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Syria:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 21st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Uri Avnery

 

March 22, 2014

 

 

 

                                                A Hundred Years Later

 

 

 

THERE IS an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in historic times!” (If there isn’t, there should be.)

 

 

 

This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it.

 

 

 

A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

 

 

 

 

 

AFTER MY last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages.

{ We posted the first Uri Avnery article on Crimea under our title - www.sustainabilitank.info/2014/03… that implied we did think this was a very good and honest article. So, it is interesting to see other reactions. We also followed up with several articles on Stepan Bandera that slowed our enthusiasm about Ukrainian independence unless it is made clear that the Maidan leaders and followers understand that “Nationalism Ueber Alles” is nothing to be happy about.}

 

 

Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

 

 

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

 

 

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday’s warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

 

 

Sorry, I can’t get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

 

 

 

 

THOSE WHO rage against the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation and compare it to Hitler’s “Anschluss” of Austria may be right in some sense.

 

 

 

I remember the newsreels of ecstatic Austrians welcoming the soldiers of the Führer, who was, after all, an Austrian himself. There can be no doubt that most Austrians welcomed the “return to the fatherland”.

 

 

 

That seems to be the case now in the Crimea. For a long time the peninsula had been a part of Russia. Then, in 1954, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, presented the Crimea as a gift to Ukraine. It was mostly a symbolic gesture, since both Russia and Ukraine belonged to the same Soviet state and were subject to the same oppression.

 

 

 

But the main point is that the people of the Crimea were not consulted. There was no referendum.  {that seems to be the outsiders argument – those that look on this as they were looking on the Austrian Case – but really – in crimea there was a gun point referendum in the set up voting that did probaby present the results that the population of today wanted – PJ}

The majority of the population is Russian, and undoubtedly wishes now to return to Russia. It expressed this wish in a referendum that, on the whole, seems to be quite authentic. So the annexation may be justified.

 

 

 

Vladimir Putin himself brought up the precedent of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia not so long ago. This may be a bit cynical, since Russia strenuously objected to this secession at the time. All the Russian arguments then are now contradicted by Putin himself.

 

 

 

If we leave out cynicism, hypocrisy and great power politics for a moment, and stick to simple moral principles, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. A sizable national minority, living in its homeland, has a right to secede from a state it does not like.

 

 

 

For this reason I supported the independence of Kosovo and believe that the same principle applies now to Catalonia and Scotland, Tibet and Chechnya.

 

 

 

There is always a way to prevent secession without using brute force: to create conditions that make the minority want to stay in the majority state. Generous economic, political and cultural policies can achieve this. But for that you need the wisdom of farsighted leaders, and that is a rare commodity everywhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

BY THE same token, Ukrainians can be understood when they kick out a president who wants to bring them into the Russian orbit against their will. His golden bathroom appliances are beside the point.

 

 

 

Another question is what role the fascists play in the process. There are contradictory reports, but Israeli reporters on the scene testify to their conspicuous presence in the center of Kiev.

 

 

 

The problem has confronted us since the Tunisian Spring: in many of the “spring” countries the uprisings bring to the fore elements that are worse than the tyrants they want to displace. The revolutions are started by idealists who are unable to unite and set up an effective regime, and then are taken over by intolerant fanatics, who are better fighters and better organizers. 

 

 

 

That is the secret of the survival of the abominable Bashar al-Assad. Few people want Syria to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like Islamic tyranny. That is also the fate of Egypt: the liberal democrats started the revolution but lost the democratic elections to a religious party, which was in a haste to impose its creed on the people. They were overthrown by a military dictatorship that is worse than the regime which the original revolution overthrew.

 

 

 

The emergence of the neo-Nazis in Kiev is worrying, even if Putin uses their presence for his own purposes. If they are supported by the West, overtly or covertly, that is disturbing.

 

 

 

 

 

EQUALLY WORRYING is the uncertainty about Putin’s intentions.

 

 

 

In many of the countries surrounding Russia there live large numbers of Russians, who went to live there in Soviet times. Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and other countries have large Russian minorities, and even majorities, who yearn to be annexed to the motherland.

 

 

 

No one really knows Putin. How far will he go? Can he control his ambitions? Will he be carried away by his successes and the lack of wise policies in Western capitals?

 

 

 

Addressing his parliament about the annexation of the Crimea, he seemed restrained, but there was no mistaking the imperial trimmings of the event. He would not be the first leader in history who overestimated his successes and underrated the power of his opponents.

 

 

 

And on the other side – is there enough wisdom in Washington and the other Western capitals to produce the right mixture of firmness and restraint to prevent an uncontrollable slide into war?

 

 

 

 

 

IN THREE months the world will “celebrate” the hundredth anniversary of the shot in Sarajevo – the shot that ignited a worldwide conflagration.

 

 

 

It may be helpful to recount again the chain of events that caused one of the most destructive wars in human history, a war that consumed millions upon millions of human lives and destroyed an entire way of life.

 

 

 

The shot that started it all was quite accidental. The assassin, a Serb nationalist, failed in his first attempt to kill a quite insignificant Austrian archduke. But after he had already given up, he came across his intended victim again, by chance, and shot him dead.

 

 

 

The incompetent Austrian politicians and their senile emperor saw an easy opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of their country and presented little Serbia with an ultimatum. What could they lose?

 

 

 

Except that Serbia was the protégé of Russia. In order to deter the Austrians, the Czar and his equally incompetent ministers and generals ordered a general mobilization of their vast army. They were quite unaware of the fact that this made war unavoidable, because…

 

 

 

The German Reich, which had come into being only 43 years earlier, lived in deadly fear of a “war on two fronts”. Located in the middle of Europe, squeezed between two great military powers, France and Russia, it drew up a plan to forestall this eventuality. The plan changed every year in the wake of military exercises, but in essence it was based on the premise that one enemy had to be crushed before the other enemy had time to join the battle.

 

 

 

The plan in place in 1914 was to crush France before the cumbersome Russian mobilization could be completed. So when the Czar announced his mobilization, the German army invaded Belgium and reached the outskirts of Paris in a few weeks. They almost succeeded in defeating France before the Russians were ready.

 

 

 

(25 years later, Hitler solved the same problem in a different way. He signed a sham treaty with Stalin, finished France off and then attacked Russia.)

 

 

 

In 1914, Great Britain, shocked by the invasion of Belgium, hastened to the aid of its French ally. Italy, Japan, and others joined the fray. So did the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. World War I was underway.

 

 

 

Who wanted this terrible war? Nobody. Who took a cool-headed decision to start it? Nobody. Of course, many national and international interests were involved, but none so important as to justify such a catastrophe.

 

 

 

No, it was a war nobody wanted or even envisioned. The flower of European youth was destroyed by the sheer stupidity of the contemporary politicians, followed by the colossal stupidity of the generals.

 

 

 

And in the end, a peace treaty was concocted that made another world war practically inevitable. Only after another awful world war did the politicians come to their senses and make another fratricidal war in Western Europe  unthinkable.

 

 

 

A hundred years after it all started, it is well to remember.

 

 

 

 

 

CAN ANYTHING like this happen again?  Can an unintended chain of foolish acts lead to another catastrophe? Can one thing lead to another in a way that incompetent leaders are unable to stop?

 

 

 

I hope not. After all, during these hundred years, some lessons have been learned and absorbed.

 

 

 

Or not?

 

 

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

We pay a price for weakness.

The Post reports: “The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a resolution demanding that Syria immediately halt attacks on civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access to besieged areas and across neighboring borders, threatening unspecified ‘further steps’ if the government does not comply. The action marked the first time Russia has agreed to a binding resolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the conflict in his country began nearly three years ago. China, which vetoed three previous resolutions along with Russia, joined in approving the measure.” This is a cruel joke, and for Russia which has supported Bashar al-Assad, a cynical one.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014.(AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, prior to the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

Mind you — to reach this empty gesture took “lengthy negotiations over the past week.” In order to accommodate the Russians, in fact, the agreement had to be as tough on the rebels as it was on Assad. (“To secure Russia’s agreement, sponsors of the resolution agreed to include specific demands for opposition fighters to cease their own violations of human rights international law, to condemn terrorism and to drop a demand that government violators be referred for prosecution to the International Criminal Court.”) The last is an abomination; if ever a pack of murderers should be prosecuted for war crimes it is Assad and his cohorts.

So now the message to rogue states is: If you use WMD’s against your own people, you might have to very sloooowly give part of your treasure trove back. And if you continue to kill thousands by other means, you need not worry about prosecution for war crimes. The complete lack of seriousness –  geopolitical and moral — is quite striking:

The United States and other strong advocates acknowledged a lack of specific enforcement tools in the resolution, which instructs U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to report back on compliance within 30 days. But U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and others noted that the threat of “further steps” is far stronger than language in previous, vetoed measures and said it commits the council to take action.

What happened to Power’s doctrine that the United States should use force to stop mass human rights atrocities? You need more than words, she acknowledges but actions now can be just words. No, really: “‘A resolution is just words. It is implementation that matters, and that’s what we are starting to measure right now.’ Language committing the council to further actions, she said, is a ‘significant hook, a significant commitment by the parties on the Security Council.’” You wonder if even she can believe such double talk.

And in calling for further political negotiations, this following the failed Geneva talks, the Obama administration itself signals that it has lost touch with reality. Reality, of course, does not include the fantasy that a decade of war is “ending.” It does not permit the United States to shrug its shoulders and declare it merely wants to “nation build at home.” And reality means that when you dawdle for three years, do not take swift and forceful action to back nonjihadi rebels and do not exact a price for use of WMD’s, the country will descend into chaos, sending a stream of refugees pouring into surrounding countries.

Even more troubling than the lack of a Syria policy that could pass the laugh test is the impression this certainly makes with the mullahs in Tehran. They by now consider the United States to be gullible and all too eager to make a deal that will mask Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. Seeing the Syrian sideshow must convince Iranian negotiators that any fig leaf will do for the United States to end remaining sanctions.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams this week warned that we should be wary of just such a deal with Tehran. In a press call he explained, “My biggest worry is that the administration is desperately committed to the appearance of a foreign policy success and that they will therefore agree to a deal and claim that it’s a great deal, but it will not actually do much to retrain and limit the Iranian program.” If that wasn’t obvious before, surely our farcical approach to Syria would leave little doubt that the United States is unwilling to back up what it says with hard power. We seem to be systematically undercutting what credibility we have, first with the interim deal and now with our feckless approach to Syria. Abrams worries, “The more immediate problem is, there’s very strong Iranian rhetoric now suggesting that any terms like those that, for example, [Iran experts] seem to me to be talking about would be acceptable to Iran, and Iran may think that it is seeing a weakened P5-plus-1 unity, it is seeing a weakened American determination to maintain the sanctions, in which case we’re in for, at the very least, an extremely tough negotiation and, at worse, no deal.”

