Hamas's publicity billboard that reads, 'Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.' Photo: Screenshot.

Hamas’s publicity billboard that reads, ‘Jerusalem is Waiting for Men.’ Photo: Screenshot.

In a rather conspicuous propaganda stunt, Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza, foisted a new billboard showing the heads of its Islamist leadership, along with the leaders of Turkey and Qatar, with a caption that implies their help has been recruited to wrest Jerusalem from Israeli control.

The billboard shows Hamas political chief  Khaled Meshal and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, alongside previous and current Qatari leaders Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The billboard reads ”Jerusalem is Waiting for Men,” along with a photo of the Dome of the Rock.

The massive banner was photographed in Gaza by the Palestinian News Agency, and flagged on Thursday by blogger Elder of Ziyon.

The blogger wrote that the sign also implies two other messages.

First, the belittling of leaders of other Arab countries, especially Egypt, where Hamas gained under the Muslim Brotherhood leadership, and is now being shunned after that group, its political “big brother,” was expelled last year.

And, second, that Hamas, which played second fiddle to Islamic Jihad in last month’s shelling of Israel, is the stronger of the two groups and will be on the winning team to, one day, take Jerusalem.


Egyptian Entrepreneur Laments Lack of Open Business With Israel.

April 3, 2014   3 comments
Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

Cairo International Airport, where sources spied Israeli and Egyptian security officials meeting to discuss cooperation to fight terrorists in the Sinai. Photo: Cairo International Airport.

An Egyptian entrepreneur said he resents his country’s hostility to Israel which prevents him from openly conducting any business with the Jewish state, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported late last week.

“It is very unfortunate that we cannot be pragmatic and say this particular country has good quality and inexpensive commodities and we are going to import from it because it is in our interest,” said the unnamed Egyptian, who still does business with Israel on the down low. “After all these years an Israeli commodity on, say, the shelf of a supermarket would not be picked up except by a few people — if we assume that any supermarket would at all dare to carry, say, Israeli fruit juice.”

Like most Egyptian businessmen who work with Israelis, he insisted on remaining anonymous for fear of being “stigmatized as dealing with the enemy,” he told Al-Ahram.

“I really don’t understand; we have a peace deal and we cannot do business, it has been 35 years since this peace treaty was signed and still it is a big issue if someone said let us do business with Israel or let us benefit of their agricultural expertise,” he said.

Trade between Israel and Egypt dropped after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011, but government officials in Cairo say the fall was possibly a result of the subsequent political turmoil, according to the report.

Despite any current animosity Egypt may harbor toward Israel, an independent economic source told Al-Ahram that Egyptian authorities are considering all options in dealing with the country’s current severe energy shortages, not excluding the import of natural gas from Israel.

“Cooperation in natural gas has been very stable for many years despite the suspension and trade dispute that occurred after the 25 January Revolution removed Mubarak — but this is the case with trade cooperation in general, limited and stable,” said a government official.






Posted on on March 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

Towards Obama-Abbas meeting: hundreds of Israeli public figures present proposal for Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

from: Adam Keller
Naftali Raz <

March 17, 2014

Towards Today’s crucial meeting between President Obama and President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazen),  regarding the proposed American “framework agreement”, hundreds of Israeli public figures – academics, writers, artists, former senior military officers, business CEO’s, Laureates of the Israel Prize and many others – are making a public proposal of principles on which such an agreement could and should be based.
This initiative is intended to support and facilitate the ongoing diplomatic process, let it move forward towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and prevent a collapse which might prove highly disastrous to both peoples and to the entire region.
“We appreciate the tireless efforts of Secretary of State Kerry, but we cannot stand aside passively and wait for outsiders to decide issues which are crucial for out future in this country. A voice must be heard, loud and clear, from the very heart of Israeli society, pointing the way forward” says campaign organizer Naftali Raz..
Contact: Naftali Raz, +972-(0)54-5494172<>
Following is the text of the petition, due to be published today in the Hebrew and English editions of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper (see attachments).
We, the undersigned, call Upon Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazen)  to accept an Israeli-Palestinian “framework agreement” consisting of the following principles:
 • The establishment of a sovereign State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, based on the 1967 borders with agreed-upon border changes
 • The Palestinian state will be demilitarized, in line with Israeli security requirements
 • Jerusalem will be the capital of the two States, according to the Clinton parameters: Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Palestinian neighborhoods to Palestine
 • Special arrangements will be agreed upon regarding the management of Temple Mount (Haram al-Sharif)
• Full civil rights will be guaranteed to citizens belonging to national minorities in both States
• Peace and co-operation will be established between the two states
• Signing the agreement will signify the complete and absolute end of any mutual claims
• Both States will request the blessing and backing for the agreement of all the countries in the region, signatories of the “Arab League Peace Initiative”
 Because among both Israeli and Palestinian peoples, the majority has decided for peace .

Achinoam Nini (Noa) – Singer and Musician, Shfayim
Ali El Assad – Dr., Lawyer, Lagiya
Aliza Zissman – Alternative Medicine, Herzliya
Alla Shainskaya – Dr. of life-sciences, Tel-Aviv
Alon Liel – Dr., former CEO of Foreign Office, Mevasseret Zion
Amiram Goldblum – Prof. of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Jerusalem
Amos Davidovich – Tour Guide, Lieutaenant-Colonel (Res.), Gezer
Amos Gvirtz – Human Rights Activist, Shfayim
Amos Korczyn – Prof. of Medicine, Tel Aviv
Amos Mokady – Author and Cinematographer, Tel Aviv
Amos Oz – Author, Tel Aviv
Anat Zanger – Prof. of Cinema and Television, Givatayim
Aner Preminger – Prof. of Cinema and Filmmaker, Jerusalem
Arie Nadler – Prof. of Social Psychology, Tel_aviv
Avi Glazerman – CEO, Hi-tech firm, Tel-Aviv
Avner Ben-Amos – Prof. of History of Education, Omer
Avraham Ronen – Prof. of Archaeology, Haifa
Avrasha Burstin – Colonel (Res.), Reut
Ayelet Hashachar Seidoff – business woman, Petachya
Baruch Vlamen – Pensioner, Hanaton
Ben-Ami Gov – Brigadier-General (Ret.), Israel Security Prize Laureate, Tel-Aviv
Beth Shamgar – Dr., Musicology, Rehovot
Binyamin Neuberger – Prof. of Political Science, Ra’anana
Celia Fassberg – Prof. of Law, Jerusalem
Chaim Cohen – Social Activist, Modi’in
Dalia Amit – Translator, Jerusalem
Dalia Golomb – retired teacher, Tel-aviv
Dan Jacobson – Prof. of Organizational Behavior, Hezliya
Dani Rosin – Medical dr., Surgeon, Tel-Aviv
David Har’el – Prof., Israel Prize Laureate – Computer Science, Bet-Zayit
David Shamgar – Economist, Rehovot
David Shamla – Secretary of JCALL (European Peace promoting Jewry
Doris Arkin – Sculptor, Kfar Shmaryahu
Doron Lieber – Agriculturist, Kibbutz Metzer
Doubi Shwartz – Chair of Bereaved Families for Peace, Hod Hasharon
Duby Barak – Educator, Jerusalem
Eli Meshulam – Lawyer, Raanana
Eli Safran – Tourism, Sasa
Elihu Katz – Prof., Israel Prize Laureate in Communication, Jerusalem
Emanuel Shaked – Brigadier-General (Ret.), Herzliya
Erel Shalit – Dr., Psychoanalyst, Ra’anana
Ester Kalinsky – Pensioner, Holon
Eytan Kalinsky – Poet, Holon
Fuaz Chsein – Author & Head of Education Department, Hurfeish
Gabi Salomon – Prof., Israel Prize Laureate in Education, Kiryat Tiv’on
Galit Raz-Dror – Project manager, Jerusalem
Gershon Ben-Shachar – Prof. of Psychology, Jerusalem
Gideon Shichman – Dr. of Science, Tel Aviv
Hanoch Gutfreund – Prof. of Physics, Jerusalem
Hasida Shafran – Human Rights Activist, Haifa
Hillel Shenker – journalist, Tel Aviv
Huda Abu Chmeid – Sociologist and Social Activist, Haifa
Idit Zartal – Prof. of History, Tel Aviv
Ilan lachish – CEO, Jerusalem
Inbal Harpaz – Hydro-therapist, Hod Hasharon
Iris Dotan-Katz – psychologist, Ramat Hasharon
Iris Pinchober – Social activist, Haifa
Iris Yotvat – Artist and Mentor, Caesaria
Ivri Verbin – Lieutenant-Colonel (Res.), CEO, Former Consultant to the Foreign Minister – Tel Aviv
Liora Eylon – Education, Kfar-Aza, “Gaza Hugging”
Micha Ben-Hilel – Education, Nir-Am, “Gaza Hugging”
Micah Leshem – Prof. of Psychology, Haifa
Micha Weiss – Clinical Psychologist, Givatayim
Michael Cohen – Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret.), Haifa
Michael Shemer – Vice CEO, Kfar Vradim
Michael Shiloh – Former Ambassador, Jerusalem
Michal Preminger – Psychologist, Jerusalem
Micky Gur – Economic Consultant, Neve Monuson
Miron Nomis – Educator and Tour Guide, Ben-Gurion College, Sde-Boker
Mohammad Walid Diab – Dr. of Social Work, Tamra
Mordechay Rokney – Prof. of Physics, Mevasseret Zion
Mory Arkin – Buisness Man, Kfar Shmaryahu
Mossi Raz – Former Knesset Member, Shoham
Naftali Raz – Educator and Tour Guide, Mevasseret Zion
Naomi Chazan – Former Knesset Member, Prof. of Political Science, Jerusalem
Naomi (Nomika) Zion – Head of Center for Social Justice and Democracy, Shderot, “Gaza hugging”
Naomi Raz – Psychologist, Mevasseret Zion
Netanel Katz – Management consultant, Ramat Hasharon
Nurit Gretz – Prof. of Literature and Cinema, Tel Aviv
Oded Hon Honigwax – Lawyer, and Social Activist, Tel Aviv
Ora Nelken Rotem – pianist, Jerusalem
Rami Ronen – Entrepreneur, Shoeva
Ran Shorer – Author, Talmey Yehiel
Reuven Choshen – Economic Consultant, Tel Aviv
Reuven Gerber – Author & Dr. of Judaism, Mevasseret zion
Ruby Peled – Colonel (Res.), Tel Aviv
Ruth Handzel – Dr. of Information Management, Tel Aviv
Ruth Katz – Prof., Israel Prize Laureate in Musicology, Jerusalem
Samir Chualed – Grocery, Sha’ab
Sari Sela – Head of Women’s Movement, Rosh Ha’ayin
Shaul Givoli – Police Major-General & IDF Brigadier-General (Ret.), Ramat Hasharon
Shifra Sagy – Prof., Head of Conflict Management program, Beer Sheva
Shimon Redlich – Lieutenant-Colonel (Res.), CEO, Tel Aviv
Shimon Zandbank – Prof., Israel Prize Laureate for Translation, Jerusalem
Shmulik Merzel – Educator, Tel Aviv
Sidra Ezrahi – Prof. of Hebrew Literature, Jerusalem
Steve Fassberg – Prof. of Hebrew Language, Jerusalem
Taha Abu Amin – Sheich, Muchtar of Sawa’ed Chumeira
Tamar Ronen – Pensioner, Haifa
Tawfik Hussry – Bookkeeper, Shfar’am
Udi Mori – CEO, Ramat Gan
Uri Croch – Dr. of social work, Kamon
Uri Or – CEO, Kiryat Tivon
Ya’acov Raz – Prof. of East Asian Sudies, Tel Aviv
Yael Admi – Computer Engineering, Ganey Yehuda
Yael Alfasi – Computer Programmer, Rosh Ha’ayin
Yael Ben Yehuda Rokny – Human Rights Activist, Mevasseret Zion
Yael Dayan – Former Knesset Member, Tel Aviv
Yael Gur – Educational Projects Manager, Neve Monusson
Yair Zaban – Former Minister in the Rabin Cabinet, Ramat gan
Yehoshuah Rosin – Economist, Rehovot
Yehoyada Amir – Rabbi, Prof. of Judaic Studies, Jerusalem
Yehuda Golan Ashenfeld – Brigadier-General (Res.), Kiryat Ono
Yehuda Pinchover – Social activist, Haifa
Yeshayahu Tadmor – Colonel (Res.), Prof. of Education, Haifa
Yishay Polachek – Social Activist, Tel Aviv
Yisrael Shafran – Human Rights Activist, Haifa
Yoav Has – Human Rights Activist, Jerusalem
Yoav Rodan – Lieutaenant-Colonel (Res.), CEO, Lavon
Yoela Har Shefi – Lawyer, Tel Aviv
Yoram Agmon – Brigadier-General (Res.), Karmei Yosef
Yoram Avnimelech – Prof. of Environmental Engineering, Haifa
Yosef Neuman – Prof. of Biology and Philosophy, Tel Aviv
Ze’ev Charles Greenbaum – Prof. of Psychology, Jerusalem
Ze’ev Zachor – Prof. of History, Sapir, Shderot, “Gaza Hugging”
Zehava Gov – Teacher, Tel-Aviv
Zohar Avitan – Education, Sderot, “Gaza Hugging”
 The “Leading the Leaders to Peace” group will hold an ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN WALK FOR PEACE
on Friday March 28, starting at 11:00 am from the Tel-Aviv Harbor (Reading parking lot), wearing white shirts
 For details: , 972- (0)54-5661922,


Posted on on March 4th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



03/04/2014 05:57 AM EST


Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference.


John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC
March 3, 2014




Norm, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, 14,000 strong or more. (Applause.) Howard, Howard Friedman and Executive Director Howard Kohr, incoming president Bob Cohen, incoming chairman Michael Kassen, outgoing chairman Lee Rosenberg, and Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dan Shapiro. I don’t know where our ambassadors are. Would they – somebody ought to applaud both of them here. (Applause.) There they are. Thanks for your own, Norman.

Let me tell you, it really is an enormous pleasure for me to be able to be here. It’s a privilege. And good to see so many friends, all 14,000 of you – a little frightening to see myself on about eight, nine, ten screens up here – (laughter). The last time I spoke to AIPAC, I joined your national summit in Napa Valley. I did it via satellite. And you were in the vineyards, I was overseas – a different kind of vineyard. So today, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal because I am here with you in person, and your wine selection is a lot more limited this time.

I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of speaking to AIPAC back in the 1990s, it was a great honor, and every time I come here, whether I get a chance to talk to a smaller group during the daytime sessions or otherwise, this is a remarkably inspiring gathering – people from every corner of the country coming together to demonstrate our deep support as Americans for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. (Applause.)

And it is no exaggeration. It’s not just words to say that every single one of you brings here such a special passion to a cause that you so fiercely believe in. And let me tell you something unequivocally: After almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I can tell you that is precisely why AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy, and I thank you for practicing it. (Applause.)

I want you to know that in my judgment, these democratic values are stamped in the DNA of both the United States and Israel. But we also share something much deeper than that. Like no other two countries on the planet, against the deepest odds, both America and Israel confidently, purposefully set out to be examples to the world. Think about it. From its earliest days, Israel has always said it’s not enough just to be one of many in a community of nations; Israel has strived since Isaiah’s time to serve as a light unto the nations. (Applause.) And that responsibility to be a light unto the nations sounds actually unbelievably similar to something that we as Americans know is part of who we are, too.

My grandfather ten times over – too hard to count in other terms – was a man by the name of John Winthrop. And he came to what was then the New World, and he came in search of freedom, freedom to worship as he wished. He was a minister. He and his congregants were outcasts, persecuted, heading into a rough and unforgiving land with no guarantee even of survival. And on his way here, he delivered a now fairly famous sermon at sea in which he called on his community to create a city upon a hill in their new home, America.

So whether you call it a city upon a hill or a light unto the nations, it actually means the same thing: being a model to the world. It means having a home that sets a standard, a standard of dignity and a standard of freedom. So the foundation of the friendship between the American people and the people of Israel was actually laid centuries before a single stone was set under the U.S. Capitol or under the Knesset. And looking around this room tonight, it is clear that our friendship has never been stronger. (Applause.)

And I’ll tell you why. Because today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side. (Applause.) I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama – and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact – there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security. The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled. And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so. That is what we’ve done. (Applause.)

Security. Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to. And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel: preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Applause.)

Now let me start with Iran because I know there are many questions. I know many people – there’s been a healthy debate about the approach. We welcome that. But let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period. (Applause.) Now, I added an eleventh word just for punctuation. (Laughter.)

