March 12/14


Bible Quotation for today/Do not judge, so that you may not be judged

Matthew 7,1-12./‘"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, "Let me take the speck out of your eye", while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye. ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets."

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For March 12/14

FBI Bulletin: General Warns Congress Of Growing Middle East Threats/Foreign Policy/By Evan Moore, Patrick Christy | March 12/14

More sitcom than CENTCOM/By: David P. Goldman/Asia Times/More sitcom than CENTCOM
Prejudice's Latest Victim: Islam/By Andrew E. Harrod/Family Security Matters/March 12/14

Why does Iraq keep surprising the U.S./By: Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/March 12/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For March 12/14
Lebanese Related News

Panel Refers Policy Statement to Cabinet after Failing to Reach Agreement

Plumbly, al-Rahi 'Agree' that Holding Presidential Polls on Time Serves Stability
Political cover allows heavy weapons for Army: Sleiman

Suleiman Calls for Apology to the People over Lack of Respect to Dialogue Decisions

Berri Says Proposal on Policy Statement Includes Defense of Natural Resources

March 14 Officials Discuss Policy Statement Deadlock as Panel Holds 10th Meeting

Syria Says it Freed 25 in Exchange for Nuns

141 Syrian Women Prisoners Freed in Exchange for Maalula Nuns

Nuns-for-detainees deal sparks outrage

Syrian military gains helped in nuns’ release: Ibrahim

Report: Major Powers Locked in Struggle for Presidential Polls Influence

Al-Atrash Confesses to Transporting Weapons from Lebanon to Syria Only

Probe ongoing into death of Lebanese MIT student

Army braces for wave of Nusra Front attacks

Landmine kills shepherd's dog in s. Lebanon

STL releases report, to decide on related cases

Three Wounded in Rocket Fire from Syria against Bekaa Towns
Change and Reform: Vacuum is Fatal and We Don't Accept Policy Statement Delay

Brazilian Tries to Smuggle Over 6 Kilos of Cocaine into Lebanon

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Crimea Assembly Votes for Independence from Ukraine

Tribal Source: Drone Strike Kills 4 'Qaida Members' in Yemen

Israel PM blasts world 'hypocrisy over Iran arms ship'

Israel's Governance Law: Raising the Electoral Threshold
Netanyahu Says No Deal unless Palestinians Recognize Jewish State

Fatah Endorses Refusal to Recognize Israel as Jewish State

Israel Army: Jordan Judge Tried to 'Strangle' Soldier

Iran Scoffs at Israel Weapons Claim

Israel Drone Crashes in Gaza

Shortages and Deprivation Blight Syria after 3 Years of War

U.N.: 5.5 Million Children Impacted by Syria Conflict

Qatar Defends Foreign Policy in Face of Gulf Anger

Yanukovych Says still President, Expects Return to Kiev


Panel Refers Policy Statement to Cabinet after Failing to Reach Agreement
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/The panel drafting a government policy statement failed on Tuesday to agree on a draft that meets the demands of the rival March 8 and 14 camps. It therefore decided to refer the issue to the cabinet. Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi told reporters after the panel's tenth meeting: “Hizbullah is insisting that the resistance be granted freedom of mobility and action” away from the authority of the state. The March 14 camp has been insisting that the policy statement highlight the importance the state's authority. “Given this discrepancy in positions between the March 8 and 14 camps, the panel decided to refer what it has achieved so far in the policy statement to cabinet,” added Qazzi. The statement can then be tackled by the cabinet and President Michel Suleiman, he explained. He remarked however that the panel would convene again immediately if positive developments that may yield an agreement over the statement emerge. “Each camp made its own proposals over the statement, but the discussions made it clear that an agreement over one draft was not possible at the moment,” said the minister. “The panel has not shied away from its duties by referring the statement to the cabinet,” he stressed. “We will simply inform cabinet that we have not reached an agreement on a final draft,” he stated. Qazzi added: “It is clear that one camp is rejecting any reference to the state in the policy statement. This contradicts with the position of the March 14 alliance.” “Neither the March 8 or 14 camps want their respective drafts to be adopted, but the least that should be done is refer to the state in the policy statement,” he added. The March 14 coalition continued to hold onto its condition for the adoption of a clause under which the resistance is put under the authority of the state. Several alliance officials have stressed “the right of Lebanon as a state and not the right of the Lebanese to resist Israel.”