So there you have it. “Smart diplomacy” detached from a willingness to use U.S. power (economic and military) serves as a green light for rogue regimes to continue their bad behavior. To the extent there are any “moderates” in Iran (I personally think the notion is absurd, but let’s assume so for purposes of discussion), then our weakness only undercuts them and enhances the stature of so-called hard-liners. (“I think that you need to show that bad behavior on the part of the Iranians will hurt Iran. I don’t think that, for example, weakening our position so that we give gifts to the so-called moderate [President Hassan] Rouhani or the so-called moderate [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, who just visited the tomb of Imad Mughniyeh. I don’t think that’s the way to do it. I think the way to do it is to show that we have a united front at least of the E.U.-3 plus the United States and that Iranian refusal to compromise will be punished by very heavy additional sanctions.”)

All of this suggests the administration, having lost its credibility, will find it difficult to get it back, which in turn will make the situations in Syria and Iran worse. It should also serve as a reminder to opponents on the right and left of a muscular foreign policy that refusal to confront real dangers when they are manageable results in fewer options and greater threats to U.S. security down the road. This is no way for  a super power to behave.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

  

 

The Women’s International Forum is pleased to present   

 

 

 ”The UN Role in the Chemical Weapons Issue in Syria:

An Insider’s Perspective”

 

 by

Ms. Angela Kane

 

UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

 

Date:     Thursday, February 20th 2014              

Time:     1.15 pm – 2.30 pm

Venue:   UNHQ Room 3 CB – ENTRANCE AT 47th STREET GATE

 

Ms. Angela Kane of Germany assumed the position of High Representative for Disarmament Affairs in March 2012. She provides the Secretary-General with advice and support on all arms control, non-proliferation and related security matters and is responsible for the activities of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.

 

Ms. Kane has had a long and distinguished career in the United Nations. In addition to substantive assignments in political affairs, peacekeeping and disarmament, she has held various managerial functions, including with financial and policy-setting responsibility. She served as Under-Secretary-General for Management from 2008 – 2012.

 

From 2005 to 2008, Ms. Kane served as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, a core function related to the prevention and resolution of conflicts. Her geographic responsibilities included all regions except Africa. Her field experience includes Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), a special assignment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and postings in Indonesia and Thailand.

 

Ms. Kane also held the positions of Director in the Department of Political Affairs and Director in the Department of Public Information. She served as Principal Political Officer with former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and worked with the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central American Peace Process. Ms. Kane worked on disarmament issues for several years and was responsible for the activities of the World Disarmament Campaign.

 

Please read more about Ms. Angela Kane here.
8 January 2014In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. - See more
8 January 2014 – In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. – See more at: 
8 January 2014 – In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. – See more at: 
8 January 2014 – In March 2012, Angela Kane of Germany was chosen by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, heading the office that promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and supports disarmament regimes involving other weapons of mass destruction. It also promotes disarmament efforts in the area of conventional weapons, particularly small arms which are the weapons of choice in contemporary conflicts. – See more at: 

UN News Centre: Ms. Kane, 2013 seems to have been a very active year in the field of disarmament.  What would you identify as some of the most important accomplishments?

Angela Kane: I think 2013 was a very memorable year for disarmament.   First of all in April, we saw the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty and this had been some six, seven or eight years if not longer in the making and we had a conference which did not reach agreement.  At year’s end we have 115 countries that have already signed it, and 9 ratifications.  That is a really fantastic achievement.  We only need 50 ratifications for the treaty to come into effect, and we expect that if it doesn’t happen by the end of 2014 it will certainly happen in 2015. 

Another historic development was over the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  The Syrian Government had come to the Secretary-General to ask for an investigation of an incident that took place Khan al-Assal near Aleppo.  The Secretary-General accepted that request.  He received similar requests from other Member States and this was an effort that resulted in the finding, by an investigation team, that chemical weapons had in fact been used on a large scale in the suburb of Damascus called Ghouta and several other smaller incidents as well.  And it also resulted in Syria acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention and ridding itself of the chemical weapons it had at its disposal.

–   See more at: 

ALSO RECENTLY:

 

Please join the Foreign Policy Association for a lecture on the chemical weapons in Syria with Ms. Angela Kane. Angela Kane has served as the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs since March 2012. She provides the Secretary-General with advice and support on all arms control, non-proliferation and related security matters and is responsible for the activities of the Office for Disarmament Affairs.  The event is part of the James McDonald Lecture on Humanitarian Intervention.

DATE:              Thursday, December 5, 2013

TIME:               5:30 PM- 8:00 PM

LOCATION:     Hearst Tower, New York City

Then from the “Stake Out” in front of the UN Security Council doors – by the UK Ambassador to the UN:
Q: Actually it seems that the P3, I mean the P3 you left the stakeout for Churkin to say whatever he wanted to say and no one showed up just to give a different version of the story so why did you give him this opportunity to accuse the opposition of using chemical weapons and the second time actually he talked about (indistinct) so are you avoiding talking about this?
A: Not at all. I’m talking about it now, but I am very happy to leave it to the good sense of journalists when the Flat Earth Society comes out with its arguments. I don’t think any one takes those arguments seriously. There were elements of the Iranian regime itself that admitted that the Syrian regime carried out the 21st August attack. I think it is only the Russian Federation and the Syrian regime itself that it is still arguing publicly that the Opposition is responsible in some sort of act of provocation. It’s fantasy, frankly, and rewriting of history by the Russian Federation.
Q: Is the Security Council going to call for a further Mission to look into who is responsible, because Angela Kane and Ake Sellsrom had mentioned that obviously that was not in their mandate and obviously the UN would have to take further steps to look into that. Did the Security Council talk about that?
A: I don’t think so, but a couple of Security Council Members including myself did say that we need to look at the UN mechanism, because at the time of the Iraq war, the report by the UN did make attribution on the chemical weapon use. It was as a result of that, that the mechanism changed and the mandate narrowed so that in future investigations they would not draw conclusions on culpability. We think that that is wrong and where there is evidence of culpability than a UN investigation should make that conclusion clear, but that will require a change in the mechanism and I, and a number of other Council Members, made that point and that is something that we will be taking forward with the Secretariat.
———————–
The event is behind us and we found it very instructive – also extremely important was that Ms. Kane reminded us that some 130,000 people were killed in Syria with conventional weapons and bombs – all this while the UN is tied up with niceties about government sovereignty? No mention whatsoever about THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT. Could the UN follow at least its own decisions?

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Actually – the title of the speech at the lunch organized yesterday by the Brazilian, Colombian, Ecuadorean Peruvian and Venezuelan – American Associations or Chambers of Commerce “- with Dr. Ocampo – was: “IS THE COMMODITY BOOM IN LATIN AMERICA ENDING?

The speaker who is now professor at Columbia University is very well known to us since his having been Finance Minister in Colombia, an official at the World Bank and the UN and member of many studies and panels – in effect searching our own website one finds many references to him.

Traditionally, Latin America is an exporter of Natural Resources we call Commodities because we used to say they are fungible – if the producer wants to increase price we will go to someone else who makes the same product – so exchanges just dealt with the bulk in many cases even not specializing – that is except for just a few items like sugar, coffee, cocoa, but forget wood, minerals, oil, coal – these were just means of getting the resources of the South to an industrialized North at fire-sale prices.  In the exporting countries  a few in the government circle got rich – and the many got meager salaries provided they played the game. Country economies were measured in GDP terms without any attention to who gets that income and why.

We know that the World economy had a slow down – but commodity purists say that 2004 – 2007 was the best time for commodity exports in the last three decades. Now they look at the possibility  that World Growth Prospects are slowing by much and this is not just in the movement of goods.

In effect Dr. Ocampo enlarged the subject also to Migrant flows and Remittances, and access to International Financial markets – that were best since the second half of the 1970s.

What has happened since 2011 is that growth has slowed by 30% despite a strong business cycle – not any different then in the US itself I must add – and this must be an eye opener to all those young unemployed that prepared themselves for a life on the boom. Dr. Ocampo found within the commodity business boom also a South-North regional pattern that will harm poverty reduction efforts – and he reaches the conclusion that due to the weakening of the World Trade, the space for orthodox export-led policies may be over, he said. On the other hand, a pure inwards-looking strategy would work only for very few countries – perhaps Brazil – he said.

So, he advises an aggressive export diversification strategy;
A reorientation towards Asia – that means China – but this works only with diversification;
A sponsored expansion of the domestic markets.

When it came to the Q&A – a question that seemed to me out of place was about entrepreneurs and small business. This is indeed very important for the social structure of the country, and for the economy at large – but does not touch the Commodity issue because that issue was always in BIG Hands.

I tendered a different question which I predicated by saying that I am trying to deconstruct the concept of Commodities – a concept that in my eyes never had standing in the economy.

I mentioned that some of the commodities are non-renewable and when exhausted leave only problems behind and an impoverished Nation. Within this group there are technology induced changes – like the foreseeable demise of the Copper market and a new demand for Lithium .

But then there are Commodities based on Renewable Resources that do not harm the future of the State. But even here there are effects from the outside – this like the demise of Leopard Skins or Ivory and Rhinoceros Tusks from lists of Commodities.

So, my actual question is if time has not arrived to look at each exported good separately rather then bunching them into the term of Commodities where the exporters of bananas once thought they could build up a power equal to that of OPEC.
After the talk  – I found that quite a few people were ready to give a second thought to these comments.o
I took then the 50 Street Crosstown bus to get to the UN where a group that claims solidarity with the Palestinians was hosting Mr. Emad  Burnat from the village of Bil’in – a farmer and self-styled cameraman whose documentary “5 Broken Camera”  is being promoted by activist Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.

Emad Burnat started filming in 2005 daily life in his village, and clearly had the talent to bring out the abnormal life under a foreign occupation  – that is if you consider living in the Colorado State of the Columbine shootings as normal, or life in any village in an Arab State normal.