But I want you to understand there are no if, ands, or buts. This is not a political policy. This is a real foreign policy. And we mean every word of what we say. You have the word of the President of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Now, as we said at the outset, and I say it again today, our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line: No deal is better than a bad deal. (Applause.) And we absolutely will not accept a bad deal. We are committed to a deal that gets the job done. (Applause.)

Why? Because we get it, we understand it. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, no one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat. We understand it. We understand it in our gut. And we also know something else. This is not some favor that we do for Israel. This is something that is also in the interest of the United States of America, and it’s in the interest of countries surrounding Israel. (Applause.) A nuclear bomb for Iran would also threaten the stability of the region, indeed the entire world. It would produce an arms race among the surrounding countries. There is no way the world is safer anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon in Iran, and we are not going to let it happen, period, end of story. (Applause.)

Now, to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seizes what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time. Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say strike and hit need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that, whether that permanently eliminates the program or opens up all kinds of other possibilities, including Iran leaving the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not even allowing IAEA inspectors in, not living under any international regimen. That’s a possibility. Only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away for good instead of just going underground and becoming more dangerous. Only the exhaustion of diplomacy can justify more forceful options if you have to take them in the end.

So we say – President Obama and myself and others – we say let’s seize the diplomatic moment. And that’s what we are trying to do. And the truth is it is strong diplomacy that has actually made this moment possible. And we need to give it the space to work. We need to make sure that if this opportunity were to elude us, it is not because we are the ones that close the window.

Now, I understand the skepticism. I’ve been around this city for 29-plus years as a senator, became chairman of the foreign relations committee, worked with most of the members of your board and with AIPAC and others around the country, and proud to tell you that during that time I had a 100 percent voting record for Israel. (Applause.)

And I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead. But I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic peaceful resolution. Let me make it clear our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets –We’re not looking at this and saying trust, but verify. Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world – it’s verify and verify. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)

Now, there is very good reason for these sanctions to exist in the first place, and good reason that we have kept the architecture of these sanctions in place. And we continue to enforce it even as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement. In the last weeks, we have announced additional sanctions with respect to individuals who have been tempted to go around it or violate it. We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture. And yet we are able to negotiate. Our eyes, my friends, are wide open. This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel. That, I promise. (Applause.)

Now, we have taken no options off the table, but so far there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer. The first step agreement, the first step agreement – it’s not an interim agreement, it’s a first step agreement – and the agreement that’s in force today didn’t just halt the advance of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade; it’s actually rolled it back. And we all remember how Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium in the 2012 speech at the United Nations. Well, today Iran is reducing its stockpile of 20 percent uranium. And without the agreement in force today, the opposite would have been in effect. The stockpile would have grown even more dangerous, and the amount of breakout time that they have would have grown smaller. Because of the agreement, Iran will soon have to take its entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium down to zero. Zero. Zero. (Applause.) You don’t have to be a math major to know that Israel is safer when Iran has zero uranium enriched to 20 percent, and that’s what we’ve achieved.

The same independent inspectors who also tell us that Iran has halted its advances on the heavy water reactor known as the Arak reactor, without the agreement in force today, we could not have stopped them making progress on the Arak heavy water reactor, plutonium reactor. Iran has also stopped enriching all uranium above 5 percent, and it has given inspectors daily access to the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow. You know Fordow, you’ve heard about it, that underground facility that was a secret for so long. We’ve never had people in it. But because of this first step agreement, we now have people inside Fordow every single day telling us what is happening. (Applause.)

None of these things would have happened without forceful diplomacy by the United States and our international partners. But now, my friends, we have to finish the job. Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy. It’s results that count, final results. And that means we have to let forceful diplomacy keep working in order to put this test to Iran.

Now, right now we are carefully – and I mean carefully – negotiating a comprehensive agreement. We are consulting with our friends in Israel constantly. The minute Under Secretary Wendy Sherman finished her last set of meetings in Vienna the other day, she went immediately to Israel, briefed thoroughly on the talks, then went to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and continued to brief and briefed our European partners.

You might be asking: If no deal is better than a bad deal, what does the United States consider a good deal? Well, you have my word – and the President’s – that the United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?

Those are the tests. Those are our standards for any comprehensive agreement. It’s that simple. And those objectives, if they’re not met, then there won’t be an agreement. (Applause.) Now make no mistake, make no mistake; we can’t resolve the answer to those questions. It’s up to Iran. It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that its program is peaceful, and the world will hold Iran accountable.

Now, if it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns, I guarantee you it will face more pressure, Iran will face more pressure, more and more isolation. And Congress will introduce more tough sanctions. And let me assure you – I know Eric Cantor is here, sitting here – I assure you it’ll take about two hours to get it through the House and the Senate and it won’t be delayed and the Congress will have to do nothing more than schedule the vote, because President Obama and I fully support those sanctions under those circumstances. (Applause.)

In the meantime, as I said earlier, we are enforcing every letter of the existing sanctions. I have personally instructed every State Department bureau and mission around the world to watch vigilantly for any signs of the sanctions being skirted. And to any country that wants to trade with Iran with these sanctions firmly in place, the United States will tell them exactly what I have told foreign leaders in no uncertain terms: Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs. (Applause.)

Now, strong diplomacy is also essential to another threat to Israel’s security: ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and in doing so, preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel. (Applause.) I’ve had some folks ask me why I’m so committed to these negotiations and why I’m so convinced that peace is actually possible. And they ask, “Why does John Kerry go to Israel so often?” I think I heard Steny Hoyer say he’d been there 13 times, Eric Cantor who’s been there 12 times. I’ve been there more times than that just in the last nine months. (Laughter.) And I’ve been in the Middle East more times than even that in the last months because I don’t always wind up going to Israel.

But apart from the question, I’m surprised because people ask, because apart from my affection for Israel which dates back to my first visit back in 1986, and it just strikes me that it’s the wrong question to ask, why do I go. This isn’t about me. This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians. It’s about reconciling two peoples who want at long last to live normal secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long. It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it. It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat. It’s about parents from Tsefat to Eilat who want to raise their families in a region that accepts the nation-state of the Jewish people is here to stay. (Applause.)

Now, it’s not news to any Israeli to hear me say that they live in a difficult neighborhood. Israelis know that better than anyone. No one needs to explain the importance of peace and security to a mother who has just sent her daughter to the army or a son who is waiting for his father to come home from another mission. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than those who will inherit them for generations to come. And I have seen all of these realities in so many different ways in my travels in Israel, from the rocket casings in Sderot to the shelter in Kiryat Shmona that I visited years ago where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets. I’ve seen it.

My friends, I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all. Now, that is why America – (applause) – that is why America helped bring the parties back to the table, where, let’s be honest, Israelis and Palestinians have difficult choices to make. And no one understands just how complex those choices are or how emotional they are better than the leaders who have to summon the courage in order to actually make them.

I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days. We have become good friends. (Applause.) I believe – in fact, he ought to be charging me rent. (Laughter.) I’ve seen up close and personally the grit and the guts of this man and his love of country. And I can tell you with absolute certainty and without question, Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his courage and his commitment in pursuit of peace with security. (Applause.) He knows that it is the only way for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state; not a bi-national state. (Applause.)

As President Obama said publicly in the Oval Office today, and I quote him: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire of the Israeli people for peace.”

Thus far, I will tell you also that President Abbas, and I know there are many doubters here – I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years – that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that – both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other. That’s one of the difficulties we have to try get through here. A very small needle to try to thread in terms of the trust deficit. Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace. He’s committed to trying to end the conflict in all of its claims, but he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that. Let’s be candid. I know that some of you doubt that. But as Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence, and his own security forces have worked closely with Israel in order to prevent violence against Israeli citizens.

I’ve also spent many hours with President Abbas, and I believe that he clearly understands both the tremendous benefits of peace and the great costs of failure. He understands that in terms of his own people, his own grandchildren, the country he hopes to be able to lead, and in terms of the history that beleaguers all. He knows the Palestinian people will never experience the self determination that they seek in a state of their own without ending the conflict in a solution that delivers two states for two peoples. (Applause.)

And so does Prime Minister Netanyahu. When Bibi looks me in the eye and says, “I can’t accept a deal with Palestinians that doesn’t make the people of Israel safer,” we agree 100 percent. (Applause.) But I argue that there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved.

Now, I learned about Israel’s security on many different trips over there, but one stands out. I was – I’d been a pilot since I was in college and I was on a trip over there. I was having a luncheon at Ovda Airbase with the Israel Air Force. And the colonel who was in charge was – had flown. He was an ace from the Six-Day War. And we were having lunch at the time at Ovda and I had been badgering them to maybe let me go up and fly. And they disappeared at lunch and finally he comes back and he says, “Senator, I hope you don’t eat too much. We’re going flying.” I said, “Wow, great. This is what I’ve wanted.” And we went out, the two of us, drove out to this jet, and he trusted me. We put on our helmets, got in the jet, and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.”

So literally, we took off, I take the stick, we go up, we’re flying around. Next thing I know in my ear he says, “Senator, you better turn faster. You’re going over Egypt.” (Laughter.) So I turned very fast and then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics over the Negev. And I turned upside down and did a big loop and I was coming down, I was looking upside-down, and I said to myself, “This is perfect.” I could see all of the Sinai. I could see Aqaba. I could see Jordan. I see all of Israel below me, each side to each side. Said, “This is the perfect way to see the Middle East upside-down and backwards.” I understand it. (Applause.)

The real point of this story is just to tell you that I can’t tell you the imprint on me, being up there and tiny – almost turning. You had barely space to turn. You get the sense of a missile from here, or a rocket from there, or the threat of war. You understand it’s impossible to ignore just how narrow those borders are, how vulnerable Israel can be, and why Israel’s security is our first priority. We understand that. (Applause.)

That is why, my friends, President Obama sent a four-star general, John Allen, one of the most respected minds in United States military to do something we’ve never done in all the history of administrations negotiating for Israel’s and Palestinians’ future and that is to work with Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians to make the Jordan River border as strong as the strongest borders on Earth. That’s what makes this effort different from anything we’ve ever done before. With the combination of the best military experience America can offer and the best ideas in the Pentagon and the best technology that we could deliver, we believe we can deliver to Israel security that Israel needs in order to make peace, and President Obama is committed to doing that.

Now we have no illusions. We saw what happened after Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and Lebanon. We all learned lessons from that, I hope. That’s why a negotiated agreement is so important. That’s why the security arrangements that we are helping to design will need to be operationally proven. We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer. We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza. (Applause.)

My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. (Applause.) As Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic. At last year’s AIPAC conference, he said statehood is not a favor for the Palestinians, and let me reaffirm: He is right; it is not.

Israel also needs peace in order to create greater prosperity. All of you here know the great economic benefits of peace. All of you have already seen what Israel has already been able to build with the forces of the region that raid against it. Just imagine what it will be able to build as a result of peace with Palestinian neighbors. I’ve had the foreign minister of one of the surrounding countries – a very wealthy country and a very smart foreign minister say to me if we make peace – this is under the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Follow-on Committee that is following everything we’re doing very closely and supporting it – and they said if we make peace, Israel will trade more in this community within a few years than it trades with Europe today. That’s what we have available to us. (Applause.) And I believe that we need to stand together with a single voice to reject any of the arbitrary unwarranted boycotts of Israel. For more than 30 years, I have staunchly, loudly, unapologetically opposed boycotts of Israel – (applause) – and I will continue to oppose those boycotts of Israel. That will never change. (Applause.)

Every time that Israel is subjected to attacks on its legitimacy, whether at the United Nations or from any nation, the United States will use every tool we have to defeat those efforts and we will stand with Israel. (Applause.)

Finally, peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation but also as a neighbor. And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League whose Arab Peace Initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries. The upheaval in the Middle East has shown us all that Arabs and Israelis share some of the very same security concerns. Without the Palestinian conflict to divide them, these common interests can grow into real relationships and transform Israel’s standing in the region. And I just invite you – I promise you these conversations take place. I’ve had them throughout the Gulf region, throughout the Middle East, where increasingly those countries begin to see the possibilities of mutual security interests coming together for all of them against an Iran, against terrorism, against religious extremism. This is a commonality that is a new thread in the region, and I believe it brings the potential of new possibilities.

It is also important to remember that ending the conflict means ending the incitement. President Abbas has called incitement a germ that must be removed. And he has sought our help in order to try to deal with the problem. And I can tell you that with any final agreement it will also include a larger endeavor in order to help people on both sides move beyond a painful past and promote a culture of peace and tolerance.

After all these years, my friends, it is really no mystery what the end-game really looks like. I think you know that in your hearts. We understand what the end-game is. I know what peace looks like. When I talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, I think everybody shares this because this is not new. After Camp David and Oslo and Wye and Annapolis and Taba and all of these efforts, what the end-game should look like is straightforward: security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character of the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace. (Applause.)

It will take hard work. I’m not pretending any of the answers – these are all narrative issues. They’re tough issues. They complicated. But there is a vision of peace, and it takes tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days. I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this Administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way. And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future. And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.

Leaders like a fellow named Guy – I’ll leave his last name out – but he’s a young Israeli who took part in an exchange program with the State Department, sponsors that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to talk about their histories and their hopes. Guy’s grandparents fled Europe. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. He served in the IDF. And he worked as an entrepreneur in Israel’s booming tech industry. And this is what he said in that program: We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it. We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.

I think Guy is right. Change is possible. Fear can be defeated. But those are choices we have to make now.

My friends, a few months ago I landed in Tel Aviv and it was the 18th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. I went straight to Kikar Rabin, and I stood with the late-prime minister’s daughter, Dalia, at the site of her father’s murder. And we stood just steps away from where the great general, in the last moments of his life, sang the famous lyrics of Shir LaShalom: Don’t whisper a prayer; sing a song of peace in a loud voice. Don’t say the day will come; bring that day. (Applause.) That is our mission. All of us, in whatever capacity that we can, but just as important our mission is also to raise our voices for peace, and we also need to listen. We have to listen to those who first gave voice to our values, voices that still echo thousands of years later.

He almost – I think it was the first time I went to Israel. I spent a week there and went all over the country and like many first-time visitors, I climbed Masada. I climbed it with a guide – some of you may know him or heard of him, a fellow by the name of Yadin Roman. Yadin, the publisher of Eretz Israel. And our group debated Josephus Flavius’s account of what happened on the top of that mountain, the account of what happened 2,000 years before we were there.

Then Yadin, after we’d had this long debate, made us all vote to determine did it happen as he recounted or was it different. And we all voted unanimously it did happen the way he recounted. He told us to then walk to the edge of the precipice which we did, and to look out across the chasm and to shout, to shout across the ancestral home of the Jewish people. And as we stood where every new Israeli soldier begins his or her service, by swearing an oath to honor that history and secure the future, Yadin instructed us to shout, all at the same time, “Am Yisrael chai.” We shouted. (Applause.) And then I have to tell you, echoing across the chasm in the most eerie and unbelievably unforgettable way were these haunting echoes of “Am Yisrael chai, Am Yisrael chai, chai, chai.” I’ll never forget hearing the echo of those words bouncing off that mountain. It was literally like we were hearing the voices of the souls of those who had perished sacrificing their lives for Israel a thousand years ago. And we were affirming those words, the state of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.

We have to listen to those voices. Those long ago who encouraged us to build a city on a hill to be a light unto the nations, an example to the world, to ensure Israel’s survival. And we have to listen to the voices of young people whose futures depend on the choices that we, the leaders of today, make. It’s for their future that we will give new strength to the U.S.-Israel partnership as AIPAC does like no other organization in our country. It’s for their future that we will come together giving greater voice to the timeless oath and we will remember forever those words and be driven by them: “Am Yisrael chai” will be said generations upon generations into the future because of the work you do and the work we will do together.

Thank you all very much. Honored to be with you. (Applause.)

The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department.


Posted on on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


 The Kaaba in Mecca (photo credit: CC BY-SA Al Jazeera English, Flickr)  The Kaaba in Mecca

  Muhammad’s birthplace to be razed.

Bulldozers are set to demolish a building in Mecca situated right above the site believed by scholars to be the birthplace of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

The Saudi Binladin Group, which is charged with redeveloping the historical area, plans to raze a small library on the site in order to build a modern complex which would include a presidential palace and imam’s residence.


The demolition would take place just steps away from Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which surrounds the Ka’aba, one of Islam’s holiest sites.


The project, whose details were published by The Independent Friday, will bring about yet more changes to the landscape of a holy city which has seen massive redevelopment, damaging ancient and sacred structures.


The cost of this latest redevelopment project, which has yet to be approved, was estimated by The Independent at billions of dollars.


“The last remaining historical site in the kingdom is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, probably the most important site to the Muslim and Shia community around the world,” The Independent quoted Irfan al-Alawi, a historian and executive director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, as saying.


“Most people are not even aware there are plans now to destroy it.”


The Saudi royal family has welcomed redevelopment projects in the holy city, even at the cost of destroying relics considered to be holy by pilgrims. The Saudi regime believes the relics encourage idol worship.


Posted on on February 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sharpened the Obama administration’s mounting criticism of Russia’s role in the escalating violence in Syria, asserting that the Kremlin was undermining the prospects of a negotiated solution by “contributing so many more weapons” and political support to President Bashar al-Assad.

“They’re, in fact, enabling Assad to double down, which is creating an enormous problem,” Mr. Kerry said in Jakarta, Indonesia, before he flew here to confer with top officials of the United Arab Emirates, a gulf state that has been a strong supporter of the Syrian opposition.

Mr. Kerry’s tough criticism underscored the erosion of the Russian-American partnership in Syria, and raised questions about the viability of the United States’ diplomatic strategy to help resolve the escalating crisis.




President Obama has been deeply reluctant for nearly three years to get the United States directly involved in Syria’s civil war, and pulled back the threat of cruise missile strikes in September after Mr. Assad’s agreement to eliminate his chemical arsenal. While chemicals for making poison gas are leaving the country, behind schedule, Mr. Assad’s conventional attacks on civilians have escalated significantly, and now Mr. Obama is calling for a review of what one senior official called “both old and new options” to bolster opposition forces and ease a desperate humanitarian crisis.


Crisis in Syria

  • News, analysis and photos of the conflict that has left more than 100,000 dead and millions displaced.

    Full Coverage »


Administration officials, however, insist that those options do not include directly supplying more sophisticated, heavier armaments to the rebels, who are already receiving some weapons and training under a limited C.I.A. program, or carrying out airstrikes in a civil war that Mr. Obama fears could turn into a prolonged conflict. Instead, the United States is considering paying salaries to some of the rebel forces and providing more transportation and intelligence, American and European officials said.

Mr. Assad’s hold on power has grown over the past year, according to the head of American intelligence. Recognizing that a political settlement is unlikely if he keeps the advantage, administration officials said that Mr. Obama and other Western leaders had dropped their objections to proposals by Saudi Arabia and other countries to funnel more advanced weapons to vetted rebel groups, including portable antiaircraft weapons, often called manpads.

A secret meeting in Washington last week among the intelligence chiefs from almost all of the countries attempting to oust the Assad government included extensive discussion about how to best provide that new lethal aid to rebel groups, the officials said. The gathering of the top intelligence officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and the United Arab Emirates, and several others from the 11-nation group known as the Friends of Syria, reflected a belief that the diplomatic track has been exhausted unless Mr. Assad sustains significant military setbacks.

Mr. Kerry’s pointed remarks on Russia’s role were striking since it was Mr. Kerry who flew to Moscow in May, and the administration hoped that Russia would encourage the Syrian government to move toward a political settlement without Mr. Assad. After meeting with President Vladimir V. Putin, Mr. Kerry announced that the United States and Russia would co-sponsor renewed peace talks in Geneva.

Those talks have now stalled. In August and September, the United States fleshed out and strengthened a Russian proposal that Syria’s chemical arsenal be dismantled — a process now underway, but behind schedule — suggesting the countries could work together even while backing different sides in the war.

That comity, or at least a temporary alignment of interests, has now been set back. Mr. Obama was sharply critical of Russia in public statements over the past week, first at a news conference with President François Hollande of France and then at a meeting in California with King Abdullah II of Jordan. One senior Western official who discussed the issue with Mr. Obama last week said, “I’ve never seen him more frustrated — not only with the Russians, but with the failure of anything his own administration has tried so far.”

“The Russian view is that their guy is winning,” said the official, who has been involved in the talks in Washington, “and they may be right. So we’re back to the question we faced a year ago: How do you change the balance and force the Syrians to negotiate?”

Mr. Kerry said on Monday that the United States and its allies were approaching a series of critical decisions on how to respond to the crisis. But even as he insisted that the administration remained committed to peacefully resolving a civil war that has claimed about 140,000 Syrian lives and displaced hundreds of thousands, it is no longer clear if the United States has the influence to broker a settlement or whether the limited steps the White House is now willing to consider would be sufficient to help it regain its lost leverage.

Debate has raged since the start of the civil war over whether Western and Arab nations should provide Syria’s rebels with manpads. Administration officials have in the past sought to limit the flow of the weapons into the Syria conflict, fearing they could be smuggled away and later used by terrorists against civilian airliners. However, providing selected rebel fighters with surface-to-air missiles is a logical response to the persistent barrel-bomb attacks of Syrian cities like Aleppo and Homs.


The Syrian Opposition, Explained

There are believed to be hundreds, if not thousands, of groups fighting in Syria. These opposition groups are fighting the Assad regime, but recently turned on each other with increased ferocity.

Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior American intelligence official, said the Assad government was using Russian-supplied Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters to carry out the barrel-bomb attack in Homs. Russia, he said, is most likely providing spare parts such as engines, transmissions and rotors, which may explain Mr. Kerry’s specific reference to how Russian weapons are fueling the war.

A fighter from the Damascus suburbs who fled to Beirut, Lebanon, said one of the reasons he left was that the Army of Islam, the rebel group led by Zahran Alloush, had surface-to-air missiles, which he said were a Syrian Army model taken from antiaircraft bases a year ago. But the Army of Islam, which is supported by Saudi private donors, has declined to share its plentiful arms and its cash with other rebel groups, particularly non-Islamist ones. That has complicated efforts to counter Mr. Assad’s forces around Damascus.

Mr. Obama’s apparent willingness to drop objections to supplying the rebel groups with heavier weapons may simply be an acknowledgment that Saudi Arabia and gulf states that are frustrated with American policy are now prepared to do so anyway, without Washington’s blessing. American officials say they also now have a better sense than they did last year about which groups they can trust to use and secure the weapons.

Mr. Obama has also been influenced by growing fears that Syria is becoming a training ground for a new generation of terrorists and may become even more of a haven until a political settlement is reached. “That’s one big change from a year ago,” a senior American diplomat said. “And it’s beginning to haunt everyone with memories of Afghanistan.”

The Wall Street Journal first reported the likely increase in manpad shipments and rebel salaries on its website Friday night.

Mr. Kerry alluded on Monday to the internal administration deliberations about what to do next on Syria on Monday before he conferred here with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates.

“It is important for the world to consider in these next days exactly what steps can now be taken in the face of this intransigence that is creating an even greater human catastrophe by the moment,” Mr. Kerry said at his news conference in Jakarta.

In an administration that has been deeply divided on Syria strategy — the first hints of antigovernment protest erupted in the Damascus markets exactly three years ago Monday — Mr. Kerry has been among those arguing for more overt and covert pressure on Mr. Assad, according to administration officials.

But Mr. Obama has been wary of deep involvement and is adamant that no American forces can be put at risk — a reflection, aides say, of his belief that even if Mr. Assad is overthrown, the country could enter into a civil war from which there is no exit for years.

Mr. Kerry’s remarks on Monday reflected the blunt assessment that Mr. Assad is filibustering in Geneva while seeking a battlefield victory. “The regime stonewalled; they did nothing, except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country,” he said. “And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia.”



Posted on on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

date:  Mon, Feb 17, 2014


Syrian rebels or international terrorists?
Vijay Prashad* – The Hindu
*Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.
With Bashar Assad arguing that this is a war against terrorism, and the rebels arguing that this is a war against authoritarianism, no agreement can come of the peace talks on Syria.
Geneva 2’s mood mirrored the sound of mortar and despair on the ground in Syria. Not much of substance came of the former, as the U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi tiredly indicated that diplomacy continued despite the lack of a breakthrough. He hoped that the United States and the Russians would pressure their clients to remain at the table, from where, for three weeks, little of value has emerged. No agreement can come of these peace talks for at least two reasons. First, the government of Bashar Assad and the rebel coalition do not agree on the interpretation of the conflict. Mr. Assad argues that this is a war against terrorism (Al-Qaeda), while the rebels argue that this is a war against authoritarianism (the Assad government). Second, the rebels themselves are deeply fractured, with the Islamists in Syria who are doing the brunt of the fighting indisposed to any peace talks.
Mr. Brahimi hoped that humanitarian relief would be the glue to hold the two sides together. Residents in the old city of Homs and in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Yarmouk in Damascus have been under siege for two years. It was hoped that safe passage could be provided for food and medicine, but this was not accomplished. U.N. and Islamic Red Cross workers bravely avoided snipers and shells to transport food and medicines to the Syrians; children among them stared at fresh fruit, unsure of what to do with it. Absent momentum from Geneva, the options for a regional solution are back on the table.
Role for India, China?
In 2012, Egypt convened the Syria Contact Group that comprised Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — unlikely partners. Pressure from the U.S. and Russia at that time closed down the Group. Today, the regional partners seek an exit from their exaggerated postures over Syria, but there is no diplomatic space for them to act. It falls to powers that are untainted by the war, perhaps China and India, to call for a meeting — a Beijing or New Delhi summit — to craft a serious agenda to pressure all sides to a ceasefire and a credible political process.
The war is now fought less on the ground and more over its interpretation. Expectations of a hasty collapse of the government withdraw as the Syrian Army takes Jarajir, along the Lebanon border. Islamists groups continue to fight against each other in the north, weakening their firepower as the Syrian army watches from the sidelines. The emboldened Syrian government has now stepped up its rhetoric about this war being essentially one against terrorists with affiliation to al-Qaeda. Ears that once rejected this narrative in the West and Turkey are now increasingly sympathetic to it. As the Islamists suffocate the rebellion, it becomes hard to champion them against the government. Focus has moved away from the prisons and barrel bombs of the government to the executions and social policies of the Islamists.
A year ago, the West and Turkey would have scoffed at talk of terrorism as the fantasy of the Assad government. The West and the Gulf Arabs had opened their coffers to the rebels, knowing full well that they were incubating the growth of the Islamist factions at the expense of the secular opposition. Turkey’s government of Recep Tayyip Erdog?an micromanaged the opposition, provided bases in Turkey and allowed well-armed fighters to slip across the border into Syria. By early 2012, it had become a common sight to see well-armed Islamist fighters in the streets of Antakya and in the refugee camps in Hatay Province. The seeds of what was to come — the entry of al-Qaeda into Syria — was set by an opportunistic and poorly conceived policy by Erdog?an’s government. It did not help that his otherwise well-spoken and highly-regarded Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog?lu began to refer to Syria’s Alawites (Mr. Assad’s community) as Nusayri, a derogatory sectarian term. Turkey joined U.S., Europe and Gulf Arab calls for Mr. Assad’s departure well before the numbers of those dead climbed above the thousands. Nervousness about the spread of al-Qaeda to Syria has made the rebels’ patrons edge closer to the Damascus narrative. The U.S. government wishes to arm the Iraqi government with Hellfire missiles and drones to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Britain has said that any fighter who comes back from Syria will be arrested (last week, a Sussex man — Abu Suleiman al-Britani — conducted a suicide operation in Aleppo). The Saudi Royal Court decreed that any Saudi found to have waged jihad abroad could spend up to 20 years in prison.
General Mansour al-Turki of the Saudi Interior Ministry said: “We are trying to stop everyone who wants to go to Syria, but we can’t stop leaks.” The Turkish Armed Forces fired on an ISIS convoy on January 28 inside Syria, and told the government in a report prepared jointly with the Turkish National Intelligence agency that al-Qaeda had made credible threats on Turkey.
Mr. Erdog?an hastened to Tehran to meet the new Iranian leadership — their public comments were on trade, but their private meetings were all on Syria and the need to combat the rise of terrorism. What Mr. Assad had warned about in 2012 came to pass — for whatever reason — and led to a loss of confidence among the rebels’ patrons for their future. Even al-Qaeda’s putative leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has sought to distance himself from ISIS. These signs indicate that on Syria, the “terrorism narrative” has come to dominate over the “authoritarian regime narrative.”
Islamic Front:
The fractious Syrian opposition that came to Geneva does not represent the main columns of rebel fighters on the ground. These are mainly Islamists — with the al-Qaeda wing represented by ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and the rest represented by the Islamic Front. They have no appetite for negotiation. Mr. Abu Omar of the Islamic Front said that Syria’s future would be created “here on the ground of heroism, and signed with blood on the frontlines, not in hollow conferences attended by those who don’t even represent themselves.” A U.S. intelligence official told me that when the U.S. went into Afghanistan in 2001, “We smashed the mercury and watched it spread out slowly in the area.” Al-Qaeda was not demolished in Kandahar and Tora Bora. Its hardened cadre slipped across to Pakistan and then onwards to their homelands. There they regrouped, reviving the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda in Yemen, Ansar al-Sharia, Ansar Dine, and ISIS. The latter slipped into Syria from an Iraq broken by the U.S. occupation and the sectarian governance of the current government. There they worked with Jabhat al-Nusra and fought alongside other Islamist currents such as Ahrar ash-Sham. It was inevitable that these battle-tested Islamists would overrun the peaceful protesters and the defectors from the Syrian Army — the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — who scattered to the wind in 2012.
The FSA troops either joined up with the Islamists, continued to fight in small detachments, or linger precariously as twice defectors who are now homeless. The barbarism of the ISIS pushed other Islamists — with Gulf Arab support — to form the Islamic Front. The hope was that this group would run ISIS back to Iraq and remove the stigma of “al-Qaeda” from the Syrian rebellion. The problem is that one of the constituents of the Islamic Front — Jabhat al-Nusra, arguably the most effective of its fighting forces — sees itself as the Syrian franchise of al-Qaeda and has largely abjured the fight against ISIS. Another problem is that the in-fighting on the ground seems to have tapered off — one of the Islamist groups, Suqour al-Sham signed a truce with ISIS and pledged to work together.
By early 2014, these groups found their supply lines cut off.  Iraq’s attack on ISIS began to seal the porous border that runs through the Great Syrian Desert.  Jordan had already tried to close its border since early 2013, having arrested over a hundred fighters who have tried to cross into Syria.  Lebanon’s border has become almost inaccessible for the rebels as the Syrian Army takes the roadway that runs along the boundary line.  Last year, Turkey closed the Azaz crossing once it was taken over by the radical Islamists.
On January 20, the rebels attacked the Turkish post at Cilvegözü-Bab al-Hawa, killing 16.  This is what spurred the Turkish Army to attack the ISIS convoy a week later.
As the Islamists saw their supply lines closed off, the U.S. announced that it would restart its aid to the rebel fighters.  On February 5, the Syrian Coalition chief Ahmad Jabra told Future TV that his rebels would get “advanced weapons” — likely from the U.S.  The FSA announced the formation of the Southern Front – with assistance from the West — to revive the dormant fight in Syria’s south-west.  All this took place during Geneva 2, signalling confusion in U.S. policy.       Does Washington still want to overthrow the Syrian government?  Would it live with an Islamist government on Israel’s borders?  Or, perhaps, the U.S. is eager for a stalemate, as pointed out by former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, “The rebels lack the organization and weapons to defeat Assad.  The regime lacks the loyal manpower to suppress the rebellion.  Both sides’ external allies are ready to supply enough money and arms to fuel the stalemate for the foreseeable future.”  This is a cruel strategy.
It offers no hope of peace for the Syrian people.
Road ahead for Syria group:
A senior military official in West Asia told me that one of the most overlooked aspects of West Asia and North Africa is that the military leaderships of each country maintain close contacts with each other. During Turkey’s war against the Kurdish rebellion in its eastern provinces, the military coordinated their operations with the Syrian armed forces. These links have been maintained. When it became clear that Mr. Erdog?an’s exaggerated hopes for Syria failed, and with the growth of the Islamists on Turkey’s borders and the Kurds in Syria having declared their independence, the Turkish military exerted its views. The Iraqi armed forces had already begun their operations against ISIS. Additionally, Egypt’s new Field Marshal Sisi overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi when the latter encouraged jihadis to go to Syria. This was anathema to the Egyptian military who acted for this and other reasons to depose Mr. Morsi. The military view of the political situation leans naturally toward the terrorism narrative.
It appears now that the regional states are no longer agreed that their primary mission is the removal of Mr. Assad.This view — shared by the militaries — is evident in the political leadership in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.With Egypt, these three states would be the core of a rejuvenated Syria Contact Group.

The 2012 group also had Saudi Arabia, which might be enjoined to come back to the table if they see that their outside allies — notably the U.S. — are averse to a policy that would mean Jabhat al-Nusra in power in Damascus.

Without Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Qatar, the Syria Contact Group would be less effective.

If the Syria Contact Group is to re-emerge, it would need to be incubated by pressure from China and India, two countries that are sympathetic to multipolar regionalism.
Thus far, neither China nor India has taken an active role in the Syrian conflict, content to work within the United Nations and to make statements as part of the BRICS group.
But the failure of the U.S. and Russia and the paralysis of the U.N. alongside the continued brutality in Syria require an alternative path to be opened up.
Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have indicated willingness for a dialogue — China and India need to offer them the table.