I knew what to expect, but wanted to see how the UN sells the commodity of “Hate Israel” – because really – the hand clapping had nothing to do with trying to alleviate suffering of the Palestinians, but rather I saw there various people – some claiming Jewishness for unclear reason – and heaping it on Israel. There were so called Press or Media people that have never written a word about climate change,  and there was an Arab who lived in Brazil and loves to speak Portuguese and Spanish for his outreach.

I asked Mr. Burnat if he spoke ever with Uri Avnery – the Israeli maverick who was the one to bring to the public’s eye the problems the villagers of Bil’in were having, and who tried to help?  After all the film-maker’s statement was that it is his intent to help the villagers and himself? I said that talking with people like Avnery can help him on the ground – and what can the people in this room at the UN actually do on the ground?

As I did not get an answer to my very direct public question – just a few grunts and something that a TV reporter meant as an insult – “Zionist” I spoke to Emad after the presentation in private and then I heard from him that it is not about the village but larger, about Palestine. OK – so be it – the commodity at sale here is simple hatred – nothing else, but the problem is real and involves real people – and this is not his issue. I also said to him that in Israel people do not want to revisit the Holocaust and I would expect from him to not like the killing of the Syrian Arabs by Arabs – it does not make sense to score points over dead bodies.

I must also note that the UN DPI that posts a list of UN activities for the information of the media – had the “5 Broken Cameras” information, but then never has other topics of general interest – like the presentation today by Ms. Angela Kane – The UN Representative for Disarmament Affairs who spoke on her experiences as head of the UN spearhead on the issue of Chemical Weapons in Syria. She was very diplomatic and made sure she says only things she can prove. The Syrian Ambassador could not have had reason to doubt her impartiality.  She did her work out of her Vienna based headquarters and gave support to the UN Security Council – in case the UN wants to come up with decisions – but the question is will they?  For journalists the question is what is actually going on – and this presentation could have helped them – but the UN Department of Public Information keeps the Information commodity very close to the Arab side – whatever that might be the case.

OK, I am sure that I might have over extended the use of the term Commodities – but I do believe that there is indeed much more to this word if we try an ounce of real Aqua Vita. Individual Nations are suffering when the value of commodities is in decline – our job ought to be to explain why this happens – and the suffering – not of Governments but of their subjects.

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Stop the Syrian Bloodletting

Posted:

by Jeffrey Sachs – Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University; Author, “To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace”

The Syrian War has already taken more than 130,000 lives. It is destroying a country that lies at the very cradle of civilization. Some of the world’s greatest cultural treasures, in ancient heritage cities like Aleppo, are being destroyed; irreplaceable archeological sites are being plundered. Yet this violence could be brought to a quick end with a more enlightened policy by the United States and its allies.

The U.S. demands that Bashar Al-Assad must go. Assad has certainly acted with brutality and committed atrocities, as have some of the rebel groups. Yet the U.S. government contributes to the trajectory of escalating violence by demanding that another head of state must leave or else. It is this demand, above all others, that prolongs the Syrian bloodshed by blocking a pragmatic end to the killing.

When the Arab Spring began in 2011, a popular movement in Syria demanded political reforms. The government responded instead with a bloody crackdown. In turn, some parts of the Syrian military broke off and began an insurrection.

At that point, in August 2011, Barrack Obama declared that, “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” This was a remarkable statement, one head of state telling another to leave. Presumably the president thought that Assad was about to fall. Big miscalculation.

In fact, the U.S. has no right to pick the leaders of other countries. Nonetheless, the U.S. has a long track record of overthrowing other leaders. These U.S.-backed coups and insurrections almost always end in disaster and prolonged chaos. Think of Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1961), Vietnam (1963), Afghanistan (2001), and Iraq (2003) and Libya (2011), to name a few.

As Obama demanded Assad’s exit, U.S. allies in the region also began giving support, sanctuary and arms to the Syrian rebels. On April 1, 2012, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reiterated that “Assad must go, the sooner the better,” and led support for the insurgency through a new U.S.-led multinational group, “Friends of the Syrian People.” The war escalated dramatically. The death rate soared.

The U.S. sought to topple Assad in part because the U.S. and its allies deemed him to be too friendly and beholden to Iran. By toppling Assad, the U.S. thought, Iran would be weakened. Yet Assad has another important ally: Russia. And Russia was not about to step back and let their ally be toppled by a U.S.-backed insurgency. Moreover, international law prohibits one group of nations supporting the overthrow of a sovereign government unless in self-defense or mandated by the UN Security Council.

The way to end the bloodletting is to staunch the flow of weapons into Syria from outside powers. Saudi Arabia and probably other neighbors have been providing weapons to the insurgents, and the U.S. has been providing at least financial, logistical and political support to the insurrection, if not arms. On the other side, Iran and Russia are arming the Assad regime. It would not take much for all major outside parties — the U.S., Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia — to tamp down the war rapidly and dramatically. By ending the arms inflows, the violence would drop dramatically.

So why doesn’t it happen? Because from the U.S. perspective it would mean that Assad would stay. There are those who would say that Iran and Russia would not abide by such an arms limitation. They are likely mistaken.

No country has an interest in Syria falling to pieces. No country has an interest in the spread of Al-Qaeda-backed terrorism, as is now occurring in the midst of the growing violence. Just as the U.S., Russia and the Syrian government were able to agree on removing the chemical weapons, it would very likely be possible to tamp down the violence decisively as long as regime change by the U.S. and its allies is off the table.

Even with Assad remaining in power at this stage, political change in Syria would likely continue. Political change occurs from inside as well as from the outside. Myanmar, for example, has opened a political reform process not through an insurrection but through internal negotiations judged to be in the interest of the major actors including the military. Similarly, Poland in 1989 made its transition to democracy with a government that included leaders from the Communist old guard as well as the Solidarity-backed new leadership.

Internal political change is possible. It is, indeed, far more likely to succeed than the violent overthrow of governments engineered from abroad. And in the process, Syria would be spared the ongoing bloodbath.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 18th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

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.

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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 »

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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.”

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  english@other-news.info
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.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 16th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

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

www.meforum.org/3751/syria-iraq-lebanon-nation-states

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.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

When I opened the papers this morning I saw:

Vasil Bilak, Czechoslovak Communist Who Encouraged 1968 Soviet Invasion, Dies at 96

By DAN BILEFSKY

Mr. Bilak was a former hard-line communist leader who paved the way for Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Just a timely reminder following the Syrian’s allegation that the lack of law in his country is not internal/local but external/by occupation – so what in the hell is the Russian meaning when he says  intervention from the outside is “Verboten.”

The Event at the UN, the news building about Showcase Sochi and the spotlight on suppression of democracy in Russia by a new Czar-bound Russian Megaloman who reaches out to the Ukraine and to Syria as steps in his dream of reconstituting the Soviet empire are just pathetic. We found the move to kill the Sochi dogs much worse then the keeping of street children away from Rio de Janeiro during Brazil’s days of glory when they hosted the Climate Change Convention meeting. Death is final even for dogs! In Syria it is for humans as well!

And let us not forget why I was at the UN. These are days the UN is trying to come up with a global regime for the post 2015 era – that will be based on Sustainable Development Goals and the meeting yesterday, with lots of participants trying their best to show that without Rule of Law – or more accurate Rule By Law – and Good Governance – there will be no Sustainability. These are things we advocated years ago and our website has on the right side of the Home-page the booklet – The PROMPTBOOK -  we wrote for the 2002 Johannesburg Summit – so our readers are familiar with our hopes. Encouraging yesterday was that all speakers except the Syrian and the Russian did indeed address the issues and their questions were not plain national propaganda like these two renegade States showed. The Hungarian Chair of the Open Working Group navigated this very well.

The Opinion Pages|Editorial of The New York Times.

 

A Spotlight on Mr. Putin’s Russia.

 

The Olympic Games that open in Sochi, Russia, on Friday are intended to be the fulfillment of President Vladimir Putin’s quest for prestige and power on the world stage. But the reality of Mr. Putin and the Russia he leads conflicts starkly with Olympic ideals and fundamental human rights. There is no way to ignore the dark side — the soul-crushing repression, the cruel new antigay and blasphemy laws and the corrupt legal system in which political dissidents are sentenced to lengthy terms on false charges.

Maria Alyokhina, 25, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band, are determined that the glossy celebration of the Olympics will not whitewash the reality of Mr. Putin’s Russia, which they know from experience. Charged with “hooliganism,” they were incarcerated for 21 months for performing an anti-Putin song on the altar of a Moscow cathedral that cast the Russian Orthodox Church as a tool of the state.

Such political protest is not tolerated in a nation that is a long way from a democracy. In December, the women were freed under a new amnesty law that was an attempt by Mr. Putin to soften his authoritarian image before the Olympics.

But if he thought releasing the two women from prison would silence them, he miscalculated badly. On Wednesday, they told The Times’s editorial board that their imprisonment, and the international support it rallied to their cause, had emboldened them. They plan to keep criticizing Mr. Putin — they were hilarious on Stephen Colbert’s show the night before — and working for prison and judicial reform. Their resolve and strength of character are inspiring.

There is a lot of work to do, beginning with the cases of eight people who are now on trial, charged with mass disorder at a protest at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow in 2012 on the eve of Mr. Putin’s third inauguration as president. Amnesty International, which sponsored the Pussy Riot visit to New York, where they appeared at a benefit concert on Wednesday, has called for dropping the charges of incitement to riot against the Bolotnaya demonstrators. The Pussy Riot activists dismissed the charges against those demonstrators as baseless and more evidence of “Putin’s way of getting revenge” on his critics.

A Russian prosecutor has demanded prison terms of five and six years for the eight protesters, with the verdict expected a few days before the Olympics end in late February. Ms. Alyokhina and Ms. Tolokonnikova have called for a boycott of the Olympics, or other protests, to pressure the government into freeing the defendants. The most important thing is that the world speak out now, while Mr. Putin is at the center of attention and presumably cares what it thinks.

More broadly, the Russian penal system is in desperate need of reform. The activists described conditions in which prisoners are cowed into “obedient slaves,” forced to work up to 20 hours a day, with food that is little better than refuse. Those who are considered troublemakers can be forced to stand outdoors for hours, regardless of the weather; prohibited from using the bathroom; or beaten.