Posted on on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (


Do ‘Syria,’ ‘Iraq’ and ‘Lebanon’ Still Exist?

based on the  original article by Jonathan Spyer that was posted by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and that we re-post with a series of changes that are mainly of editorial nature.
The Tower
February 2014

For almost a century, the Middle East has been defined by the nation-states that emerged following the Allied Europeans – British and French – victory in World War I which was the end of the Ottoman Empire, and followed later by the unraveling of the resulting colonial era. Since then, strategic analyses of the region have concentrated on the relations between these states, created by bureaucratic lines drawn by the interim colonial powers, and diplomatic efforts have generally attempted to maintain their stability and the integrity of these borders. As a result, the current map of the Middle East has remained largely unchanged over more than nine decades.

But these actually never made sense and do so much less now.  The old maps do not reflect the reality on the ground, and the region is now defined not by rivalry between nation-states, but by sectarian divisions that are spilling across the old borders and rendering them irrelevant. Today, there is a single sectarian war underway across the Middle East, one that threatens to engulf the entire region.

This war has a number of fronts, some more intense and active than others, but it is everywhere defined by sectarian conflict – especially the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims. It is most intense in the area encompassing the current states of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; but has also spread further afield—to Bahrain, northern Yemen, and to some degree Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia.

The core power on the Shia side is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state that accepts terror as a means to implement its plans.  Iran was the founding patron of Hezbollah, which even before 9/11  had killed more Americans than any terror group in the world. The Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Maliki government and assorted Shia militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are all allies or proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is capable of rendering substantial assistance to its friends through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – a powerful military and economic force that possesses substantial expertise and experience in building proxy organizations and engaging in political and paramilitary warfare.

On the Sunni side, the dominant power is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has been wary of Tehran, but also has struggled since 9/11 – on and off -  against the Islamists of Al Qaeda. Its allies include various groups among the Syrian rebels, the March 14 movement in Lebanon, the military regime in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and sometimes Turkey. The Saudis, however, are at something of a disadvantage. They possess no parallel to the IRGC, and have problematic relations with the extreme Sunni jihadists of al-Qaeda, who have played a prominent role in the fighting on all three major fronts and who are an outgrowth of the Saudi Wahabbi movement – the kind of Islam on which the Saudi throne is based. (Here we have a clear different approach to the issue then we found in the original article – that seemed to be over friendly to the Saudis – possibly because of the way Washington is siding with the Saudis.)

How did this situation come about? Is there evidence of a clear linkage between the various forces on the respective sides? Why is this conflict so extreme in certain countries—like Syria and Iraq—where it appears to be leading to the breakup of these states? How dangerous are these changes for the West?

Focusing on the areas of most intense conflict—Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—can help us answer these questions.

This war is a result of the confluence of a number of circumstances. First, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are all home to a host of different sectarian and ethnic communities. The stark divisions that exist in these societies have never been resolved. In Syria and Iraq, they were suppressed for decades by brutal dictatorial regimes. The Assad regime in Syria and Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq – were family dictatorships based on minority sectarian communities – the Alawis in Syria, and the Arab Sunnis in Iraq – while claiming to rule in the name of pan-Arab nationalism. In service of this ideology, the Syrian and Iraqi regimes ruthlessly put down ethnic and sectarian separatism in all its forms; in particular, Shia Islamism in Iraq, Sunni Islamism in Syria, and the Kurdish national movement in both countries. All were treated without mercy.

Lebanon, by contrast, is a far weaker state, which was ruled by a power-sharing arrangement between ethnic and religious groups that collapsed into civil war in 1975. The issues underlying that war were never resolved; instead, between 1990 and 2005 the Syrian army presence in Lebanon ended all discussion of basic issues of national identity. (Here we must add something the original article has completely left untackled – the fact that in Lebanon the French colonial power has sponsored a Christian – mainly Maronite – minority and allowed for its governing over the Sunni and Shia parts of the population in a  prearranged structure that fell apart with the influx of Sunni Palestinian refugees. These refugees ended up being supported by the Shia backed Hezbollah and eventually got attacked from the outside by the Israelis). Lebanon thus developed a different dynamics that is still tripartite in its Arab make up. Lebanon’s Maronite families with their French backing did not become dictators like in the cases of Iraq and Syria.

Over the last decade, the once ironclad structures of dictatorship and suppression that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions from erupting, have weakened or disappeared.

The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed the Saddam Hussein regime. A sectarian Shia government, based on the Shia Arab majority and conditionally accepted by the Kurds, took its place. In Syria, a brutal civil war has severely curtailed the power of the Assad regime, which now rules only about 40 percent of the country’s territory. The Sunni Arab majority and the Kurdish minority have carved out autonomous sectarian enclaves in the 60 percent that remains.

Western hopes that a non-sectarian identity would take hold in the areas formerly ruled by Saddam and the Assads are persistent but proven illusory. Remarks about Iraq made by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 2004 sum up these hopes and the tendency to self-delusion that often accompanies them. “What has been impressive to me so far,” Rice said, is that Iraqis—whether Kurds or Shia or Sunni or the many other ethnic groups in Iraq—have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq…. I think particularly the Kurds have shown a propensity to want to bridge differences that were historic differences in many ways that were fueled by Saddam Hussein and his regime… What I have found interesting and I think important is the degree to which the leaders of the Shia and Kurdish and Sunni communities have continually expressed their desires to live in a unified Iraq.

This faith is expressed also by the Obama Administration, and as a result, it has continued to support the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It sees Maliki’s opposition to Sunni insurgents in western Anbar province as an elected government’s opposition to extremist rebels. This fails to take into account the sectarian nature of the Maliki government itself, and the discriminatory policies he has pursued against the Sunnis of western Iraq.

The reemergence of sectarian conflict so evident in Iraq has also emerged in Syria and is, in turn, showed up in neighboring Lebanon.

Lebanon was first drawn into the Syrian  conflict as a result of the significant and highly effective intervention in Syria in support of the Assad regime by Iran’s Lebanon-based terrorist army, Hezbollah. This quickly led to retaliation against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon by elements among Syria’s Sunni rebels. Supporters of the Sunni rebels have succeeded in attacking Hezbollah’s Dahiyeh compound in south Beirut five times. The bombing on January 2, 2014,  was carried out by a young Lebanese member of an organization called ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) named Qutaiba Muhammad al-Satem; ISIS are Islamic extremists who have been operating as a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.



A map of Syria showing zones of control by the regime and various militias. (Image Source: WikiMedia Commons)

While Hezbollah’s decision to intervene on behalf of the Assad regime in Syria and the subsequent Sunni reaction is partially the result of the divided nature of Lebanon, and Syria, and their unresolved questions of national identity, larger regional conflicts, also of a sectarian nature, are a driving force behind the violence.

Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian civil war came not as a result of automatic sentiments of solidarity, but because Hezbollah forms part of a regional alliance headed by Iran, to which the Assad regime also belongs. When Assad found himself in trouble, Hezbollah was mobilized to assist him. On the opposing side, the Syrian rebels have benefited from the support and patronage of Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia, and other states along the Arabian peninsula, including the United Arab Emirates.

This rivalry is long standing and not just rooted in theological differences. It is about power. Iran is controlled by a revolutionary regime whose goal is to become the hegemonic force in the Middle East. Although the Iranians certainly regard the Saudis as an enemy and as unfit custodians of Islam’s most holy sites, Tehran’s main goal is to assert control over Arabian Gulf energy supplies, replacing the U.S. as guarantor of resources upon which world is dependent. Tehran understands that the real source of power in the region is the Gulf itself, with its enormous reserves of oil and natural gas that are essential to the global economy. To achieve its goals, Iran must tempt or coerce the Gulf monarchies away from U.S. protection and toward an alliance with Tehran, and ironically, American perceived weakness in the face of Tehran’s nuclear pursuit makes that all the more possible.

Riyadh has emerged as the principle opponent to Iran’s regional ambitions, mainly because the former guarantor of the current regional order, the United States, has chosen to leave the field. Until 2011, the Middle East appeared to be locked into a kind of cold war, in which the Iranians, along with their allies and proxies, sought to overturn the U.S.-dominated regional order, which was based on U.S. alliances with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel. Events over the last five years, however, have created the impression that the U.S. no longer wishes to play this role: America failed to back its longtime Egyptian ally, Hosni Mubarak, when he faced domestic unrest in early 2011. It failed to support the rebel forces fighting the Iran-backed Assad regime. And it failed to back Bahrain against an Iran-supported uprising in the same year. Now, the U.S. appears to be seeking a general rapprochement with Iran.

As a result of all this, Saudi Arabia has begun to take a far more active role in the region. Riyadh and its Gulf allies have certainly helped to finance and stabilize Egypt after the military removed Muhammad Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government from power. It began to take a leading role in supporting the Syrian rebels. It has well-documented relations with the anti-Syrian March 14 movement in Lebanon. In December 2013, the Saudis pledged $3 billion to the official Lebanese army. They also support anti-Maliki elements in Iraq. In addition, they are seeking to create an alliance among the other Gulf states in order to oppose Iranian ambitions, with some success.

But all of the above will not work for the Saudis unless they also stretch out a friendly hand to Israel and do a “SADAT” – that is – backing the right of Israel provided it settles with the Palestinians and do this in a pro-active way by showing their readiness to bankroll a solution of the Palestinian conflict. We say this is the cheapest way for the Saudis to wrestle the region from the Iranians – but we found no such conclusion in the original article. This might be too revolutionary for the conventional mindset that believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just another Middle East intractable conflict like the one in the article. The trick is to see how an opportunity is created when trying to go about two seemingly intractable problems in tandem!

The original article follows instead by saying -  “increasingly violent rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, intensified by American withdrawal from the region, has helped turn a conflict that was once cold into an increasingly hot cross-border sectarian war.”

There is considerable evidence of links between Iran and Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and their respective allies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, on the other.

On the Iranian side, Tehran no longer makes any serious attempt to deny the enormous assistance they have given the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed, the Iranians have effectively mobilized all their available regional assets in order to preserve it. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Qods Force, Qassem Suleimani, went to Syria himself in order to coordinate these efforts. Perhaps most notably, in mid-2012 the Iranians began training a new light infantry force for Assad. Called the National Defense Force, it was necessary because Assad was unable to use much of his own army, which consisted of Sunni conscripts whose loyalty was unreliable. Iran has even sent its own IRGC fighters to fight in Syria; a fact revealed by footage taken by an Iranian cameraman who was later killed by the rebels, the testimony of Syrian defectors, and the capture of a number of IRGC men in August 2012.

In April 2013, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was summoned to Iran and instructed to deploy his own fighters in Syria. Up to 10,000 of them are now on the ground in Syria at any given time, and they played a crucial role in retaking the strategic town of Qusayr in August 2013. Hezbollah fighters are also taking a prominent role in the battle for the Qalamun area near the Lebanese border, as well as the fighting around Damascus.

Iranian financial donations have also been vital in keeping the regime alive. In January 2013, Iran announced a “credit facility” agreement with Syria that extended a $1 billion line of credit to Assad. Later the same year, an additional credit line of $3.6 billion was announced.

Iraq has also played a vital role in supporting Assad, mainly by allowing Iran to use Iraqi territory and airspace to transfer weapons to Syrian forces. At first glance, this appears to be a strange policy. Relations between Iraq and Syria prior to the civil war were not good, with Maliki openly accusing Assad of supporting Sunni insurgents. But this has now changed. Indeed, Maliki has openly supported Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. This reflects his increasing closeness to Iran, which helped ensure Maliki’s emergence as prime minister after the 2010 elections and pressured Assad to support him as well. Relations between Iraq, Iran, and Syria have only improved since.

In addition to government support, Iraqi Shia militias are now fighting in Syria on behalf of Assad. The Abu Fadl al-Abbas Brigades, Ktaeb Hezbollah, and the Ahl al-Haq group all have forces in Syria. They are playing an important role, given that one of Assad’s major weaknesses is his lack of reliably loyal soldiers. The eruption of violence in Iraq’s western Anbar province has further cemented this alliance, since the insurgency is a direct result of advances made by Sunni jihadis in Syria.

As a result of all this, the Iranian-led side of the regional conflict has emerged as a tightly organized alliance, capable of acting in a coordinated way, pooling its resources for a common goal, and fighting effectively from western Iraq all the way to the Mediterranean.

The Sunni side of the conflict is more chaotic and disjointed. Saudi Arabia is its main financier, but it lacks an equivalent to the Qods force and the IRGC, who are world leaders in subversion and irregular warfare.

Only the most extreme jihadi elements appear capable of clear coordination across borders. For example, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as its name suggests, is active in both countries and controls a contiguous area stretching from the western Anbar province in Iraq to the eastern Raqqa province in Syria. ISIS regards itself as a franchise of al-Qaeda, although it does not take orders directly from the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Another al-Qaeda group, Jabhat al-Nusra, is active in Syria. In Lebanon, a third branch of al-Qaeda, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, has played a role in the attacks on Hezbollah. In addition, both the ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra are active in Lebanon.

But there are also less extreme groups opposing the Syrian-Iranian axis. Saudi Arabia has backed the March 14 movement, which is the main Sunni opposition party in Lebanon, as well as providing financial support to the Lebanese army. In Syria, the Saudis have fostered the Islamic Front, an alliance of eight Islamist groups unconnected to al-Qaeda. It includes some of the strongest rebel brigades, such as Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Islam, and Liwa al-Tawhid. It is now emerging as the key bloc among the rebels. The Saudis also dominate the Syrian opposition in exile, with Ahmed Jarba, who has close links to Riyadh, recently reelected chairman of the Syrian National Coalition.

There are no indications that the Saudis are backing Sunni insurgents in Iraq, but the larger Sunni community is certainly looking to Riyadh for help. Relations between Saudi Arabia and the current Iraqi government are very bad. The border between the two countries is closed except during the Hajj pilgrimage, there is no Saudi embassy in Baghdad, and commercial relations are kept at a minimum. Some of the Sunni tribes in western Anbar have close links to the Saudis. While they are hostile to al-Qaeda, they are also opposed to the Maliki government, which they regard as a sectarian Shia regime.

There is a third element to this regional conflict that is something of a wild card: The Kurds. A non-Arab people who have long sought an independent state, the Kurds have succeeded in creating a flourishing autonomous zone in northern Iraq that enjoys most of the elements of de facto sovereignty. Since July 2012, another Kurdish autonomous zone has been established in northeast Syria. These two areas occupy a contiguous land mass, but are not politically united. The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq is controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, while the autonomous zone in northeast Syria is controlled by the PYD (Democratic Union Party), which is the Syrian branch of the Turkish-based leftist PKK movement.

These movements are rivals, and each sees itself as the appropriate leader of the Kurds. But while there is tension between them, each appears to be securely in control of its respective areas. The Kurds do not enjoy the support of any state in the region, and both the Iranians and the Saudis regard Kurdish national aspirations with suspicion. Nonetheless, the Kurds have managed to accumulate sufficient organizational and military strength to ensure the survival of their self-governing enclaves.

All these factors indicate that two rival alliances are clashing for hegemony over the region. There are myriad practical links between the various combatants, and their activities have long since spilled across the borders of the various states involved in the fighting; as indicated by the presence of Iranian fighters, ISIS, and Hezbollah in Syria; Syrian rebels in Lebanon; and many other examples. Iran is the leader of one side, Saudi Arabia is the main backer of the other, while the Kurds are concerned with maintaining their areas of control and are trying to stay out of the conflict.

The most significant result of the analysis is that the continued existence of Syria and Iraq as unified states is now in question. Practically speaking, Syria has already split into three areas, each controlled by one of the three elements listed above. Iraq has also effectively split into Kurdish and Arab zones, with Sunni and Shia groups fighting over the latter.

In many ways, Lebanon ceased to function as a unified state some time ago; since Hezbollah essentially functions as a de facto mini-state of its own. The Lebanese Sunnis lack a military tradition and have proved helpless in the face of Iran’s support for Hezbollah. But now, the emergence of the Syrian rebels and the growing popularity of Islamism among the Sunni underclass may be altering this balance. This appears to be borne out by the recent surge in Sunni violence against Hezbollah, which is the result of an attempt by Syrian jihadis and other rebels—in concert with their local allies—to bring the war to Lebanon.