 

Their observations are reinforced by the State Department’s 2012 human rights report, which said that limited access to health care, food shortages, abuse by guards and inmates, inadequate sanitation and overcrowding were common in Russian prisons, and that in some the conditions can be life threatening.

The Olympics cannot but put a spotlight on the host country, and despite all efforts to create a more pleasant image of his state, Mr. Putin is facing a growing protest. On Wednesday, more than 200 prominent international authors, including Günter Grass, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood and Jonathan Franzen, published a letter denouncing the “chokehold” they said the new antigay and blasphemy laws place on freedom of expression.

Mr. Putin has unconstrained power to put anyone associated with Pussy Riot and thousands of other political activists in prison. But these women and those who share their commitment to freedom and justice are unlikely to be silenced, and they offer Russia a much better future.

As Olympics Arrive, Russia Experiences a Downturn

 

MOSCOW — After President Vladimir V. Putin delivered Russia’s successful pitch to host the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi — in English and a smattering of French, no less — he declared it an international validation of the Russia that had emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Union.

“It is, beyond any doubt, a judgment on our country,” he said then, nearly seven years ago.

Now, as the first events begin, the Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will. The avalanche of criticism that has already fallen, from minor complaints about ill-prepared hotels and stray dogs to grave concerns about the costs, security and human rights, is being brushed away like snowflakes from a winter coat.

“Its realization is already a huge win for our country,” Dmitri N. Kozak, a deputy prime minister and one of Mr. Putin’s longest-standing aides, said in Sochi on Thursday. He went on to use a phrase attributed to Catherine the Great when she intervened to halt the court-martial of a general who had stormed an Ottoman fortress without orders in the 18th century: “Victors are not judged.”

Aleksei A. Navalny, a critic of Mr. Putin, said the money spent on the Sochi Games represented a missed opportunity. James Hill for The New York Times

The Games are a crowning moment for Mr. Putin, a chance to demonstrate anew his mastery of the global levers of power, but perhaps not for the country he governs. With Russia’s natural-resource dependent economy slowing as commodities prices fall, and with foreign investments drying up, the Kremlin has already signaled that it would have to cut spending. The $50 billion or so lavished on Sochi is becoming a political liability.

Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, argued that the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Sochi — over Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea — when Mr. Putin was at the zenith of his powers in his second term but when the verdict on his legacy remained an open one. Many had been critical of his authoritarian instincts after he rose to power, including the tightening of news media and political freedoms and the war in Chechnya, but Russia had indisputably recovered from the chaos of the 1990s.

“At that time, Russia was ‘rising from its knees,’ ” Ms. Shevtsova wrote in an essay on the center’s website, “whereas now — in 2014 — Russia has started its downward slide.”

The stalling of the economy, despite the stimulus of Olympic spending, has raised worries about popular unrest directed at the Kremlin and a tightening of political freedoms in response once the Games are over.

Growth last year slowed to 1.3 percent, the lowest in a decade except for during the global recession in 2009, even as other major economies showed signs of recovery. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently called for urgent changes in labor policies, productivity and a government and legal bureaucracy that now stifle development — all long promised but not enacted.

“Structural reforms to improve the business climate are key to raising potential growth and economic resilience,” the organization wrote in its survey of Russia’s economy last month. “As energy prices stagnate and labor and capital become fully utilized, growth is falling behind pre-crisis rates. Making the economy stronger, more balanced, and less dependent on rents from national resource extraction is therefore a key challenge.”

The sheer cost of the Games has suddenly become a liability even in a political system that allows little room for public debate about the wisdom of government spending.

“It is about a lost chance,” said Aleksei A. Navalny, whose Foundation for the Fight Against Corruption recently published an interactive website charting what critics have called excessive waste and corruption in the construction of the Olympic facilities. “It is about what Russia could have done with this money. We could have had a new industrialization along the same lines as the industrialization under Stalin.
Instead, he added, “it’s just one crazy little czar who chose to throw money right and left in some kind of madness.”

Russia is not about to collapse. Nor does Mr. Putin’s rule face any foreseeable challenge, something even a determined critic like Mr. Navalny acknowledged. Mr. Putin’s approval rating, bolstered by lavishly positive coverage on state television, remains as high as when he first came to office.

Hosting the Olympics, however, seems to have lost some of the luster officials expected for Russia’s prestige at home and abroad, much to the frustration of Mr. Putin’s supporters.

The Olympics have refocused international attention on the hard-line policies Mr. Putin’s government has pursued since he returned to the presidency in 2012 after four years as prime minister, and prompted calls for protests and even boycotts.

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 1st, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Launch media viewer
Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations on Wednesday as the peace conference on Syria opened in Montreux, Switzerland. Pool photo by Arnd Wiegmann

After Mr. Ban urged Mr. Walid al-Moallem, the Syrian foreign minister to be concise, Mr. Moallem said he would conclude soon, adding that “Syria always keeps its promises” but  continued with  denunciations of the opposition and Mr. Ban later lamented that his injunction that participants take a constructive approach to the crisis “had been broken.”

Ahmad Assi al-Jarba, the president of the Syrian opposition, opened with the story of Hajar al-Khatib, 11, who he said was shot by government forces as she rode a bus to school in Rastan near the city of Homs in May 2011. That was in the early days of the protest movement that set off the uprising. “Ten thousand children have died because of the Syrian Army,” he added, singling out not only Mr. Assad but the army, which many pro-government Syrians distinguish from the political leaders as an object of patriotism.

Mr. Jarba has said from the start that the Syrian opposition will never accept a role for Mr. Assad in a transitional government and he wondered aloud if the negotiators that the Syrian president had sent to Switzerland were prepared to contemplate that outcome. “We want to be sure we have a Syrian partner in this room,” Mr. Jarba said, adding, “Do we have such a partner?”

Asked whether the United States had any way of putting more leverage on the Assad government, Mr. Kerry suggested that the Obama administration would support “augmented” support for the opposition, among other options. But Mr. Kerry was vague about those options, and the White House has been extremely reluctant to use force in Syria or to even treat the Syria crisis as its principal foreign policy challenge.

On the sidelines, attempts at dialogue turned to scuffles. Outside, pro-government protesters waved the flags of the Syrian government and Hezbollah and chanted “God, Bashar and nothing else!” An opposition activist, Rami Jarrah, approached them with a television camera and interviewed them. But when he asked if Mr. Assad should be tried for war crimes, they began shouting and pushing.

==================================

We held the above back in a draft format and decided only February 1st to post it.

Now we know that the meetings on Syria in Geneva have produced no results, and we also know that the US expressed its opinion that Syria does not cooperate fast enough according to its commitment to give up its chemical weapons.
What now for the UN? Are we still going to the Sochi Winter Olympics?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 26th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 We just received the following release from UNEP, this after we listened to Fareed Zakaria interviewing in Davos the present Egyptian Prime Minister Hazen El Bablawi who seemed blasee to the fact that Egypt is deteriorating – just one more Arab State that seems compelled to love a dictatorship.

Iraq’s environment was destroyed by the oil industry and is now – like Syria – a global basket case. If these countries are not allowed to fall apart and reorganize along more friendly internal lines no amount of help to the environment will have any impact on their future.

Iraq’s dictator put on fire all his oil producing facilities in disregard of his people and the World at large. The best possible environmental recovery process will start with the complete closing of that oil pumping industry. Islamic extremist hot-heads will do little for life in this part of the World where some would rather worship death. Our good friend and well meaning head of UNEP – Achim Steiner – goes to Baghdad and presents the local Environment Minister with a volume in Arabic that tells him what his government could do for a purpose they do not have yet – the environment in which their people ought to be able to live while they are being bombed and shot at daily?

It would be nice indeed if we could center governments’ attention around a worship of Nature rather then the present worship of a religious zeal that sees the enemy in humans and has no value for Nature. Strange – but with every passing day we get closer to the point that we may eventually recommend Vodou (Voodoo)  as the true rational ethics.

—————————————————————————————————-

UNEP NEWS: Landmark Agreement Sets in Motion Action to Restore Iraq’s Environment as New Study Outlines Magnitude of Deterioration.

Landmark Agreement Sets in Motion Action to Restore Iraq’s Environment as New Study Outlines Magnitude of Deterioration. UN Top Environment Chief in First Visit to Iraq Says Implementation of Agreement will Bolster Environmental Recovery and Peace-building.      {Peace building did he say?}

Baghdad, 26 January 2014 – In an effort to set in motion robust action to restore Iraq’s fast deteriorating environment, the Government of Iraq signed, Sunday, a landmark agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that aims to speed up recovery and support peace-building.

Iraq’s environment has suffered severe decline in recent years, exacerbated by decades of war and growing pressures on natural resources.

According to a new government study – backed by UN and World Bank data – 5 to 8 per cent of Iraq’s GDP is lost annually to environmental degradation.

At the same time, 39 per cent of Iraq’s agricultural land suffered a reduction in cropland between 2007 and 2009. Meanwhile food insecurity remains on the rise.

The report warns that the quality and quantity of the country’s water has been impacted by upstream damming, pollution, climate change and inefficient usage.

The amount of water available per person per year decreased from 5,900 cubic metres to 2,400 cubic metres between 1977 and 2009.  Decreasing water supplies were exacerbated by drought from 2005 and 2009.

The Tigris and the Euphrates, Iraq’s two major surface water sources, may dry up by 2040 if current conditions prevail.

“Achieving sustainable development is by no means a light undertaking, especially after decades of wars, sanctions and environmental degradation. Rebuilding Iraq’s environmental infrastructure underpins the country’s recovery and peace-building efforts”, said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, on his first-ever visit to Iraq.

“The commitment of the Government to achieve environmental sustainability is clearly articulated in the vision, goals and objectives of the National Development Plan, which places the Green Economy at the heart of development and economic policies,” he added.

The new five-year Strategic Cooperation Agreement with UNEP will strengthen efforts to overcome many of Iraq’s environmental challenges.

Iraqi Minister of Environment Eng. Sargon Lazar Slewa said: ” The Government of Iraq is committed to moving ahead with plans to restore the environment as part of our National Development Plan.  The visit by Mr. Steiner and the signing of the cooperation agreement will expedite and further strengthen this process. The well-being, security and livelihoods of Iraqi’s are dependent on our success.”