Taken together, this indicates that a massive paradigm shift is underway in much of the Middle East. The eclipse of Arab nationalist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, the historical failure to develop a unified national identity in these states, their mixed ethnic and sectarian makeup, and the U.S.’s withdrawal from its dominant position in the region—with the resulting emergence of a Saudi-Iranian rivalry—have all combined to produce an extraordinary result: A region-wide sectarian war is now taking place in the areas still officially referred to as Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

For the West, as in the region itself, this has very serious implications. Dealing with it effectively will required an equally massive paradigm shift in strategic thinking on the Middle East, one that is capable of dispensing with previous illusions and admitting that sovereign borders once regarded as sacrosanct are swiftly becoming meaningless.

There are new borders taking shape, defined by sectarian divisions that the West ignores at its peril. Despite fantasies of withdrawing from the region, the security of global energy supplies and the maintenance of regional stability are still essential to Western interests. The West has as large a stake in the outcome of this sectarian conflict as the regional players involved. If it cannot adapt to the new Middle East that is swiftly taking shape, it will find itself on the losing side.

Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

The concluding paragraphs are why we thought highly about the article even we had to make some changes in it – and now again – we do not think the Western powers – the United States and the former Middle East colonial Powers of Britain and France have to try to keep onto the internal borders of the fictional States of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, they helped create years ago, and then helped maintain by helping the dictatorial and monarchic regimes that they helped institute.

It is obvious – if the Iran led Shia forces and allies come out victorious in Syria, there will be immediate follow-ups in Bahrain and the oil regions of Eastern Saudi Arabia itself – regions with clear Shia majorities.

As we said, the self preservation of the Saudi regime, that is if Saudi Arabia wants indeed to be considered as half of the tongues that hold together the Middle East – takes them to Jerusalem/Tel Aviv/Ramallah – and this might not be what the original article intended.

That article wanted the Saudis to travel to Washington instead – but really – President Obama with the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan is best advised to let the Arabs stew in their own pot, go for alternate energy, help China go for alternate energy as well – so they are not dependent on this imaginary Middle East source of global oil either. After all – the US has already lost the oil of Iraq and the contracts now are with China – who imagines the US thinks they will still manage the Saudi oil? The only ones still ready to hang on to strong positions in the region are the Israelis – and that is where the Saudis could find real brothers. Trying  to differentiate between varieties of Islamic extremists will not help create that devil with talent to know the difference between an Al-Qaeda Sunni who works well with the Iranian Shia and the Iraqi Sunni who still likes Saudi money.



Posted on on February 14th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (



Published Beirut, Lebanon Established 1974


Bahraini opposition holds conference in Beirut.

“Ongoing violations and constant impunity”: such was the cry adopted as a slogan this year by the Third International Conference on Human Rights in Bahrain. This was a cry addressed to the international community, following three years of unending suffering for the people of Bahrain. Tomorrow [Feb. 14], Bahrainis are commemorating the anniversary of the start of their uprising with protests that will fill the streets of Bahrain. These protests were called for two weeks ago by opposition political organizations. The conference began its activities yesterday [Feb. 12] at the Coral Beach Hotel in Beirut, in the presence of political and human rights dignitaries, with a short film that recounted the story of the “Bahraini revolution” from Feb. 14, 2011, until today. The film illustrated the peaceful nature of the movement, despite the continued repression exercised by the government.

Summary? Print As the third anniversary of the Bahrain uprising approaches, opposition activists are holding a conference in Beirut to draw the attention to the human rights abuses carried out by the Bahraini regime.
Author Ali Shukair Posted February 13, 2014

Translator(s)Kamal Fayad

The first speaker was conference Chairman Youssef Rabih, who’s also the head of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights and who substantiated the continued violation of Bahraini human rights and the arbitrary arrests of activists. He criticized the government for its violation of the Convention Against Torture, to which it was one of the first signatories.

In an interview with As-Safir concerning the practical measures that the conference will adopt to limit such transgressions, Rabih said: “The Bahraini rights dossier will be the subject of added focus at this stage. The Bahraini government was forced to acquiesce and allow a visit by the United Nations assessment team to Bahrain.” He also indicated that “the presence of the assessment team will mean better monitoring of and more pressure on the Bahraini regime in the coming phase.”

He added, “The open dialogue in Bahrain today is the culmination of international pressure exercised on the Bahraini government, which must be held accountable for its crimes against humanity.”

Concerning the Bahraini crown prince’s call for holding negotiations, Rabih asserted to As-Safir: “Inside the Bahraini regime, there exist competing factions. It would seem that the crown prince received support from non-Arab countries to open up to the opposition; this, in addition to him receiving a prerequisite Saudi green light. In this coming phase, Bahrainis must continue [their movement], and so they shall.”

At the conference, several Bahraini, Arab and foreign jurists took to the podium in succession. Most prominent among them was the principal partner in the conference, lawyer Mohamed al-Tajer, the head of the Bahraini Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Tajer expressed surprise at the manner by which the international community was dealing with the Bahraini [opposition] movement, and that international parties were turning a blind eye to the violations against prisoners of conscience, children and women.

Tajer spoke with As-Safir about the practical measures that will be undertaken by people concerned with the Bahraini situation, to mark the third anniversary of the movement. He said, “Preparations are ongoing and varied, to combat the government’s abuses. In addition to this conference, we have colleagues in Britain, Washington and Geneva who are attending symposia, presenting papers and cooperating with international organizations and lawyers sympathetic to the Bahraini cause. This is to put pressure aimed at holding accountable those responsible for these crimes and violations.”

Tajer reiterated the demand for an international controller from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to deal with the Bahraini issue. “We demand that this controller be given the widest authority, not only to offer technical aid — as the government desires — but to combat the violations, submit reports about them and put a stop to them.” He also demanded that “a special session be held by the Human Rights Council, to condemn the Bahraini government, as was the case in other countries.”

During the conference, a speech was given on behalf of the high commissioner of the United Nations, as well as Amnesty International. Noteworthy was the presence of two prominent foreign personalities interested in the Bahraini cause, namely British lawyer Pete Weatherby, and American lawyer Abby Jules. The latter strongly criticized the political arrests carried out by the regime, and affirmed that she would be presenting this issue before the American court of public opinion, as well as Congress.

At the end of the conference, the “always present absentee” lawyer and human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, whose brainchild the event was, was presented with a shield of honor that a representative accepted — and a video clip dedicated to him was shown.

It’s worth mentioning that the conference continues today, from 9:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., where several issues will be addressed. In addition, there will be interactive sessions with several activists, followed by a final statement and recommendations.


Sudan opposition: Bashir hosting Egyptian Brotherhood leaders.

Alaa el-Din Abdel Rahman, leader of the Tamarod movement in Sudan, said, “Sudan’s Tamarod movement existed before Egypt’s Tamarod movement, which was recently in the spotlight.

The movement in Sudan was in fact formed five years ago, before the Arab Spring revolutions, and it included youth groups that were created in the streets and resembled a popular revolution. However, we did not get much attention due to the lack of media coverage. This resulted from the tyranny of the regime, which imposed censorship on the media, thus pushing the leaders of the movement to go to Egypt.

Summaryt In an interview with Azzaman, the head of Sudan’s Tamarod movement, Alaa el-Din Abdel Rahman, contends that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is hosting fugitive members of Egypt’s Brotherhood.
Author Mustafa Amara Posted February 7, 2014

Translator(s)Pascale Menassa

“There, we called ourselves the Sudanese Tamarod movement for our name to echo in the Arab and Islamic worlds. We also took with us to Cairo the media and foreign relations files and coordinated with the opposition. When the September incidents took place, we were not expecting the regime to be this violent with the protesters. Over three days, the regime killed 350 people and arrested 2,150 others, not to mention the ones who ‘disappeared.’”

Abdel Rahman told Azzaman that everyone agrees on toppling the regime, uniting the opposition, forming a consensual transitional government and bringing back the 1956 constitution. In response to a question about the mechanisms adopted to achieve these goals, he said, “We will take it to the streets, protest and coordinate with the reliable people of some political parties. We will steer clear of parties like the Democratic Union Party and the Umma Party, which concluded deals with the ruling regime to share the pie, irrespective of the interests of the Sudanese people.”

Abdel Rahman clarified, in statements to Azzaman, “Some of the youth in the movement asked to carry weapons, in response to the regime’s oppressive measures led against us. Yet, we refused and insisted on maintaining the peaceful aspect of our protests so as not to give the regime the chance to distort our image.”

Some believe that the Sudanese Tamarod movement is not really present in the Sudanese street. Abdel Rahman denied these statements and said that they are constantly repeated by the ruling regime or by the opposition that is allied with this regime.

“In fact, our youth have been in the streets for 10 years. They protested in the streets in September 2013, and most of them were the movement’s youth. Unfortunately, the media sides with the regime in its coverage,” he added.

Abdel Rahman confirmed to Azzaman that they are coordinating with the Egyptian Tamarod movement.

“When I arrived to Cairo to escape the tyranny of the Sudanese government, we contacted the Egyptian Tamarod movement, which offered us moral support. The movement allowed us to use its headquarters, and we are still coordinating,” he noted.

Regarding rumors that the Egyptian organizations are supporting the Sudanese Tamarod movement to pressure the Sudanese government, Abdel Rahman told Azzaman, “These are lies repeated by the regime to distort our image. We do not have any capacities to do so. The best proof is that we did not have cameras during the September protests, and we relied on our mobile phones to take videos. Where would we get the funding from?”

He also revealed that the Sudanese regime had strong relationships with former President Mohammed Morsi’s regime. When the June 30 Revolution took place, the regime hosted several Brotherhood leaders. Sudan became a route for smuggling weapons to Egyptian members of the opposition. There are, indeed, arsenals that are funded by Iran, as the Sudanese regime has strong relations with this country. The latter supplies Sudan with weapons and provides huge investments. The Sudanese regime is also working on implementing Iran’s agenda in the Horn of Africa
Read more:


Posted on on January 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (

 The following is by now old hat but we decided to post it anyhow – this because it is still the base for understanding the surrealism of the Syria Geneva II meeting that just started with a Montreux, Switzerland,  introductory.

The best reporting we know is that from Matthew Russell Lee reporting from the UN Security Council door:

We believe that Iran belongs to the meeting – so do the Kurds. But Geneva I deemed that the meeting is basically between the Assad government of Syria and a “UNIFIED” opposition delegation that in reality does not exist. The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), that is headed by Mr. Jarba is a Saudi/Qatari – they are backed only by half of the Turkey based leadership, and do not include the Kurdish held territory at all. That is the Turks’ contribution to the Syrian/Iraqi mess.
Russia – the other P2 that with the US and the UN is in the driver’s seat of these meetings has its own Islamic problem in the Caucasus and in more central parts of Russia along the Volga river – they like to back the Assad regime for their own reasons but want no part of his other backers like Islamic Mullahs of Iran.

To start making sense Iran will have to come clean on its nuclear dealings with the West – so the US will allow them participation at the Syrian table and this is what we mean by making themselves Salon Clean. Without this there is no progress in their relations with the UN and the West on any issue. They may think that  time is in their favor and might try to play as outsiders against everyone at the Geneva table.

Russia on the other hand does not have the luxury of time – this because of the Sochi winter games and surprise – their internal nemesis are training now in Syria and the US might just decide that if the Russians are not supportive of the West’s goals in the Middle East – why play their ski slopes at all? That would be a terrible set-back to ambitious Mr. Putin.

The drama is thus that nobody gives a damn about Syrian lives when pursuing  their own particular goals and our true cynicism is revealed in the greater interest we saw in the Davos World Economic Forum meeting then in any of the Middle East negotiations.


U.N. Invites Iran to Syria Talks, Raising Objections From the U.S.

The announcement by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, that he had invited Iran to a peace conference to end the war in Syria drew strong objections on Sunday from American officials, who suggested that Iran had not met all the conditions for attending and that the invitation might need to be withdrawn.

At the heart of the dispute is whether Iran has accepted the terms of the talks, which begin Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland: to establish “by mutual consent” a transitional body to govern Syria. Mr. Ban said he had been privately assured that Iranian officials “welcome” those rules and that they had pledged to play “a positive and constructive role.”

American officials said they had been in regular communication with the United Nations over the requirements Iran would need to meet to be invited, but they appeared to have been caught off guard by Mr. Ban’s hastily organized news conference. They pointed out that Iran had not publicly accepted the formal mandate for the conference, which was agreed upon in Geneva in 2012 and is known as the Geneva communiqué.

“If Iran does not fully and publicly accept the Geneva communiqué, the invitation must be rescinded,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Officials in Washington emphasized that Iran had made no such public statement at the time of Mr. Ban’s news conference. It was expected to release one early Monday.

If Iran has accepted the Geneva terms, it would be a sharp turnaround, since it has long insisted that it will participate in talks only if there are no preconditions. Still, such a shift would not necessarily mean Tehran had accepted that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office.

Some 30 countries have been invited to Montreux for what may be a largely ceremonial opening day of the peace talks. Two days later, Syria’s government and opposition delegations will move to Geneva to continue the deliberations, mediated by a United Nations special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Diplomats and Middle East analysts say that if there are any breakthroughs, they will take place in Geneva. The negotiations are not expected to yield major results, except perhaps to open up certain parts of Syria to the delivery of humanitarian aid, which has been long denied.

Iran’s participation has been a subject of intense diplomatic wrangling for several weeks. Mr. Ban and Mr. Brahimi have insisted that Iran, given its considerable influence over the Assad government, should be part of the negotiations. So has the Syrian government’s other major ally, Russia.

The United States has long been wary of Iran’s intentions. Tehran has been one of the Assad government’s staunchest political and military supporters, sending arms to Damascus and encouraging Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia, to join the fight on the side of Mr. Assad.

As recently as last Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry complained that Iran was, effectively, a belligerent in the conflict.

“Iran is currently a major actor with respect to adverse consequences in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said. “No other nation has its people on the ground fighting in the way that they are.”

On Sunday, Ms. Psaki added in her statement, “We also remain deeply concerned about Iran’s contributions to the Assad regime’s brutal campaign against its own people, which has contributed to the growth of extremism and instability in the region.”

Iran’s inclusion has the potential to turn the Syria peace talks into a platform for intensifying Middle East conflicts. Also represented will be Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival.

Andrew J. Tabler, an expert on Syria at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Iran’s presence “seems to widen the circle of regional involvement.” But he also noted that Iran and the United States could be expected to hold diametrically opposed views as to whether Mr. Assad must give up power.

“Given that Iranian forces and their Shia militias are deployed on the ground backing up Assad, it means another Assad backer will be present at this meeting,” Mr. Tabler said.

Syria’s political opposition said in a Twitter message that it would not attend unless Mr. Ban withdrew Iran’s invitation.

“The Syrian coalition announces that they will withdraw their attendance in Geneva 2 unless Ban Ki-moon retracts Iran’s invitation,” the Twitter message said, quoting Louay Safi, a coalition spokesman.

The ultimatum came just a day after the coalition, facing a boycott by a third of its members, had voted to send a delegation to the peace talks. The opposition has been under intense international pressure, including from the United States government, to participate.

Mr. Ban said Sunday that he had spoken extensively with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening-day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June, 2012, Geneva communiqué,” Mr. Ban said.

“Foreign Minister Zarif and I agreed that the goal of the negotiations is to establish by mutual consent a transitional governing body with full executive powers,” he added. “It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.”

Somini Sengupta reported from New York, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.


Posted on on January 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (




Netanyahu, Rouhani Planes Parked Next to Each Other at Davos – according to Bloomberg.


January 22, 2014 12:56 pm 4 comments
A photograph of the Israeli and Iranian airplanes parked next to each other at Zurich's Airport for the World Economic Forum. Photo: Screenshot / John Fraher.

A photograph of the Israeli and Iranian airplanes parked next to each other at Zurich’s International Airport for
the World Economic Forum.
Photo: Screenshot / Gwen Ackerman.

As a true sign of the global connectivity taking place in Davos this week at the World Economic Forum, Bloomberg News published a picture worth a thousand words – the planes of the Israeli and Iranian delegations parked next to each other at Zurich International Airport.

“Netanyahu and Rouhani planes find themselves side-by-side at Zurich airport as both head to Davos,” John Fraher, Bloomberg’s Managing Editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa tweeted on Wednesday, linking to the picture.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was bringing a delegation of some 100 leading Israeli businessmen to the event, where he has meetings scheduled with the corporate leaders of Yahoo and Google. Presumably, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is attending to interest world business leaders in the Iran economy, recently opening up for business after the Islamic Republic formally inked a nuclear treaty with world powers, led by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, this week.




BUT ALSO  – according to CNN:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted Wednesday that the Obama administration mischaracterizes Iran’s concessions in the nuclear deal, telling CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto in an exclusive interview that “we did not agree to dismantle anything.”

As part of the deal, Iran was required to dilute its stockpile of uranium that had been enriched to 20%, well above the 5% level needed for power generation but still below the level for developing a nuclear weapon.

In addition, the deal mandated that Iran halt all enrichment above 5% and “dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%,” according to a White House fact sheet issued in November after the initial agreement was reached.