Areas of cooperation defined by the agreement will focus on: environmental legislation and regulations; biodiversity conservation; green economy; cleaner production; resource efficiency; combating dust storms; and climate change reporting, mitigation and adaptation.

The signing of the agreement took place at a special event hosted by the Minister of Environment to welcome Mr. Steiner to Baghdad.

It was attended by key figures including cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic community and international organizations.

Cooperation between the Government of Iraq and UNEP dates back to 2003, immediately after the establishment of the Ministry of Environment.

Since then, UNEP has worked with the Iraqi Government on multiple projects, including: rapid post-conflict environmental assessments; environmental clean-up of highly contaminated sites; and the restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshlands.

The report, entitled “Iraq State of Environment and Outlook” is available in Arabic only. It was prepared by the Government of Iraq with support from UNDP, UNEP and WHO.

===================================================

Facts and figures from the report:

·         Around 31 per cent of Iraq’s surface is desert. At the same time, 39 per cent of the country’s surface is estimated to have been affected by desertification, with an additional 54 per cent under threat.

·         As a result of declining soil moisture and lack of vegetative cover, recent years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of vast dust and sand storms, often originating in the western parts of Iraq.

·         Population growth is adding mounting pressure to existing food, water and energy resources.

·         By 2030, the population is expected to grow to almost 50 million people, exacerbating these pressures even further.

·         Sustainable access to safe water and sanitation remain a challenge: 83 per cent of Iraq’s wastewater is left untreated, contributing to the pollution of Iraq’s waterways and general environment.

·         Years of conflict and violence resulted in chemical pollution and unexploded ordnances, which is affecting the safety and lives of an estimated 1.6 million Iraqis.

For more information, please contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP, Nairobi, Tel.+254-788-526-000
or Email: shereen.zorba@unep.org/ unepnewsdesk@unep.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 22nd, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 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:

www.innercitypress.com/syria2montreux012214.html

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 pupp.et – 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 Sustainabilitank.info on January 17th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Uri Avnery

January 18, 2013

           

 

                                                The Imperator

 

IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him – a meeting with Yasser Arafat.

 

A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.

 

I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president.

 

What about the West Bank?” I asked.

 

Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.” 

 

My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me.

 

 

SHARON’S PLAN was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres – believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.

 

Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in Jordan were battling the Hashemite regime there, Israel came to the aid of the king at the request of Henry Kissinger. I proposed the opposite in my magazine: to aid the Palestinians. Sharon later told me that he, a general at the time, had asked the General Staff to do the same, though for a different end. My idea was to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, his was to create it in the East Bank.

 

(The idea of turning Jordan into Palestine has a generally unknown linguistic background. In Hebrew usage, “Eretz Israel” is the land on both sides of the Jordan River, where the ancient Hebrew tribes settled according to the Biblical myth. In Palestinian usage, “Filastin” is only the land on the West side of the river. Therefore is quite natural for ignorant Israelis to ask the Palestinians to set up their state beyond the Jordan. For Palestinians, that means setting up their state abroad.)

 

 

AT THE time, Sharon was in political exile.

 

In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.

 

When he left the army, Sharon almost single-handedly created the Likud by unifying all the right-wing parties. That’s when I chose him the first time as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year and wrote a large biographical article about him. A few days later, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Sharon was drafted back into the army. His part in it is considered by many as pure genius, by others as a story of insubordination and luck. A photo of him with his head bandaged became his trademark, though it was only a slight wound caused by hitting his head on his command vehicle. (To be fair, he was really wounded in battle, like me, in 1948.)

 

After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of “the battle of the generals”. He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.

 

He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That’s when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.

 

He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and “outstanding personalities” from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.

 

I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims. Sharon fitted the recipe. (As Yitzhak Rabin did later.) Yet during our conversations it became clear to me that he had basically remained a right-winger.

 

In the end Sharon set up a new party called Shlomtzion (“Peace of Zion”), which was a dismal failure on election day. The next day, he rejoined the Likud.

 

The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If Sharon had hoped to be appointed Minister of Defense, he was soon disabused. Begin did not trust him. Sharon looked like a general who might organize a coup. The powerful new Finance Minister said that if Sharon became commander-in-chief, he would “send his tanks to surround the Knesset.”

 

(There was a joke making the rounds at the time:  Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!” For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)

 

However, when Begin’s preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint Sharon as his successor. For the second time I chose Sharon as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year. He took this very seriously and sat with me for many hours, in several meetings at his home and office, in order to explain his ideas.

 

One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the US strategic planners, was to conquer Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini dies, he said, there will begin a race between the Soviet Union and the US to determine who will arrive first on the scene and take over. The US is far away, but Israel can do the job. With the help of heavy arms that the US will store in Israel well before, our army will be in full possession before the Soviets move. He showed me the detailed maps of the advance, hour by hour and day by day.

 

This was typical Sharon, His vision was wide and all-embracing. His listener was left breathless, comparing him to the ordinary little politicians, devoid of vision and breadth. But his ideas were generally based on abysmal ignorance of the other side, and therefore came to naught.

 

 

AT THE same time, nine months before the Lebanon War, he disclosed to me his Grand Plan for a new Middle East of his making. He allowed me to publish it, provided I did not mention him as the source. He trusted me.

 

Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.

 

The army would invade Lebanon and drive the Palestinians from there to Syria, from whence the Syrians would drive them into Jordan. There the Palestinians would overthrow the king and establish the State of Palestine.

 

The army would also drive the Syrians out of Lebanon. In Lebanon Sharon would choose a Christian officer and install him as dictator. Lebanon would make official peace with Israel and in effect become a vassal state.

 

I duly published all this, and nine months later Sharon invaded Lebanon, after lying to Begin and the cabinet about his aims. But the war was a catastrophe, both militarily and politically.

 

Militarily it was a demonstration of “the Peter principle” – the brilliant battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with Israel, which has been completely forgotten by now. The Syrians remained in Lebanon for many years to come. The Israeli army extricated itself after a guerrilla war that lasted 18 full years, during which the despised and downtrodden Shiites in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon became the dominant political force in the country.

 

And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and Sharon was dismissed from the defense ministry.

 

At the height of the Battle of Beirut I crossed the lines and met with Yasser Arafat, who had become Sharon’s Nemesis. Since then, Sharon and I did not exchange a single word, not even greeting each other.

 

 

IT LOOKED like the end of Sharon’s career. But for Sharon, every end was a new beginning.

 

One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: “Those who don’t want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don’t want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister.” Today one could add: “Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon.”  

 

An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: “He was an Imperator!” I find this a very apt description.

 

Like a Roman imperator, Sharon was a supreme being, admired and feared,

generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.

 

One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.

 

He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead Israel. He did not think so – he knew. For him, his personal career and the fate of Israel were one and the same. Therefore, anyone who tried to block him was a traitor to Israel. He despised everyone around him – from Begin down to the last politician and general.

 

His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.

 

When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.

 

Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: “Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!”

 

How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.

 

 

SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): “If force does not work, try more force.”

 

I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. “How can you?” I asked him. His answer: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!” I told him that for me it was the other way round.

 

Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the territory of Israel without limit. His military career started for real in the 1950s when Moshe Dayan put him in charge of an unofficial outfit called Unit 101, which was sent across the border to kill and destroy, in retaliation for similar actions committed by Arabs. His most famous exploit was the massacre of Qibya village in 1953, when 49 innocent villagers were buried under the houses which he blew up.

 

Later, when requested to put an end to “terrorism” in Gaza, he killed every Arab who was caught with arms. When I later asked him about killing prisoners, he answered: “I did not kill prisoners. I did not take prisoners!”

 

At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.

 

 

THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.

 

He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).

 

He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the West Bank into ribbons which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Then he rammed it through the cabinet and the ministries. Not for nothing was he nicknamed “the Bulldozer”.

 

The “Israel Defense Army” (its official Hebrew name) turned into the “Settlers Defense Army”, sinking slowly in the morass of the occupation.

 

However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with Egypt, in order to concentrate on the war with the Palestinians, he destroyed the entire town of Yamit in North Sinai and the adjacent settlements. Later he did the same to the settlements in the Gaza Strip, attracting the enduring hatred of the settlers, his erstwhile proteges. He acted like a general who is ready to sacrifice a brigade to improve his overall strategic position. 

 

 

WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.

 

In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as Israel. His personal history is interwoven with the history of Israel.

 

His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted all over the West Bank – each of them a landmine which will have to be removed at great risk when the time comes.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 11th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

 

 

 Gibson Bible Atlas   –  Canaan before Abraham

Copyright 1927, 2003

The land of Canaan before Abraham

Annexation and the return of the one-state solution.

Monday, January 6, 2014 – published by the Palestine Center, The Jerusalem Fund, Washington DC – Written by Jack LeVine it was previously posted by Al Jezeera.www.thejerusalemfund.org/ht/display/ContentDetails/i/43942/pid/895

 

From time to time, the Palestine Center distributes articles it believes will enhance understanding of the Palestinian political reality. The following article is by Mark LeVine was published by Al Jazeera on 2 January 2014.

Mark LeVine writes what he writes – and we like to extend it to its logical target – the establishment of an Abrahamic State that is neither Jewish nor Muslim, in parts of the pre-Abraham Land of Canaan,  and to allow our readers the right to think for themselves and decide if this albatross can fly:

“Annexation and the return of the one-state solution

It was yet another slap in the face of the United States, Israel’s main patron without whom its existence, never mind its ability to maintain an ever intensifying occupation without fear of mentionable consequence, would be very much in question.

In direct response to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt to establish a set of “security arrangements” that would, some day (Kerry apparently is suggesting after another decade), allow some level of Palestinian control over the security of the West Bank (wasn’t that supposed to happen during Oslo?  And isn’t it in fact already the de jure arrangement in Areas A and B?),  the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to annex the Jordan Valley permanently to Israel.

Modus operandi

This is, by no means, the first vote or decision taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu government to challenge the Obama Administration’s attempts to play at peace-making in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In fact, announcing settlement expansion plans whenever a senior US official is visiting Israel to “jumpstart” or “save” the “peace process” has long been standard operating procedure for the Israeli government, as the Obama Administration learned early in 2010 when Vice President Joe Biden was greeted upon arriving in Israel with the “highly inflammatory announcement” of plans for 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem. The Americans feigned anger at the “brutally contemptuous rebuff” to their good-faith efforts to resuscitate Oslo, but no one should have been surprised at the actions of  Netanyahu then, or now. Indeed, Netanyahu has been outmanoeuvering Obama since day one of the relationship.

This latest slap in the face comes after PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again “renounced claims” to Israel within its 1967 borders, this time singling out the one-time Palestinian-populated towns of Jaffa and Haifa, and accepted on-going settlement construction in return for freeing Palestinian prisoners. A few hundred Palestinian “detainees” are wonderful bargaining chips to play in lieu of actual policy changes whenever negotiations get serious.

Not surprisingly, the vote on annexation provoked the usual outcries by Palestinian officials, who decried the “indifference” to and “disrespect” for international law the vote represented.

Falling on deaf ears

This evaluation is certainly true, although the PA attacking Israel for disregarding international law is about as meaningful as the US criticising Saudi Arabia for refusing to let women drive. That is to say, it’s utterly devoid of meaning as long as they continue business as usual, which for the PA means doing whatever is necessary to keep the foreign aid, and salaries, flowing through its coffers.

But this latest attempt to annex the West Bank, as 2013 came to a close, offers both a tantalising glimpse of the future of Israel/Palestine and a good opportunity for Palestinians to start the New Year off in a way that throws the Israeli government back on its heels.  It could also turn the tide in the century-long conflict over the territory of Mandate-era Palestine.  It was not the PA, however, but the liberal Zionist Party Meretz that have taken the lead in doing so however.

Rather than denouncing the latest attempt to annex the West Bank as marking yet another nail in the coffin of a long rotted Oslo peace process, Meretz publicly declared it would no longer oppose votes to annex the Jordan Valley, which increases the likelihood such a vote could in fact pass the Knesset.

Meretz leaders have neither suddenly become territorial maximalists nor have they joined the one or bi-state camp that most self-described Zionists, regardless of how comparatively liberal their politics (from an Israeli perspective), still broadly refuse to support. But I don’t buy the refusal of Meretz Chairwoman Zehava Galon even to discuss a one-state future as reflecting the true nature of the shift inside Israeli liberal politics.  As the Israeli right becomes ever bolder in asserting territorially maximalist policies, and the religious establishment more blatantly bigoted, there is simply less space for liberal Zionists to operate as both liberal and Zionist.

The fact is that soon Israeli liberals, who are still a sizable minority of the population, are either going to vote with their heads or their feet – if the mainstream of Israeli political culture keeps moving to the right. A democratic state with rough demographic parity with Palestinians suddenly would offer a more positive alternative than an ultra-chauvinistic Jewish state that holds them in almost as much scorn as it does “Arabs” and “Africans”.

A new coalition?

The question is: When will the majority of Palestinians, who long ago lost faith in Oslo and in their hearts would prefer a one-state solution, give up the two-state illusion and come out in force demanding precisely what the Ministerial Legislative Committee voted to do – be annexed to Israel, and have the same voting rights as their fellow Palestinians across the quickly evaporating Green Line. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of just this eventuality as the doomsday scenario facing Zionism, which is why a man who did more than almost anyone to create a Jewish-dominated Jerusalem became a firm supporter of two-states.

The PA will never go down this route because it would mean its dissolution and the loss of jobs, money and power for the entire political class, and perhaps the fatal weakening of Fatah along with it. Neither, strangely, would Hamas accept it as it would become moot in a one or bi-national solution.

Of course, while the Israeli right would actually welcome Palestinian acquiescence to the annexation of the West Bank, whose population can be absorbed into Israel without creating a Palestinian majority, their plan for a Greater Israel specifically excludes Gaza, whose incorporation would tip the demographic balance immediately, and permanently, in the Palestinian’s favour. A test of wills and political strategisation would emerge between the two sides as to whether Israel could convince West Bank Palestinians permanently to separate their fortunes from benighted Gaza, or Palestinians once “inside” Israel would constitute a large enough force with 1948 Palestinians and liberal/left Israeli to push, however fitfully, for a bi-national or even parallel states solution.

This leads to a final question:Will 2014 be the year Palestinian and Israeli exhaustion with Oslo and fear of a bleak and chauvinistic future creates the unstoppable force that finally buries Oslo and moves both peoples, and the land they inevitably share, towards a common future?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.

Click here for more Reports and Commentary of the site we tapped.

To view this article online, please go to:
www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/01/annexation-return-one-state-solution-2014125435732443.html.

==================================================

And an Israeli description of what it looks like now in the Israeli political arena – the Uri Avnery article of this week –
that in the “Gush Shalom” publication was titled more to the point as BIBI & LIBI & TIBI – referring to Dr. Ahmad Tibi, Currently a Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, who defines himself as  Arab-Palestinian in nationality, and Israeli in citizenship – thus trying to make sense in a situation that he sees himself as directing his party Arab Movement for Change (Ta’al), an Arab party in Israel, to full rights within Israel.
He is for the two State solution but wants to be an Israeli as well. Can he be the bridge to a One-State solution as well?

 

Uri Avnery

 

January 11, 2014

 

 

 

                                             Bibi & Libie

 

 

 

PERHAPS I am too stupid, but for the heck of me I cannot understand the sense of the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

 

On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.

 

 

Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.

 

 

One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?

 

 

 

THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.

 

 

First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?

 

 

Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.

 

 

Second, that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.

 

 

That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an “agreed” one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.

 

 The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5000.

 

 Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce:  OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want – a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.

 

 On September 10, 1993 – which happened to be my 70th birthday – Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State. 

 

 By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in the “Times” of London on December 17, 1973,  a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that “the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples.”

 

 I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat’s hand.

 

 

 

 THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel – about 20% of Israel’s eight million citizens – is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.

 

 Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry’s peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.

 

 Why, for heaven’s sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his “Israel Our Home” party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.

 

 Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State. 

 

 This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel – not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel’s narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.

 

 The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of  a dozen Arab villages, which were given Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.

 

 Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all.  He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin’s redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman’s borders look completely crazy.

 

 Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300 thousand Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.

 

 

 

 SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?

 

 Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don’t love Israel, they don’t serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.

 

 “Israeli Arabs”, a term they hate, play a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.

 

 Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible(. After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.

 

 The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.

 

 A complicated situation, indeed.

 

 

 

 IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.

 

 There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.

 

 The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.

 

 Now, in the name of “governability” (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.

 

 I was elected three times to the Knesset when the threshold was 1%. Later it was raised to 2%. Now the plan is to raise the threshold to 3.25%, which in the elections a year ago would have equaled 123,262 votes. Only one of the three “Arab” parties crossed this line – and then only barely. There is no assurance that it could do so again.                                                             

 

 In order to survive, they would have to unite and form a large Arab bloc. Many would think that this was a good thing. But it is very difficult to accomplish. One party is communist, another Islamist, another secular-nationalist. Also, competing extended families play an important role in Arab electoral politics.

 

 The Arab lists may disappear altogether. Or two may unite, eliminating the third.

 

 Some Israeli leftists fantasize about a dream party – a united parliamentary bloc that would include all the Arab parties with the Labor party and Meretz, turning it into a formidable challenger of the right wing.

 

 But that would be too good to be true – no chance at all of this happening in the near future.

 

 

 

 IT SEEMS that Kerry and his Zionist advisors already identify with the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish State or, worse, the State of the Jewish People (who were not even consulted).

 

 The Palestinian side is unable to accept this.

 

 If the negotiations come to naught on this point, Netanyahu will have achieved his real aim: to abort the negotiations in a way that will enable him to blame the Palestinians.

 

 As long as we have a Jewish State – who needs peace?

 

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 7th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Majallie Whbee (L) is handed his letter of appointment as roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein in Jerusalem, Dec. 31, 2013.  (photo by Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

PAM (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean) was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority.

Read more: www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/majallie-whbee-pam-interview-syria-egypt-palestine-israel.html?utm_source=&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=8862#ixzz2pk5SBy1m

 

Longtime Sharon associate calls on parties to close peace deal

by Mazal Mualem – a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse and formerly the senior political correspondent for Maariv and Haaretz.
She also presents a weekly TV show covering social issues on the Knesset channel. 
Posted January 6, 2014

 

 “The reason that we miss [Ariel] Sharon so much is simply because he knew how to bang on the table and decide yes or no. With Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], nothing is clear … and there is no worse feeling than that.” Former Knesset member and Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee followed former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon almost blindly when he bolted from the Likud Party and established Kadima in November 2005. It was two months before the then-prime minister suffered a stroke and dropped off the public stage, leaving behind him a party in its infancy, a country dealing with the implications of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and an enormous leadership vacuum.

 

Summary? Print Former Knesset member Majallie Whbee, a close associate of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, deplores Israeli leaders for not seizing the moment: “We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to complete an agreement.”
 

 

In the last election, Whbee, who was close to Sharon politically, joined HaTenua Party, headed by Tzipi Livni, but was not elected to the Knesset. He watches from the sidelines now as the glorious party that Sharon hoped to establish, and which was supposed to serve as a political platform to advance a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians, goes through all its various incarnations.

 

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006, and over the past few days his condition has deteriorated considerably, putting his life in danger. The party that he founded split in two because of a serious clash between Justice Minister Livni and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on the eve of the last election. At its peak, Kadima won 29 seats in the Knesset. In the last election, the party, now headed by Mofaz, dropped to just two seats. Until it is proved otherwise, Livni’s party serves as the diplomatic fig leaf for the Netanyahu government. It is a pale shadow of former Prime Minister Sharon’s political vision.

 

Whbee doesn’t know exactly what diplomatic arrangement Sharon intended to reach, but it is obvious to him that the disengagement plan in Gaza was to be continued somehow. “Sharon said, ‘Why do we have to rule over another people?’ He realized that in the long term, the occupation would not lead us to a good place, and he wanted to bring about an arrangement.” Like many senior members of the Likud who followed Sharon on his Kadima escapade, he thinks back now on the diplomatic momentum during Sharon’s term in office and wonders what would have happened had he not collapsed.

 

The interview with Whbee took place one week after he was appointed roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), alongside professor Mohamed Abou El Enein, former speaker of the Egyptian parliament. At a modest ceremony held Dec. 31, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein handed him his letter of appointment. Whbee already has plenty of plans how to promote two main causes: tracking and reducing the scope of civilian casualties in Syria, and supporting an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

PAM was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. This is the first time that an Israeli has been appointed to a senior position in PAM. Considering all the international condemnations and boycotts that Israel is facing, as well as the ongoing diplomatic crisis it is immersed in, Whbee’s appointment is noteworthy.