Zarif accused the Obama administration of creating a false impression with such language.



Posted on on December 24th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

We posted recently about Dr. Trita Parsi now we have further material from Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi who gallantly had offered himself as a candidate in the 2013 Iranian Presidential elections – but was not one of those that were allowed into the final election list.

The Princeton based American Iranian Council (AIC) led by  former Senator J. Bennett Johnston (Chairman) and Professor Hooshang Amirahmadi (Founder and President) which is a different organization from Dr. Trita Parsi’s Washington DC based National Iranian American Council (NIAC),  in their Seasons Greetings, write the following:

We are at a critical juncture, when our two nations and their leaders have decided to make every effort to strengthen their resolve for peace. The spoilers on both sides, however, seek to derail this path. The latest provocation by the US Congress to impose further sanctions on Iran is a move that would destroy this rare chance for improved relations, endangering us all with an unnecessary confrontation.


The Council, since its inception more than two decades ago, has continued to oppose sanctions of any kind and war for any reason. We are for better US-Iran relations, for a nuclear weapon-free Iran, and for economic prosperity and human rights of the Iranian people. The AIC is the only organization that has never wavered in its commitment to a diplomatic resolution of US-Iran conflict.

We are steadfast in our pioneering mission to achieve better US-Iran relations through constructive engagement. Towards that aim, we have organized high-powered conferences with influential leaders, raised the level of debate, produced quality publications, expanded our programs, and engaged with decision-makers in both countries and globally.

Their  program for 2014 includes  the moves:

The US Congress: Organize four educational roundtables with congressional leaders and staffers.


Iran’s hardliners: Publish a major analytical document and several shorter analyses in Farsi showing why the nuclear deal is in Iran’s best interest.


Israel: Organize a major Iran-Israel policy conference and three off the record Track II Meetings, designed to engage Israel in the US Iran rapprochement.


Saudi Arabia: Coordinate a major policy conference on Iran-Saudi relations and help formulate a regional security structure involving Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors.


Economic Relations with Iran: Organize an informative conference on legalized business, compliance frameworks, and trade prospects. 



Posted on on December 23rd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


In Summary: The Saudis say: t Opposition from Oman will not deter Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from seeking strength in GCC unity.

GCC interior ministers attend their annual conference in Manama, Nov. 28, 2013. (photo by REUTERS)


Saudi Arabia moving ahead with Gulf union.


Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to transform the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a formidable military alliance and even a unified state have run into opposition from Oman, but the kingdom is determined to try to go forward in any case. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud believes unity is strength, while many of his fellow monarchs fear it is a threat to their independence.

Abdullah promoted his son, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, this year to be the first minister of the national guard, elevating command of the kingdom’s elite security force to the level of a ministry and placing his son in the cabinet. On Dec. 20, Mutaib announced that the GCC would create a 100,000-man strong force to defend the region in the next few years, a massive expansion of what has long been a token military unit. Mutaib also reiterated his father’s wish to have the GCC transform itself from a loose collection of independent states without even a common currency into a unified nation-state, presumably under the leadership of the House of Saud. A unified Gulf monarchy would be the only sure path to regional security and strength that Mutaib argued.


Mutaib is an important player in the kingdom, an up-and-comer. The Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG) was commanded by Abdullah from 1962 until 2010. In the course of his half century in command of the SANG, Abdullah lavished on it the best weapons and equipment money could buy and turned it into the strongest military force in the country, larger and better led than the regular army. Over 100,000 strong and equipped with armored vehicles and helicopters, the SANG has been trained by US advisers since 1975 and appears intended to be the core of the envisioned GCC army.


The SANG functions as the praetorian guard of the royal family. It secures the capital, Riyadh, and the two holy cities, Mecca and Medina, and is also extensively deployed in the oil-rich Eastern Province that has a large Shiite population. SANG troops intervened in Bahrain in 2011 to suppress the reform movement on the island, which demands greater political rights for the Shiite majority from the Sunni royal family in Manama. By elevating SANG to the level of a ministry, Abdullah has given his son a bigger voice in the decision-making process of the kingdom on critical internal and external security issues. By speaking about the need for a stronger GCC, Mutaib is reflecting his father’s wishes.


Mutaib’s comments come in the wake of the latest GCC summit in Kuwait. Before the summit, Abdullah pressed for an agreement to form a unified Gulf state. On the eve of the meeting, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi publicly said that Oman would not join a unified state, even if the other five members agreed. Oman has long played an independent role in the GCC. The sultanate, for example, does not share the paranoia about Iran that is so prevalent in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Muscat provided the venue for secret US-Iranian talks that helped set the stage for the Geneva agreement on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The sultan of Oman has long served as an intermediary between Washington and Tehran, passing messages from US President Bill Clinton to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami in the 1990s, for example.


Oman is also a country with a long tradition of independence. It was once an empire that included much of today’s Pakistani Baluchistan and Zanzibar in East Africa. It practices its own unique variant of Islam and was never conquered by the Wahhabi armies of Saudi Arabia in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Oman’s open opposition to the unity proposal may have played a part in Abdullah’s decision to send his brother Crown Prince Salman to the summit in Kuwait. How much support the Saudis have for a unified state among the GCC monarchs is unclear, but it is unlikely to be a majority. The Sunni monarchy in Manama backs the idea — of course it has little alternative. In a greater Gulf state the Bahraini Sunnis would no longer be a minority. Some of the Kuwaiti royals may be sympathetic to the idea — their memories of August 1990 and the Iraqi occupation are still vivid, and they see the kingdom as their only real immediate ally. But Qatar and the UAE are unlikely to support any serious unity proposal, since it would end their independence and probably lead to pressure to share the Gulf states’ wealth more equitably.


Prince Turki bin Faisal, former head of Saudi intelligence, has said the kingdom wants to go ahead with the unity scheme with or without Oman. Mutaib’s statement suggests the king is eager to do so. In the uncertain world of the “Arab Awakening,” Iran’s engagement with the Americans and Washington’s aversion to more Middle Eastern adventures, the Saudis are eager to find strength in unity among the monarchies. It may prove to be a quixotic quest, but Abdullah is unlikely to give up any time soon. Expect the Saudis to keep pushing for it.

on Syria:
The Islamic Front welcomes foreign fighters and supports Islamic law in Syria. Its rise, at the expense of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, is the result of Saudi backing and finance. Although a force on the battlefield, there seems to be little about the Front that would merit the United States including them in a broad-based opposition group that is supposed to help the transition to a democratic future for Syria.   So instead of hoping for a sit-down with those who want a Sharia future for Syria, US diplomacy might be better focused on persuading Riyadh to rein in its Syrian jihadist allies and adhere to a cease-fire, if one can even be negotiated at this point. That is the only conversation the United States should be having about the Islamic Front or other jihadist groups operating there, and it is to be had with Saudi Arabia, not the Front.

If it is not already too late, the United States should refocus on engaging secular opposition figures, especially those inside Syria who would be well-positioned to play a bridging role in a transition and who have been sidelined by the machinations and largesse of regional parties.

With the rise of a more radicalized, foreign-backed Islamist opposition, the prospect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad negotiating his own transition out of office in January at the Geneva II conference seems a non-starter.


Also on Dec. 20, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League special representative for Syria, and representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, agreed that Saudi Arabia would be invited to Geneva II, although the United States continues to block Iran’s participation in the conference – but  there is no cease-fire or transition in Syria without Iran.

If the purpose of Geneva II is to stop the war and negotiate a political transition, it is not clear how this objective is served by keeping out Iran, Syria’s number-one ally. Iran, on the outside, would have no investment in a successful outcome. Keeping Iran out of Geneva II is probably money in the bank for a stalemated or unsuccessful conference.



Posted on on December 22nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Wives of Ambassadors, Women Ambassadors and High Ranking Staff, organized to try to make more understandable issues being debated at the UN. Under the leadership of Mrs. Irmeli Viinanen they tackled the thorny Iranian issue with the help of Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council.


The mission of the Women’s International Forum at the UN (WIF)  is to “provide a forum for briefings and discussions on international affairs, in order to promote understanding and mutual appreciation among members of the diplomatic community, the United Nations Secretariat, and the United Nations community at large and to network, promote knowledge, and raise awareness about current international issues – particularly those related to the United Nations, and to uphold the purpose and the principles of the United Nations Charter.”

At present time the Executive Board includes: Irmeli Viinanen, President (Finland), Nelly Gicho-Niyonzima, Vice-President (Burundi), Mounia Loulichki, Sahar Baassiri,  Pamela Jacovides, Malini Nambiar, Muna Rihani, Ingrid Ruzicková, Nareumon Sinhaseni, Peggy Sanford Carlin, Berit Stanton and  Cristina Tortorelli de Errazuriz.

Many of the women who serve as their countries’ permanent representatives, or as high-ranking officials of the UN Secretariat, serve on the WIF Honorary Board.


At present time the Honorary Board includes: H.E. Ms. Maria Cristina Perceval, Argentina; H.E. Mrs. Bénédicte Frankinet, Belgium; H.E. Ms. Mirsada Colakovic,Bosnia and Herzegovina H.E. Ms. Edita Hrdá, Czech Republic; H.E. Ms. Mary Flores, Honduras; H.E. Ms. Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, Iceland; H.E. Ms. Byrganym Aitimova, Kazakhstan; H.E. Ms. Marjon V. Kamara, Liberia; H.E. Ms. Raimonda Murmokait?, Lithuania; H.E. Ms. Sylvie Lucas, Luxembourg; H.E. Ms. Isabelle F. Picco, Monaco; H.E. Ms. Marlene Moses, Nauru; H.E. Ms. Maria Rubiales de Chamorro,  Nicaragua; H.E. Ms. U. Joy Ogwu,  Nigeria; H.E. Ms. Lyutha S. Al-Mughairy, Oman; H.E. Ms. Simona-Mirela Miculescu, Romania; H.E. Ms. Menissa Rambally, Saint Lucia; H.E. Mrs. Marie-Louise Potter Seychelles; H.E. Ms. Sofia Borges, Timor-Leste;  H.E. Ms. Aksoltan T. Atayeva, Turkmenistan; H.E. Dr. Mwaba P. Kasese-Bota, Zambia; H.E. Ms. Paulette A. Bethel,Chef de Cabinet for the President of the 68th General Assembly
  Mrs. Ban Soon-Taek, wife of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, is the Patron of the WIF.

trita_parsi_150x200         On December 11, 2013 WIF held at the UN ECOSOC Chamber a Briefing with Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the                National Iranian American Council and a generally recognized Senior Iranian analyst.

           The topic was “The Iran nuclear deal – how we got here and what it means”



Born in Iran to a Zoroastrian family, Parsi moved with his family to Sweden at the age of four in order to escape the political repression in Iran. His father was an outspoken academic who was jailed under the reign of the Shah and later under Ayatollah Khomeini‘s Islamic Republic.

He came to the US first in a high-school exchange program to Ohio where he lived in the house of Robert Ney, then of Ohio State Congress and later a US Congressman. This link with Congressman Ney turned out later of major importance to both of them.

Parsi earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations at Uppsala University and a second Master’s Degree in Economics at Stockholm School of Economics.  Parsi moved to the United States and studied foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies where he received his Ph.D. in International Relations. In a personal statement as part of his application to a Harvard doctoral program, Parsi mentioned his success at converting Ney into Congress’s most pro-Iranian member. “In 1997,” he wrote, “I worked as policy advisor on MidEastern issues to Congressman Robert Ney of Ohio. My job was to reformulate Ney’s position vis-à-vis Iran. At the time, Ney was a supporter of the Clinton Administration’s isolation policy of Iran. By identifying the long-term strategic necessity of befriending Iran and showing how such a policy should be pursued, I was successful in convincing Ney to alter his position. In 1997, he became one of the first Congressmen to propagate dialogue with Tehran.”

In effect, Trita Parsi emerged naturally as a bridge between Iran, the  US and Sweden and even Israel. Early in his career he worked with the Swedish Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, where he served in the Security Council, handling the affairs of Afghanistan, Iraq, Tajikistan, and Western Sahara, and on the General Assembly’s Third Committee, addressing human rights in Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq.

In Washington he  served as an adjunct professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and as a Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars emerging as immensely influential on formulation of US policy in the larger Middle East, and as a link with Iran.

In 2002, Parsi closed down in effect the IIC (Iranians for International Cooperation – Iranian International Council – a trade lobby in Washington trying to fight the sanctions on Iran)  and founded the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), whose stated purpose was “to enable Iranian Americans to condemn the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks” and, later, to provide a “grass-roots group aimed at strengthening their voice.” Through the organization, he supports engagement between the US and Iran in belief that it “would enhance our [U.S.] national security by helping to stabilize the Middle East and bolster the moderates in Iran.” On the group’s formation, he commented, “We realized that our primary thing that separates the Iranian-American community from the Jewish-American community, the Arab-American community, the Armenian-American community is that the Iranian-American community has shunned political participation.” NIAC has received financial support from the Open Society Institute, the Tides Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Kenbe Foundation, and the Kamyar and Goli Foundation. In effect what Trita Parsi was doing is to create instead a Washington based lobby that works in favor of the Iranian people without supporting the mullahs. This was a tall task in the back-stabbing world of business lobbies in Washington, and clearly put him at the center of controversy – specially as his first mentor – Congressman Robert Ney – got involved in the Jack Abramoff scandals and was fined for supporting the permission to export one airplane to Iran (Bob Ney, Trita Parsi and pro-Tehran activities in Washington).

In 2007, Yale University Press published “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States.” Parsi’s work is an expansion of his 2006 Ph.D. dissertation written at Johns Hopkins University under the supervision of his Ph.D. adviser Francis Fukuyama.  The book “takes a closer look at the complicated triangular relations between Israel, Iran, and the United States that continue to shape the future of the Middle East.”  The book basically argues that the struggle between Israel and Iran is not ideological but strategic. The book received many positive reviews. In Foreign Affairs, L. Carl Brown called the book a “well-constructed history” and former U.S. ambassador Peter Galbraith praised the book as “a wonderfully informative account.” The book was also praised by political scientist John Mearsheimer and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who was on his dissertation committee. In 2008, Treacherous Alliance was awarded the silver medal (runner-up) in the Council on Foreign RelationsArthur Ross Book Award. About that time I first encountered Dr. Trita Parsi at a book presentation sponsored in person by Arthur Ross at the Asia Society in New York and I was tremendously impressed by the fact that it seemed obvious – the man has direct relations with all four  protagonists in the Middle East – Iranians, Americans, Israel and the Saudis – and somehow manages to survive by not letting down any of them, while criticizing their governmental positions. In many ways he sounded like  Stephen Kinzer   who was talking of a RESET in policy that eventually ought to ring in US policies that will eventually be anchored on Turkey and Iran. To me – Trita Parsi was in effect an agent of the future.

In a 2011 interview with the Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard University, he asserted that his thesis had “been vindicated” by recent events. “I believe it is increasingly clear that efforts to divide the region between moderates vs radicals, democracies vs non-democracies etc is of little utility and has no real explanatory value. Israel, for instance, who had sought to frame its rivalry with Iran as a struggle between the region’s sole Western democracy against a fanatical Islamic tyranny, favored the status quo in Egypt and opposed the efforts to oust Mubarak.”

He added that “With the decline of the US, Israel’s strategic paralysis and increased isolation in the region, the rise of Turkey, the ‘revolutions’ in Tunisia and Egypt, and Iran’s continued difficulties in translating its strength to regional acceptance, the region is experiencing momentous changes both in its political structure and in its balance of power. An ideology based approach towards understanding these shifts won’t get you far.”


As we already said – Parsi’s career is not all roses. In effect he is also a focal point in the fight between various lobbies in Washington – so in 2007, Arizona-based Iranian-American journalist Hassan Daioleslam began publicly asserting that NIAC was lobbying on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In response, Parsi sued him for defamation. As a result of the lawsuit, many internal documents were released, including e-mail correspondence between Parsi and Mohammad Javad Zarif, then Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations under President Ahmedinejad, and now under President Rouhani the Foreign Minister of Iran. In a November 2009 article, Washington Times national security correspondent Eli Lake reported on some of the facts disclosed in those documents. After Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, for example, the NIAC, fearing that Obama would put Dennis Ross, an anti-Iran hardliner, in charge of Iran policy, and thus scuttle their efforts to persuade U.S. officials to lift sanctions, deliberately set out to create a “media controversy” about Ross and thereby prevent his appointment.


Although Ross got the job, Lake noted that Parsi, whose “history suggests a continuing commitment to changing U.S. policy on Iran,” had “clearly become more influential in Washington since the change of administrations.” Now, wrote Lake, “a lawsuit has brought to light numerous documents that raise questions about whether the organization is using that influence to lobby for policies favorable to Iran in violation of federal law.” Those documents, according to Lake, “offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.” Although Parsi denied that NIAC was a lobby, he was previously connected with IIC – a trade lobby, which had openly advocated for the removal of the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran.