 

Very soon, Whbee, a Druze, will leave his home in the northern locality of Beit Jann to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the states of the region. He will attempt to use his diplomatic, political and defense experience, as well as his moderate worldview, to promote the assembly’s objectives and to realize the common interests of the countries in the region.

 

Majallie Whbee, when the states of the region are contending with the revolutions and conflicts of the Arab Spring, can anyone even determine what their common interests are?

 

“First of all, there is an interest in the Syrian issue. It is in everyone’s interest to defend the civilian population. Our objective is to flood the world with the problem and to put it on the tables of Europe’s leaders, now that the United States abandoned its plans to attack. What we have here is a Middle East population without anyone to care for it, and it is still at risk. There are Syrian representatives in PAM, too, and that is an advantage. While they are excluded from most places, they are still members of our assembly, and through them we can have an impact. We will demand that they use their influence over the Syrian regime.

 

“But it is not limited to Syria. The situation in Egypt is also difficult. The Egyptian representatives to PAM warn us of the risks posed by Hamas and the [former Mohammed] Morsi government. They are opposed to religious extremism, so they regard Morsi, who supported Hamas, as acting against Egyptian interests. In that sense they regard us, the Israelis, as their allies.”

 

Has your appointment already provided you with new insights into the region?

 

“Yes — that the Arab Spring was exploited by the religious extremists to seize control of the region in a kind of effort to establish a large Islamic force that will extend over several countries. We witnessed the cooperation between Morsi and Hamas, while those forces with a pro-Western orientation fell between the cracks. In that sense, I consider [US President Barack] Obama turning his back on Egypt to have been a resounding slap in the face. Unfortunately, the West did not anticipate fundamentalist factors attempting to hitch a ride on the Arab Spring.”

 

There is an argument that the chaos in the Arab states will actually improve Israel’s security situation.

 

“That is true in the short term. In the long term it is catastrophic, because it is possible that the fundamentalists will take over, and that would pose a threat to us. This leads me to the Palestinian issue. We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to reach an agreement, and Israel is not exploiting that window of opportunity. The situation is that right now the Palestinians do not have the backing of the Arab states. Egypt isn’t helping with anything, and Syria is torn apart. Under these circumstances, it is possible to pressure the Palestinians. [US Secretary of State John] Kerry should bang on the table and bring about an agreement. He should determine the facts and put both sides in a situation in which they have to decide. That is his role as a mediator, because if there won’t be an agreement we will be living by our swords here for many years to come.”

 

The situation of the Palestinians actually seems better than our own in the international arena.

 

“In my opinion, it is important to distinguish the leadership, which wants the conflict to continue. It’s good for those people to be the side that is discriminated against in the conflict. What’s so bad for them? They fight, and somebody else pays. But unlike the leadership, the people want to live a normal life. They want to make a living and improve their quality of life. They are tired of all the struggles and wars. They want normalcy. That is also why I don’t think there will be a third intifada. There is no one who wants to fight that battle, because even the Palestinian mothers are tired. After all, who do they send to blow themselves up with suicide belts? [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen’s sons? [Former Palestinian Chairman Yasser] Arafat’s sons? It is the simple people who struggle to make a living, who end up paying the price.

 

“What’s so bad for the leadership? They continue driving around in their Mercedes and living in mansions, with tight security to protect them. It is convenient for them for the situation to remain as it is, because once a peace agreement is signed and they will be under supervision, it will be hard for them to keep up that kind of lifestyle.”

 

Was Sharon’s disengagement plan a mistake?

 

”In my opinion it was a stroke of diplomatic genius. After all, we had five brigades there, the security costs were astronomical, and soldiers were getting killed and wounded to defend 23 settlements. How was that to our advantage? As soon as Israel left Gaza, the international community granted us legitimacy to act in our defense from within our borders.”

 

 “The reason that we miss [Ariel] Sharon so much is simply because he knew how to bang on the table and decide yes or no. With Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], nothing is clear … and there is no worse feeling than that.” Former Knesset member and Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee followed former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon almost blindly when he bolted from the Likud Party and established Kadima in November 2005. It was two months before the then-prime minister suffered a stroke and dropped off the public stage, leaving behind him a party in its infancy, a country dealing with the implications of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and an enormous leadership vacuum.

 

Summary? Print Former Knesset member Majallie Whbee, a close associate of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, deplores Israeli leaders for not seizing the moment: “We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to complete an agreement.”
Author Mazal Mualem Posted January 6, 2014

Translator(s)Danny Wool

 

In the last election, Whbee, who was close to Sharon politically, joined HaTenua Party, headed by Tzipi Livni, but was not elected to the Knesset. He watches from the sidelines now as the glorious party that Sharon hoped to establish, and which was supposed to serve as a political platform to advance a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians, goes through all its various incarnations.

 

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006, and over the past few days his condition has deteriorated considerably, putting his life in danger. The party that he founded split in two because of a serious clash between Justice Minister Livni and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on the eve of the last election. At its peak, Kadima won 29 seats in the Knesset. In the last election, the party, now headed by Mofaz, dropped to just two seats. Until it is proved otherwise, Livni’s party serves as the diplomatic fig leaf for the Netanyahu government. It is a pale shadow of former Prime Minister Sharon’s political vision.

 

Whbee doesn’t know exactly what diplomatic arrangement Sharon intended to reach, but it is obvious to him that the disengagement plan in Gaza was to be continued somehow. “Sharon said, ‘Why do we have to rule over another people?’ He realized that in the long term, the occupation would not lead us to a good place, and he wanted to bring about an arrangement.” Like many senior members of the Likud who followed Sharon on his Kadima escapade, he thinks back now on the diplomatic momentum during Sharon’s term in office and wonders what would have happened had he not collapsed.

 

The interview with Whbee took place one week after he was appointed roving ambassador of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), alongside professor Mohamed Abou El Enein, former speaker of the Egyptian parliament. At a modest ceremony held Dec. 31, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein handed him his letter of appointment. Whbee already has plenty of plans how to promote two main causes: tracking and reducing the scope of civilian casualties in Syria, and supporting an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

PAM was founded in 2006. Apart from Israel, its member states include Morocco, Cyprus, Libya, Jordan, Egypt, France, Greece, Bosnia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority. This is the first time that an Israeli has been appointed to a senior position in PAM. Considering all the international condemnations and boycotts that Israel is facing, as well as the ongoing diplomatic crisis it is immersed in, Whbee’s appointment is noteworthy.

 

Very soon, Whbee, a Druze, will leave his home in the northern locality of Beit Jann to engage in shuttle diplomacy between the states of the region. He will attempt to use his diplomatic, political and defense experience, as well as his moderate worldview, to promote the assembly’s objectives and to realize the common interests of the countries in the region.

 

Majallie Whbee, when the states of the region are contending with the revolutions and conflicts of the Arab Spring, can anyone even determine what their common interests are?

 

“First of all, there is an interest in the Syrian issue. It is in everyone’s interest to defend the civilian population. Our objective is to flood the world with the problem and to put it on the tables of Europe’s leaders, now that the United States abandoned its plans to attack. What we have here is a Middle East population without anyone to care for it, and it is still at risk. There are Syrian representatives in PAM, too, and that is an advantage. While they are excluded from most places, they are still members of our assembly, and through them we can have an impact. We will demand that they use their influence over the Syrian regime.

 

“But it is not limited to Syria. The situation in Egypt is also difficult. The Egyptian representatives to PAM warn us of the risks posed by Hamas and the [former Mohammed] Morsi government. They are opposed to religious extremism, so they regard Morsi, who supported Hamas, as acting against Egyptian interests. In that sense they regard us, the Israelis, as their allies.”

 

Has your appointment already provided you with new insights into the region?

 

“Yes — that the Arab Spring was exploited by the religious extremists to seize control of the region in a kind of effort to establish a large Islamic force that will extend over several countries. We witnessed the cooperation between Morsi and Hamas, while those forces with a pro-Western orientation fell between the cracks. In that sense, I consider [US President Barack] Obama turning his back on Egypt to have been a resounding slap in the face. Unfortunately, the West did not anticipate fundamentalist factors attempting to hitch a ride on the Arab Spring.”

 

There is an argument that the chaos in the Arab states will actually improve Israel’s security situation.

 

“That is true in the short term. In the long term it is catastrophic, because it is possible that the fundamentalists will take over, and that would pose a threat to us. This leads me to the Palestinian issue. We have a window of opportunity of just a few years to reach an agreement, and Israel is not exploiting that window of opportunity. The situation is that right now the Palestinians do not have the backing of the Arab states. Egypt isn’t helping with anything, and Syria is torn apart. Under these circumstances, it is possible to pressure the Palestinians. [US Secretary of State John] Kerry should bang on the table and bring about an agreement. He should determine the facts and put both sides in a situation in which they have to decide. That is his role as a mediator, because if there won’t be an agreement we will be living by our swords here for many years to come.”

 

The situation of the Palestinians actually seems better than our own in the international arena.

 

“In my opinion, it is important to distinguish the leadership, which wants the conflict to continue. It’s good for those people to be the side that is discriminated against in the conflict. What’s so bad for them? They fight, and somebody else pays. But unlike the leadership, the people want to live a normal life. They want to make a living and improve their quality of life. They are tired of all the struggles and wars. They want normalcy. That is also why I don’t think there will be a third intifada. There is no one who wants to fight that battle, because even the Palestinian mothers are tired. After all, who do they send to blow themselves up with suicide belts? [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen’s sons? [Former Palestinian Chairman Yasser] Arafat’s sons? It is the simple people who struggle to make a living, who end up paying the price.

 

“What’s so bad for the leadership? They continue driving around in their Mercedes and living in mansions, with tight security to protect them. It is convenient for them for the situation to remain as it is, because once a peace agreement is signed and they will be under supervision, it will be hard for them to keep up that kind of lifestyle.”

 

Was Sharon’s disengagement plan a mistake?

 

”In my opinion it was a stroke of diplomatic genius. After all, we had five brigades there, the security costs were astronomical, and soldiers were getting killed and wounded to defend 23 settlements. How was that to our advantage? As soon as Israel left Gaza, the international community granted us legitimacy to act in our defense from within our borders.”

 

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 22nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

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

 =================================================================================

 

THE BOOKS MENTIONED IN OUR REPORTING:

 

 

1413112
    • Oct 01, 2007
      384 p., 6 1/8 x 9 1/4ISBN: 9780300120578
      Cloth

 

 

 

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 14th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

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.

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

By ELISABETH MALKIN
Published: August 12, 2013
 www.nytimes.com/2013/08/13/world/…


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.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 2nd, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Al-Monitor <newsletter@email.al-monitor.com>
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.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 16th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from:  Holocaust Remembrance <holocaustremembrance@un.org> via sustainabilitank.com 
reply-to:  holocaustremembrance@un.org
 

 

 Holocaust Remembrance <holocaustremembrance@un.org> via sustainabilitank.com 

 

 

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, in partnership with
the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect
is organizing a high-level discussion titled

“From Prevention to Protection: the UN Genocide Convention 65 Years On”

Monday, 9 December 2013
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
ECOSOC Chamber, UN Headquarters in New York

The high-level event will mark the 65th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and bring together experts to examine the challenges of genocide prevention today.

Speakers will include:

United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon;

Mr. Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information;

Mr. Adama Dieng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide;

Mrs. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court;

Mr. Stuart E. Eizenstat, former Ambassador of the United States to the European Union (1993-1996);

Mrs. María Cristina Perceval, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations;

and Mr. Mustafa Haid, Founder and Executive Director of Dawlaty, a Beirut-based organization which encourages transitional justice in Syria.

The discussion will be moderated by journalist Tunku Varadarajan, Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a columnist with the Daily Beast.

ONLINE REGISTRATION

For more information on the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme,
please visit www.un.org/holocaustremembrance or email holocaustremembrance@un.org

—————————————-

THIS EVENT IS A PRESENTATION AND REMINDER OF THE REAL REASON WHY THE UN WAS CREATED IN THE AFTERMATH OF WORLD WAR II AND THE FRESH MEMORY OF THE HOLOCAUST – THE EXTREME EXAMPLE OF WHAT THE HUMAN BEAST IS CAPABLE OF DOING.

SINCE THEN THE UN ALSO RECOGNIZED IN 1948 ALSO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL AND THE NEED TO FIGHT GENOCIDE. OTHER HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED THE DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE PRINCIPLE OF THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT.

THE UN AS AN INSTITUTION DID NOT LIVE UP TO THE HIGH STANDARDS IT SET TO ITSELF AND GENOCIDE IS PART OF OUR DAILY NEWS – THOUGH NOTHING COMPARES TO WHAT MADMEN ADOLF HITLER AND ADOLF EICHMANN DID.

NEVERTHELESS, PEOPLE LIKE AHMEDI-NEJAD – THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF IRAN AND REGIMES LIKE THE ONGOING ONE  THESE DAYS IN SYRIA OF THE ASSADS,  WERE CELEBRATED BY THE UN OF TODAY – TO ITS IMMENSE SHAME – OR AT LEAST NOT INTERFERED WITH – SOMETHING WE DO NOT TAKE EASY AS WE ALSO CANNOT ACCEPT THE UN INACTION WHEN IT COMES TO THE EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING/CLIMATE CHANGE. THE FACT THAT THE HUMAN RIGHTS BODIES OF THE UN ARE LOADED WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF COUNTRIES THAT DO NOT KNOW HUMAN RIGHTS MAKES THIS DECEMBER 9-TH ASSEMBLY AT THE UN THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENT OF THE YEAR. PLEASE SEE THIS POSTING OF OURS AS AN EXPRESSION OF SUPPORT OF THE UN OF OLD.

ALSO PLEASE NOTE THAT UN SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI-MOON WILL BE VISITING THE ETERNAL MUSEUM AT THE AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU HOLOCAUST EXTERMINATION CAMP ON NOVEMBER 18-TH WHEN HE PARTICIPATES AT THE ONGOING CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE IN WARSAW, AND THE MEMORY OF THE KRYSTALLNACHT OF NOVEMBER 9, 1938  JUST A MERE 75 YEARS AGO. WE BET HE WILL HAVE CONTENT IN HIS PRESENTATION AT THE DECEMBER 9TH EVENT AT THE UN.

WILL THE NATIONS OF THE UN LISTEN – OR WILL THEY SWAT THIS AS INTERFERENCE WITH WHAT THEY SEE AS POTENTIAL NARROW GAINS – LIKE REACHING OUT FOR THE RICHES THAT BECOMES REACHABLE WHEN THE ICE OF THE POLAR ICE CAPS MELT AWAY?

 THE

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 15th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 

Arab societies must build ‘citizen-states’

The primary danger facing the Arab world in the wake of successive revolutions is not a wave of political Islam, but rather the state of violent chaos that has resulted from the breakup of former regimes, which had imposed security through repression and violence. This danger comes as a result of the absence of alternative ruling systems to both maintain security and guarantee the participation of various segments of society.

Summary:   t The Arab state system needs to better apply to concepts of civil society.
Author Sami Nader Posted November 14, 2013

Translator(s)Tyler Huffman

What the Arab world is witnessing today is the emergence of Islamist movements that were formerly repressed. This is not a deep-rooted revolution — similar to the Iranian Revolution — that relies on a doctrine with clear features, such as that of Velayat-e Faqih. Political Islam movements in Egypt, and likewise in Tunisia, are divided among themselves. They competed for power within the framework of elections, and did not hesitate to forge alliances with civil forces and movements. Moreover, their experiences in power — and Egypt is the best example of this — have been marked by failure. This is no surprise, given that these movements did not have a program for governance that relied on political, economic and social choices that had been tested on the ground. It is ironic that the army, or some army leaders, have been the ones to save these countries, by transforming themselves into the victim.

In short, the Arab world today is facing a crisis when it comes to the project of building a state. Herein lies the danger and the opportunity at the same time. It is an opportunity for Christians and the other groups opposed to the former regimes and that fear Islamists coming to power to reclaim their role. This can be done through these groups presenting a project for governance to fill that vacuum that occurred as a result of the fall of former regimes, and the Brotherhood’s failure in Egypt and stumbling in Tunisia.

Christians in Lebanon adopted a nation-state project, and they — along with their Muslim compatriots — turned this project into a system of governance to implement the National Pact of 1943. Under this pact, Muslims rejected the idea of becoming part of Syria, while Christians also rejected the existing French protection provided by the mandate. In fact, the idea of a nation state was the prevailing idea in Europe, which maintained wide cultural influence in the Levant and Arab Maghreb. “Nation-state,” in and of itself, is a term that originated and evolved over a full century in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The term was adopted by the Age of Enlightenment, an era which adopted ideas and values that established conceptions of ”modernity” and formed a cultural and political system in the face of “divine law.” This latter system resulted in various political and social institutions.

In other words, the nation-state was established to confront the “divine state” — i.e., a state that is based on divine law. The term “nation-state” was brought to the Levant during the Arab Renaissance (Al-Nahda), at the beginning of the 20th century. Levantine Christians were among the most prominent pioneers of this renaissance, and contributed in reviving Arabic language and culture, which had been obliterated by more than four centuries of Ottoman rule.

Notable figures from this period included authors and intellectuals such as Gibran Khalil Gibran, Mikhail Naima and Ilyas Abu Shabaki, among others. In fact, the Arab Renaissance was an extension of the European Age of Enlightenment, as it adopted ideas of modernity and entered them into the Arabic language. At the political level, these ideas were translated through nationalist projects that formed the basis of various political parties. The latter include the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party — founded by a Christian, Antoun Saada — and the Arab Baath Party, founded by Salah al-Din al-Bitar, a Sunni Muslim, and Michel Aflaq, a Christian. Even the right-wing Kataeb Party, which was founded by Christian leader Pierre Gemayel, was based on the idea of nationalism.

Thus, Christians adopted the project of a nation-state, and presented it as a model to be implemented in the numerous Levantine societies, which are ethnically and culturally diverse. It is worth mentioning that the idea of the nation-state came together with and blended with the theory of socialist governance and its promises of a fair distribution of wealth, as happened in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century in the wake of the First World War. No one denies that nationalist theory ignited Europe and led to two consecutive wars. Moreover, the theory of socialism — which supported nationalism — collapsed itself with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Even the theory of a sponsor state, which was inherited from socialism, is crumbling under the pressures of globalization and the European structure. It is no surprise that the Arab revolutions are confronting this system that has collapsed in developed countries, and that has fulfilled its function in a certain stage. It goes without saying that the Arab nationalist projects, and the countries that emerged from them, have failed on all levels. They have not been able to achieve widespread participation of all segments of society through moving toward democracy. Likewise, these systems have not fulfilled their promises in terms of economic development. Even at the military level, they have lost all the wars that were waged to recover usurped Arab rights.

The challenge today for Christians and non-Christians who believe in democracy and are eager for modernity, is to present a project that serves as a substitute for the nation-state. It should likewise serve as an alternate for projects that call for a return to religious origins, yet in actuality do not go beyond mere slogans and opposition. The most important thing to come from Christian literature and documents for decades, is the contents of the Synod for Lebanon Charter of 1996. This was issued during the visit of Pope John Paul II to Lebanon, and included subsequent work under the title of the Maronite Patriarchal Synod. These documents are devoted to the principle of a civil state as a model for administration in Arab societies, and presented the idea of “Lebanon the Message,” which is based on interfaith dialogue. These documents not only were met with consensus among all spectra of Lebanon, but also resonated throughout the Muslim World, particularly in the wake of the painful events of Sept. 11, 2001. These documents led to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s initiative for interfaith dialogue, which culminated in the Riyadh Declaration in 2008, aimed at founding a culture of peace. A civil state has become necessary to save Arab societies from the specter of a camouflaged return to the old regimes, or the risk of being dragged back to obsolete ideologies as a result of poverty, oppression and deprivation.

In short, it is time to present the idea of a “citizen state” as an alternative for the nation-state. The former should be based on individual freedoms, even if at the expense of nationalist fantasies. 

=======================================

Sami Nader
Al Monitor Columnist

Sami Nader is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse. He is an economist, Middle Eastern affairs analyst and communications expert with extensive expertise in corporate strategy and risk management. He currently directs the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, focusing on economics and geopolitics of the Levant, and is a professor for USJ University in Beirut. On Twitter: @saminader

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