A former federal law-enforcement official, who asked to review documents showing that Parsi had helped arrange meetings between members of Congress and Zarif, said that anyone engaging in such activity should be registered as a foreign agent; another such official said that “this may be lobbying.” Lake also quoted Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian filmmaker and unofficial spokesman for Iran’s opposition Green Movement, as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”


In September 2012, after a more than four-year legal battle, a U.S. federal judge threw out the libel suit against Daioleslam on the grounds that “NIAC and Parsi had failed to show evidence of actual malice, either that Daioeslam acted with knowledge the allegations he made were false or with reckless disregard about their accuracy.” Parsi and the NIAC were ordered to pay part of Daioleslam’s legal expenses, and Daioleslam stated that “I have always believed that NIAC and Trita Parsi lobby for the Iranian regime. I maintained and reiterated this belief during the lawsuit, my deposition and in our last motions including the motion for summary judgment.”In January 2013, Daioleslam published a series of e-mails between Parsi and Zarif which suggested that the former was passing information to the latter.

Something we clearly find quite in accordance with what we observed about Trita Parsi and tried to convey in this long introduction.


Further, quite excited when I found out about the invitation the Women’s International Forum at the UN (WIF) had extended to Trita Parsi to give a briefing at the UN, I did in effect congratulate Mrs. Irmeli Viinanen for the group’s choice,  I went to the event as a guest of my wife, expecting to get perhaps quotable new insights to the Iran nuclear issue in particular, and to the Obama Administration position on the larger Middle East in general.

So now to what was actually said in this very vivid event at the UN which extended for about one and a half hours – half of it the Parsi presentation, and half for a very active Q&A period. I was amazed that only one UN accredited journalist – a reporter from Lebanon linked to the Hezbollah – was present and active at this event, which was announced in the UN Journal, and open to all who have access to the UN.

What was said?

Trita Parsi started by describing the Washington of 2012 as a place where the US Department of Defense expected in early 2012 a military confrontation with Iran – and now – just one and a half years later the atmosphere is very different. What happened in between?

(a) The elections in Iran. We doubted there will be a high participation – yet they came and voted for the most laid back name that was put before them. With him came to Government people that were marginalized in the last 8 years during the Ahmdinejad Administration.

(b) Trita Parsi pointed out that even in the past the Iranians had participated in the taming of  Afghanistan  as per the Bonn agreement signed December 10, 2011. (The conference, which was attended by 85 states, 15 international organizations and the United Nations, focused on three main issues involving the conclusion of the Afghan War and the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan Government, scheduled to occur in 2014. These were: civil aspects of the transition process, the role of international community in Afghanistan after the handover, and long-term political stabilization of the country. The conference concluded by issuing a statement affirming continued international support for Afghanistan for the next decade. Progress was not hindered by Iran, but was hindered by Pakistan‘s boycott of the conference following the 2011 NATO attack in Pakistan.)

(c) The Syria event showed the overwhelming opposition by Americans for a new involvement in the Middle East. There are credible threats on Members of Congress one way or the other and there is a realization that if this is not solved by diplomacy there will be costs to the US in any case.

(d) Paradoxically Iran looks now like the lowest hanging fruit in the Middle East. It has promise when compared with what may happen in a few years from now. The US Presidential legacy goal becomes attainable if both sides compromise – this because the sanctions on Iran did what they were supposed to do and impacted trade, currency etc. but did little on the nuclear issue. Iran increased its number of centrifuges from 164 to 19,000 and has by now over 1,800 kg. of enriched Uranium – slightly bellow 200 kg of 20% enriched Uranium. Parsi says that both sides – the US and Iran – pursued pipe-dreams objectives. Iran will never agree to have a zero program, and the Iranian dream was that the International community will come to accept their position. Parsi thinks that both sides came now to the realization that there will be no escalation risk while politicians talk of compromise and will quietly agree to something. Something like the acknowledgement that there will be an enrichment program on Iranian soil, and a very intrusive IAEA supervision and inspection mechanism. Trita Parsi says that this could have happened already 8 years ago under more favorable conditions to the US.

(d) Nevertheless, Parsi says that if not for a series of surprises, the whole thing could have gone in a different direction with a terrible outcome.
The fact that these surprises include the collapse of Syria, the various upheavals in Arab lands, the situation of Israel having become the only real superpower now in the Middle East created a specific case and it can not be a blue print for other situations when there is an attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

(e) Still, he is not over-confident right now because of the dysfunctional state of Washington today  and the fact that there are opponents to the Iranian Administration that wait to see the Rouhani started process fail.

(f) In Iran it is much more then about enrichment. It is rather about the determination who will be the face of Iran for many years to come.
Parsi says that it is for Rouhani to show that moderation pays – and for Washington to distance itself as well from what went on 8 years ago.
If successful – this could be constructive for the region as a whole, concluded Trita Parsi.

With this Mrs. Viinanen took over and asked the first question: “What has surprised you most at the Geneva talks?”
A.  Last day it was 23 hours non-stop.  The Surprise – Obama was ready to take the cost of taking on Washington and Congress.
The President spends now resources engaging with Congress. This is the first time he does so.

Trita Parsi then continued by talking about Iran. That Iran has been excluded from most political aspects of the region by its stands. Moderating the policies that come out from Iran will result in stopping the spoiler policy. They will have then moderating positions even on the issue of Israel.

It is nevertheless that the posture is changing and there will be repercussions on the Arab States – on the understanding of what it means to them. Had it not been for 2004 – 2006 – what is the impact of these proxy fights with Israel? Obama steps could put an end to wars – but at the time of the Bush Administration it was different – and Parsi talked of Dr. Efraim Sneh from Israel (a physician, military man, and politician who was also a minister in the government) who told him in 2006 that the Lebanon war is a prelude to an Iran War. The Pentagon was wrapped in cynicism already in 2004.


Who could be the spoilers? Israel? the Saudis?
A.  I do not share the opinion that Israel and the Saudis are losers. I cannot agree that the long term interest is to continue confrontation.
The spoiler could rather be US Congress if they pass sanctions against Iran. This is the primary element that worries the White House.
In Iran it is just 20 out of 290 deputies of Parliament that ask for calling Rouhani for questioning. In US Congress it is a majority that is against Obama.

Trita also pointed out that in the US, it was under a bill sponsored in Congress by Mr. Dick Cheney that asked to supply the Shah with 93% enriched Uranium – so in effect the Iranians were only asking to continue that US policy.

The parting words of Mr. Parsi were that now there is a possibility to get to a position to stop this confrontation.


The WIF women intend to have Ms. Amina J. Mohammed as their January speaker.
She will be dealing with RIO+20 and we expect to be there as well.

Upcoming Event


Ms. Amina J. Mohammed
“The Post-2015 development agenda – enabling a life of dignity for all”


By Ms. Amina J. Mohammed
Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning

Date: Monday, January 20th 2014
Time: 1.15 pm – 2.30 pm






    • Oct 01, 2007
      384 p., 6 1/8 x 9 1/4ISBN: 9780300120578





Posted on on December 19th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process 
Ambassador Andreas Reinicke:
  • On the Saudi Arabian perspective: “When I was in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago I spoke to the Crown Prince. The judgment I have is that the Arab world, or many countries in the Arab world, are  ready to engage with Israel if the Palestinian issue is resolved. I think this is an enormous positive opportunity…we have to cultivate it.”.



At the World Policy Conference in Monaco, the former head of the secret services in the Saudi kingdom and ambassador to the US, Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal shook hands on stage with former Israeli ambassador to the US Itamar Rabinovich and spoke with Likud MK Meir Shitrit, who told the prince: “Come to the Knesset,” Maariv/NRG Hebrew reporter Gidi Kotz reported from Monaco. Al-Faisal replied saying it would not be beneficial as long as Israel did not accept the Arab Peace Initiative of Saudi King Abdullah.

Al-Faisal called on Israel to accept the Arab Peace Initiative so that the details could then be negotiated. He said the elements of the solution are known: establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with land swaps and Jerusalem as its capital. He said solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead to solving other problems of the region. He lauded US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, but he also said that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders needed a ‘big bear’ that would sponsor the talks and that he doubted US President Barack Obama would be able to do the job on subjects such as land swaps, Jerusalem or security arrangements. “If Obama changes his mind, as in other issues, all hopes will vanish,” he said. Shitrit suggested he take on the job of the ‘big bear.’

On Iran, the Saudi prince said that the military option must remain on the table, but that wider talks over making the region nuclear-weapons-free must be part of the agreement and Israel should be included in these negotiations. He said that as former prime ministers, both Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert agreed to such a discussion if there were enough guarantees that Israel would not be endangered by nukes. Al-Faisal expressed disbelief in six-month interim agreements – both on the Iranian issue and on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and said it does not prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons in the future.

Al-Faisal denied the report that meetings were held between Saudi and Israeli intelligence services. But when he spoke with Shitrit, he noted with a smile, “We used to be in the same business,” hinting at Shitrit’s position as minister with the intelligence portfolio while serving in a previous Israeli government. ‘Tehran Times’ also ran a short report on the meeting.


The central issue is that Abbas is not allowed by the Arab States to put his signature to a document which says that the Jews have returned to their homeland. The perception is of Jews being foreign invaders of Palestine -  a fundamental widespread Palestinian attitude, which is instilled in the younger generations in the PA-run schools.

This “red line” is not just about semantics, but rather the essence of the conflict. The Palestinian position amounts to denying the Jews the right to establish their state in their homeland. It also indicates without any doubt that the Palestinians, despite the conventional wisdom, are not ready to reach a historic compromise with Zionism, the Jewish national revival movement. Therefore, a stable peace based on mutual recognition and ending all demands is not in the cards. The weak PA seems to accept partition of Mandatory Palestine into two states  – but it still refrains from accepting the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise. This impasse must be broken by a brave stand of at least one major Arab State – specifically Saudi Arabia. Here comes in Prince Turky with his first open talk in the presence of Israeli counterparts.

The Israelis, in spite of the continuation of the settlement policy, recognized nevertheless the “legitimate rights of the Palestinians” in the September 1978 Camp David Accords, and expressed readiness to partition of  Israel/Palestine provided that at first there is a recognition of their legitimacy on whatever territory they will be getting. The bitter truth is that the asymmetry in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not changed for over a century. In essence, this ethno-religious conflict is not about territory – although it obviously has a territorial dimension – but about securing the recognition of the other side to national rights in a given territory. Again – that is where Prince Turky can make good use of his policy knowledge.

We believe that it could be viewed positively by at least part of   Muslim World – the part closer to the Saudis, if the King decides to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to visit the third most important shrine which he contends that he is a custodian thereof.   In the process of doing so  he gives Israel  the recognition they demand, and he obtains co-management rights to a part of the city so that both – the  Hebrews and the Palestinians accept as mutual de Jure – not just de facto – recognition opening the way for further territorial agreements as between partners rather then enemies. WILL THE SAUDI KING TAKE THIS ROAD IN HIS OWN SELF-INTEREST?



Posted on on December 14th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

This article was held back by us as since August – as a draft – we think time has come to post it as (a) Mexico is moving in the direction of opening the door to foreign investments that clearly will reduce its independence from its big neighbor,
and (b) the decreased dependence of the US on Middle East oil has shown that the US can free itself of Saudi slavery and
help from Mexican crude does indeed aid US foreign policy.

Also, I just read reports from the Syrian mess and it is clear that the US must feel safe in its oil supplies in order to avoid changing its position of non-interference as no-one is honest enough there to give out an interpretation of insurgency. Who are the Syrian insurgents and what do they want? Who pays the UN to investigate there and who expects anything less then subservience to the Arab UN staff.


In Move for Economy, Mexican President Seeks Foreign Investment in Energy.

Published: August 12, 2013…

MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico on Monday, pushing one of the most sweeping economic overhauls here in the past two decades, proposed opening his country’s historically closed energy industry to foreign investment.

The president’s plan, which would rewrite two constitutional amendments, challenges a bedrock assumption of Mexico’s national identity — its total sovereignty over its energy resources — by inviting private companies to explore and pump for oil and natural gas.

Mr. Pena Nieto’s goal, like those of presidents before him, is to recharge Mexico’s economy by tackling areas that analysts agree hinder its expansion, which has averaged just 2.2 percent a year since 2001, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Perhaps the worst of those is the creaky energy sector. Demand for energy in the country is growing so fast that Mexico could turn from an energy exporter to an energy importer by 2020, the government says.

Already, Mexico must import almost half its gasoline, mostly from the United States. Mexican companies pay 25 percent more for electricity than competitors in other countries, the government says. Although Mexico has some of the world’s largest reserves of shale gas, it imports one-third of its natural gas.

In advancing the plan, Mr. Peña Nieto is making a gamble that the support he has built with opposition parties to make deep changes in education and telecommunications policy will carry over into the debate over energy and a related tax proposal he will send to Congress next month.

“With the reform that we are presenting, we will make the energy sector one of the most powerful engines in the economy,” Mr. Peña Nieto said at a ceremony to present the plan on Monday.

So far, Mr. Peña Nieto has proved astute at negotiating changes based on a list of commitments that all three major political parties agreed on last December. He has been helped by the two main opposition parties’ weakness after the 2012 election, which gave Mr. Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, a majority in Congress.

But his two major victories in education and telecommunications were comparatively easy. There was already consensus on the need to rein in the power of the teachers’ union and the companies that control telecommunications and television broadcasting.

In energy, the divisions are much deeper. In particular, Mexico’s left-wing parties have been adamant that the Constitution’s 75-year-old prohibition on private investment should remain ironclad. From the right, the National Action Party, or PAN, proposed energy reform last month that would go even further than Mr. Peña Nieto to invite in private investment.

Public opinion is also suspicious about opening up the industry. A survey last year by CIDE, a Mexico City university, found that 65 percent of the public opposed private investment in Pemex, the state-owned oil monopoly.

“The entire energy reform is a potential source of conflict,” said Luis Miguel Labardini, a consultant with Marcos y Asociados, a Mexican energy consulting firm. “Sometimes in Mexico we are conflict-averse.”

The proposal would allow private companies to negotiate profit-sharing contracts with the government to drill for oil and gas. Under such a scheme, the reserves would continue to belong to the Mexican state, but investors would get a share of the profits. Private investment would be allowed in refining, oil pipelines, and petrochemical production.

Although most analysts believe that Mr. Peña Nieto has the votes in Congress to pass the reform if the PAN votes along with his party, the president appears to want to sway public opinion, as suggested by his decision to make a prime-time televised address on the subject Monday.

“It is fine to appeal to rationality, but when it is about these issues, it’s indispensable to touch the audience’s heart,” wrote an analyst, María Amparo Casar, in the Excelsior newspaper last week.

The left-wing leader, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who won more than 30 percent of the vote in last year’s general election, is planning street marches to protest the change. If he succeeds in filling the streets of the capital it may be harder for party leaders to stand behind the plan.

Since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement exempted energy from Mexico’s broad economic opening, presidents have attempted to loosen the prohibitions that give Pemex sole control over all oil and gas exploration and production. No joint ventures are allowed. Those past proposals have often withered in Congress.

But this time, the precipitous decline of Mexico’s energy industry may work in Mr. Peña Nieto’s favor.

Pemex, which was long an important source of crude imports into the United States, is spending more to pump less. As Mexico’s giant Cantarell oil field in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico has declined, production has dropped 25 percent from the peak in 2004, to just over 2.5 million barrels of oil a day.

At the same time, the amount the government budgets for Pemex to invest has steadily climbed to $26 billion this year. To increase production and reserves, Pemex needs to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and in onshore deposits of shale oil and gas. But the company has neither the capital nor the expertise to increase production significantly, analysts say.


Posted on on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

Al-Monitor <>
Week in Review
Sunday, December 1, 2013

Iran deal recasts regional politics .

The “joint plan of action” agreed on by six world powers and Iran on Nov. 24 is in a short time proving to be a catalyst for a regional trend toward diplomacy and realism.

The mood is already shifting in the Gulf, where there had been resistance if not downright opposition at times to the negotiations with Iran. UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Tehran this week for meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while the Kingdom of Bahrain invited Zarif to participate in the Manama Dialogue Regional Security Summit, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to be held Dec. 6-8, as reported by Ali Hashem for Al-Monitor.

In perhaps the most substantial shift, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia released a statement on Nov. 25 welcoming the joint plan of action, saying, “Saudi Arabia views the agreement as a primary step toward a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue provided it leads to a Middle East and Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

In Israel, despite a skeptical public and statements of alarm by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there is also awareness among national security leaders that the deal with Iran may have its advantages, and that Israel is poorly served by putting itself at odds with the international coalition that forced Iran to negotiations.

Akiva Eldar captured the broader context of the Iran deal for Israel, writing, “The agreement with Iran was signed a short time after the agreement between the United States and Russia that brought about the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Thus a much more concrete and immediate threat than the Iranian one was removed from the borders of Israel. The decision of the powers to wave a stick instead of landing a blow on the Iranian protectorate in Damascus should have signaled to Netanyahu that this would also be the route they chose to take in the talks with Tehran. It stands to reason that Iran will now be invited to contribute to a renewed effort to end the cruel civil war in Syria. We are witness to the beginning of Iran’s emergence from the international solitary confinement it entered following the revolution in 1979.”

Ben Caspit reports from Jerusalem, “There’s no panic at all among Israel’s professional military echelons. Nobody talks about a catastrophe or an imminent second Holocaust. People discuss the merits of the agreement with levelheadedness and discretion. After all, doomsday prophecies are not their thing. For this, we have Netanyahu.”

Dan Meridor, a member of the Likud Party and former deputy prime minister and minister of intelligence and atomic energy under Netanyahu, told Al-Monitor’s Mazal Mualem this week, “It’s a mistake to pick a fight with partners when we’re in the midst of a campaign against Iran, in which the Americans have the main role. Embarking on an offensive of attacks, criticism and scorekeeping harms the common struggle of large parts of the world, the United States, Europe and the Arab countries. The disputes do not help the struggle, but just give the Iranians a reason to gloat. Nothing is achieved by public disputes. The alliance between Israel and the United States is an important component of our powerful image. … Israel needs to be part of the world, to be a partner in this campaign.”

In the United States, there is popular support for the agreement with Iran. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week revealed that 44% of Americans support the interim agreement with Iran and only 22% oppose.

In Congress, while there is still skepticism about the deal, there also seems to be a trend toward legislation that emphasizes a congressional role in Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, rather than the introduction of new sanctions, during the six-month negotiation period. The Iran Nuclear Compliance Act of 2013, introduced Nov. 21 by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is now pending before the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has Senate jurisdiction on sanctions bills.

As reported here last week, the man to watch is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who told NPR’s Diane Rehm that the interim agreement is an “important first step” and that he will look to both Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, on whether the Senate should hold hearings and consider more sanctions.

The conversations that have begun about Iran’s nuclear program are already having consequences beyond the nuclear file, including the Gulf, Turkey and Syria. While Kadri Gursel writes that the Turkish “reset” from its failed sectarian policies may require even deeper political changes, Ankara’s shift, which is a work in progress, is already good news for a political solution in Syria, especially with the Geneva II conference to be held on Jan. 22. A real peace process in Syria would mean relief for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, those countries most affected by the spillover of the war, the spike in terrorism and the flood of refugees.

A stable Syrian government, resulting from a successful Geneva II political process, perhaps following elections, would offer a chance for an Israel-Lebanon-Syria peace process. This would mean the eventual demilitarization of Hezbollah, whose raison d’etre is resistance to Israel’s occupation. The reintegration of Hezbollah forces into the Lebanese army and the normalization of Hezbollah solely as a Lebanese political party, and not an armed resistance force, would be a giant step toward solving Lebanon’s perpetual national crisis.

Any deal on Hezbollah would run through Damascus and Tehran, via Moscow’s good offices, en route to Jerusalem, as this column reported last week. While the United States cannot broker this deal, the future of Hezbollah is directly connected to the nuclear negotiations with Iran. For Iran to get relief from US oil and financial sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act, the president must certify to Congress that Iran no longer seeks weapons of mass destruction, is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism and no longer represents a significant threat to US national security interests and allies. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States. So questions about Iran’s nuclear program and its role in the region, including support for Hezbollah, are the endgame in any discussion of a comprehensive agreement.


Posted on on November 18th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


GLOBAL TRAVEL NEWS » Rare heavy downpours trigger flash floods in Saudi capital

Rare heavy downpours trigger flash floods in Saudi capital


Published on : Monday, November 18, 2013 by Travel and Tour News


download (1)



Rare heavy downpours triggered flash floods in the Saudi capital on Sunday forcing schools and universities to close and prompting calls by the authorities for citizens to remain indoors. At least three people were reported missing, the state news agency SPA said, quoting civil defence spokesman, Colonel Abdullah al-Harithi. He added that authorities assisted dozens of people trapped by the floods, a rare phenomenon to hit the capital of the desert kingdom.




Heavy rains, accompanied by thunderstorms, have lashed Riyadh since late Saturday, triggering flash floods in several districts and cutting off power in the city’s north, according to residents.Harithi urged Riyadh citizens, estimated at more than five million people, to stay away from rivers, valleys and flooded tunnels while the education ministry ordered schools and university closed Sunday.Saudi Arabia, like other desert countries, rarely sees heavy rainfall and religious leaders often organize prayers for rain.



But in May last year around 20 people were killed in flooding, that swept parts of Saudi Arabia, which had not experienced such a high volume of rainfall for 25 years. And in 2011, around 10 people were killed in floods in the western city of Jeddah, where 123 people also perished in floods in 2009.The inability of Jeddah’s infrastructure to drain off flood waters and uncontrolled construction in and around the city were blamed at the time for the high number of victims.The national weather service has warned of new storms expected in Riyadh and other parts of the kingdom.


Posted on on November 8th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


UN Watch in the News


(English translation is followed by the French-language original.)

November 6, 2013

The Montrealer Who Makes the UN Tremble


By Lise Ravary

Nobody is a prophet in his own country, but if you’ve never heard of the lawyer Hillel Neuer, well, messieurs Putin, Castro, Assad and other serial abusers of human rights do know him. And they fear him.

Born in the Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood 43 years ago, the Concordia and McGill graduate is today the executive director of UN Watch, a NGO based in Geneva whose mandate is to ensure that the UN respects… its own Charter.

“People think that the UN human rights council is composed of wise old men with white beards, the likes of Plato and Socrates. But in reality, the UN is a reflection of the current state of the world,” he told me. Hillel Neuer is on the watch.


Brilliant, vivacious, intense, Neuer talks fast — and speaks the truth — in a UN-esque language made up of French, English, and alphabet soup. Despite having spent a great deal of his life defending victims of horrific abuses, his capacity to express outrage against injustice, loudly and clearly, has not abated.

In mid-October, during the Iranian nuclear talks, Neuer accused the UN of “kowtowing to Iran’s fundamentalist regime” after it gave in to Iranian demands and used a white curtain to cover up a historic wall carving of a naked man at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva. Neuer called this deference “an ominous sign.”

It is thanks to him if we know that China took the floor in the Human Rights Council plenary to praise Saudi Arabia for its protection of women’s rights, and that the Saudis returned the favor by highlighting China’s progress in regard to ethnic minorities. That Libya, under Gaddafi’s rule, commended Cuba for its record on individual liberties. That France—as recently as last year—extolled Saudi Arabia’s progress on the role of women in society. And that in May 2013, Syria accused Israel of inhumane practices that threaten the health of Syrian citizens.

It is thanks to UN Watch that we know that Moscow and Havana remain untouchable.


These days, Hillel Neuer is criss-crossing the planet to convince the great powers to oppose the re-election of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Cuba to the Human Rights Council. And the entry to the council of Algeria, Vietnam and Jordan.

“These countries systematically violate the human rights of their own citizens, and they consistently vote the wrong way on UN initiatives to protect the human rights of others.” The General Assembly will pronounce itself on November 12th.

Despite the scandals, Hillel Neuer continues to believe that the UN plays an essential role. That its influence remains considerable. “All nations understand that UN resolutions can mobilize shame and political pressure, externally as well as internally. Words matter.”

So does Hillel Neuer.


Posted on on November 4th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


Not just as in the following – which is only a holding operation. Instead we suggest positive action that makes it clear that we grew out despite past indignities and the US wants to see a better and saner world overall.

The other powers will then be asked to cooperate and Iran will see the horizon as it shapes up. 


NYT Editorial

Congress Can Help on Iran.




It is crucial that Congress work constructively with President Obama as he tries to lead the way in negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran. But some lawmakers are so suspicious of Iran and so blindly committed to more sanctions that they could sabotage the best opportunity in years for a peaceful resolution of an issue that has long blocked any fundamental improvement in relations between the two countries while complicating the prospects for stability in the Middle East.

This week, the United States and its major partners — Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — will hold the second round of talks with Iran since Hassan Rouhani became president. More moderate than his predecessor, Mr. Rouhani has proposed a deal that could clear up concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and offers the hope of a broader rapprochement with the West.

The negotiating session in October went reasonably well, but Congress could quickly poison the atmosphere by imposing even more draconian economic sanctions on Iran than the existing web of American, European and United Nations penalties that have helped cut Iran’s oil exports nearly in half and otherwise crippled the country’s economy.

In late July, the House voted to impose new sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, and similar legislation is under consideration in the Senate.

The administration has publicly pleaded with Congress to hold off and has organized meetings between Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., other senior officials and key senators. While some were willing to listen, others like Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, seemed inclined to plow ahead with new penalties.

There are many reasons that doing so would be foolish. It would send a negative signal to Iran’s people as well as its leaders, and make it harder for Mr. Rouhani, who has his own hard-liners to contend with, to argue that there is any sincere good will in the West. Just when Iran appears reasonable, more sanctions could well halt negotiations. The United States would be blamed and the unified international front the Obama administration has worked long and hard to assemble could unravel.

There are, of course, reasons for doubting Iran and its intentions. Tehran hid its nuclear program for nearly two decades and has pushed inexorably ahead to develop the expertise and technology necessary to produce a nuclear weapon, not just nuclear energy. But experts say Iran has not yet produced a nuclear weapon, and Mr. Rouhani and other leaders say Iran will never produce one.

The earlier sanctions imposed by Congress sent a strong message to Iran and helped get the two sides to this point. If negotiations collapse, or Iran proves a faithless partner, fresh penalties can always be imposed later. This is the wrong time for doubling-down on a punitive policy.


Posted on on October 30th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

The article we looked at is at:…

Then today’s Opinion Column by Roger Cohen:… that starts:

” DUBAI — Here’s how the Saudis see it: President Obama has sold out the Syrian opposition, reinforced President Bashar al-Assad after having called for his departure, embarked on a dangerous duet with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, played the wrong cards in Egypt, retreated from initial criticism of Israeli settlements that promised a more balanced American approach to Israel-Palestine, tilted toward the Shiites in the growing regional Sunni-Shiite confrontation, and generally undercut the interests of the kingdom.”

Both columns seem to forget that the real world is not based on heart feelings – not even when at the helm of a country sits a 89 year old monarch.

Nevertheless, Cohen notes “The Saudis, of course, always talk a good line and are happiest when others — read the United States — do the heavy lifting for them.” So now the Saudis will have figure out for themselves what heavy lifting their oil money can do for them. That for a start.

Then he says: “”But it is over Iran that the Saudis are most exercised — and it is not the Iranian nuclear program that has them so upset. Rather, it is the idea that the pre-revolutionary relationship between Iran and the United States could somehow be revived, extending Iranian influence in the region and relegating Saudi Arabia to being, as it once was, the lesser party of America’s “twin pillar” policy in the region.

The Saudis have already watched with concern as the U.S. invasion of Iraq served Iranian interests; they see Iran’s influence and military presence growing in Syria. What they fear above all is an Iranian irredentism aimed at stirring up of the Shiite populations in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

It was not lost on Saudi Arabia that Rouhani wrote in The Washington Post in September that, “We must join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain,” just a few days before Obama spoke at the United Nations of working to resolve “sectarian tensions” in Syria and Bahrain.

Nothing can set Saudi alarm bells ringing quite like that: U.S. and Iranian presidents speaking to each other on the telephone, having aired similar sentiments on Bahrain, where the Saudi-backed Sunni monarchy has engaged in fierce repression of an opposition led by members of the Shiite majority, which is pressing for broader rights and political inclusion.

It is hard to say whether Israel or Saudi Arabia is more anxious today over the possibility of an American-Iranian breakthrough. That possibility remains extremely remote. The right deal — one that prevents the Islamic Republic from going nuclear while drawing it back into the community of nations — is in the U.S. interest, but current Saudi fury is one measure of the difficulty and of a U.S. Middle Eastern policy that is falling short.“”

Trying to reach conclusions from above we observe:

(a) The Saudis are yet to announce officially to the UN that they give up their UN Security Council seat – and we ask why should they? Is it not much more forceful to let there an empty seat that they can fill whenever they decide to do so, and in the mean-time force the UN to start reviewing its procedures in order to have a way to handle such an unprecedented situation when a state does not participate for a longer period at the meetings?
The only precedent is a short time the Soviets left their UNSC seat empty and this led to the UN intervention in Korea. Ergo – keep an eye on the UN.

(b) The oil weapon has lost its power somewhat – so there are obvious repercussions when talking about the stand of Golf Community members.
The money weapon nevertheless has increased in value – so the Saudis and others of the Golf can still wield power.

(c) Everybody has a wish list and can tell the Saudis what to do – but after all the Saudis will find out that they know their self interests best.
So we expect that they will wake up to the reality that when it comes to confront Iran, the only strong power of the region they can rely on are the Israelis. The Israelis are the obvious opposing power to Iran and it would not be difficult to build an Israeli-Saudi practical alliance. It will start with the Saudis helping fund a Palestinian economy so the two sides – the Israelis and the Palestinians – can be separated into two well defined States bound together with an Arab backed economy. With this as a start, it will be left to the Iranians to see the advantages of retreating to their own borders and leave the basically Sunni region to evolve without Shia interference.


UPDATED from an October 29, 2013 posting.



Allies in Revolt

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Save
  • E-mail
  • Share
  • Print
  • Reprints

It is not every day that America finds itself facing open rebellion from its allies, yet that is what is happening with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. The Obama administration has denied there are serious problems. But there are clearly differences, some perhaps irreconcilable.

Opinion Twitter Logo.

Connect With Us on Twitter

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

Readers’ Comments

Here’s a quick summary: Saudi Arabia and Israel are deeply worried about the Obama administration’s decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran — their mortal enemy. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sore at President Obama’s refusal to become militarily involved in ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, in particular his decision not to respond with military strikes to Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Mr. Obama instead chose a diplomatic deal under which Syria’s chemical weapons would be dismantled.

The Saudis are also unhappy that Mr. Obama withdrew support for Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president, and then worked with Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was elected to replace Mr. Mubarak but was later thrown out.

All three countries have resorted to threats and displays of pique to make their points. Saudi Arabia renounced a United Nations Security Council seat it had worked hard to win because, it said, the United States and the United Nations had failed to achieve a Mideast peace agreement or solve the Syria crisis, as if either objective could be easily delivered by America alone. Although it is hard to see how other countries like China and Russia would be better alternatives, Saudi officials have gone so far as to complain that they regard the United States as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security.

Meanwhile, Turkey, a NATO member, has said it would buy a long-range missile defense system worth $3.4 billion from China because China’s bid was lower than bids from the United States and Europe. The decision may also, however, have reflected Turkey’s annoyance with Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. (It’s a dumb deal, too, and Turkish officials now seem to be reconsidering it; China’s system will be hard to integrate with NATO equipment, thus undermining alliance defenses and Turkey’s.)

As for Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing his best to torpedo any nuclear deal with Iran, including urging Congress to impose more economic sanctions on Iran that could bring the incipient negotiations between Iran’s new government and the major powers to a halt.

Much of this anger at the United States is driven by a case of nerves. The Arab Spring uprisings shook the old order, plunged the region into chaos, created opportunities for Iran to expand its influence in Syria and Iraq and threatened to worsen the Sunni-Shiite divide. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni-majority country, in particular, fears an American rapprochement with Shiite-majority Iran.

But Mr. Obama’s first responsibility is to America’s national interest. And he has been absolutely right in refusing to be goaded into a war in Syria or bullied into squandering a rare, if remote, chance to negotiate an Iranian nuclear deal.

In addressing the United Nations last month, Mr. Obama reinforced his intention to narrow his regional diplomatic focus to the Iranian nuclear deal and an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Some have read this as weakness and retreat, rather than pragmatism. We wish he had put more emphasis on Egypt and Iraq. But his priorities make sense. His task now is to reassure the allies that the United States remains committed to their security.


Also, the Iraqi leadership comes to Washington to ask to buy arms – this while having done nothing about uniting their country or alternatively letting it sub-divide to its three components – Shiia – Kurds – Sunni. Without this first Iraq will turn into another Syria with the Maliki, a Shiia,  government trying to surpress its Sunni and Kurdish minorities. What should the US President do? He clearly does not want to step back into the Iraqi morass that his predecessor has created.