Plumbly, al-Rahi 'Agree' that Holding Presidential Polls on Time Serves Stability
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said on Tuesday that he agreed with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on the importance of holding the presidential polls on time as the means to preserve the country's stability. “The patriarch and I agreed that stability in Lebanon would be best served by conducting the presidential elections on time on the basis of Lebanon’s constitutional procedures and democratic practice,” said Plumbly following talks with al-Rahi in Bkirki. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. “I told the Patriarch that the international community remained committed to supporting Lebanon during this period of numerous political, economic and security challenges emanating from the Syrian crisis,” Plumbly said. Such a commitment was underlined last week in the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon that was held in Paris, the diplomat added. The group appealed Wednesday for nations to extend pledges of financial help for the country, which is coping with an influx of Syrian refugees, terror attacks and a struggling economy. Participants at the ministerial meeting in Paris stressed the need "to not only speed up the promised aid but provide additional help."Plumbly also told reporters at the seat of the Maronite church that his talks with al-Rahi focused on “the urgent need for a functioning, effective and productive government and the importance therefore of agreement without delay on the ministerial statement.” A seven-member ministerial committee led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam has so far failed to agree on the policy statement over differences between the rival March 8 and 14 camps on the resistance clause. The political blueprint should be adopted by March 17, when the constitutional one-month deadline for the adoption of a policy statement expires.

Berri Says Proposal on Policy Statement Includes Defense of Natural Resources

Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to reveal the details of a proposal made with Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat to resolve the resistance deadlock in the policy statement but stressed that the clause included Israeli attacks on Lebanon's natural resources. Berri and Jumblat, a centrist and the head of the National Struggle Front parliamentary bloc, have made a joint proposal that will be discussed on Tuesday during the tenth meeting of a seven-member committee tasked with drafting the policy statement of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet. In remarks to al-Akhbar daily, Berri stressed that the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance held onto the word “resistance” for being an essential aspect of Lebanon's rights to confront Israel. But he said that the proposal does not only lie on consolidating the role of the resistance in the military and security aspects. “It also includes any Israeli aggression on Lebanon's resources … in particular oil and water that the resistance and the Lebanese should defend,” Berri, who is also the head of the Amal movement allied with Hizbullah, said. Reports said the joint proposal stemmed from a statement made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers held in Cairo on Sunday. The closing statement of the meeting called for "the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese to liberate and recover the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar village, and to resist any Israeli aggression or occupation through the legitimate means."
Bassil proposed it after coordinating with President Michel Suleiman and Salam. Officials expressed hope on Tuesday that the ministerial committee would approve the proposal of Berri and Jumblat as the deadline for agreeing on the blueprint approaches. Berri warned in his remarks to al-Akhbar that the government would be considered resigned if the committee failed to draft the policy statement by March 17, when the one-month deadline set by the Constitution to refer the blueprint to parliament for a vote of confidence ends. “I would then contact the president and ask him under article 64 (of the Constitution) to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister given that the current cabinet becomes a caretaker government,” he said.


Report: Major Powers Locked in Struggle for Presidential Polls Influence
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/The major powers are locked in a race for influence in Lebanon's presidential elections as Michel Suleiman's six-year term nears its end, As Safir newspaper reported on Tuesday. The daily said that the United States is backing elections to choose a new president and has sent an envoy who has a specific mission to follow up the polls. But the report said that France, which is also expected to send envoys to Beirut, believes the current situation in Lebanon and the region is not encouraging, and that elections could not be held given the difficulty to reach an understanding between the Western countries and regional and local parties on a single candidate. Paris prefers Suleiman's term, which expires in May, be extended, according to As Safir. Its stance is also backed by Saudi Arabia, the daily said. It quoted however a U.S. diplomat as saying that Washington prefers the election of a new president even if he was a personality not allied with it. Among the names making the rounds are Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and Marada movement chief Suleiman Franjieh, who are both members of the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance. Other names include the March 14 camp's Phalange party chief and ex-President Amin Gemayel, and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. The presidential elections could be a topic of discussion between U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh over the weekend, As Safir said.

March 14 Officials Discuss Policy Statement Deadlock as Panel Holds 10th Meeting

Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/March 14 officials and ministers representing the coalition in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government discussed on Monday night the deadlock on the policy statement as the rival parties continued to hold onto their conditions, An Nahar daily reported. The newspaper said Tuesday that the meeting mainly tackled the impasse on the blueprint as a seven-member ministerial committee tasked with drafting the statement is scheduled to hold its tenth session. The March 14 alliance's leaders and ministers representing them in the 24-member cabinet agreed that there was not yet any understanding on the resistance clause of the policy statement. The Hizbullah-led March 8 camp is conditioning the adoption of a statement backed by the council of Arab foreign ministers. The closing statement of the foreign ministers' meeting held in Cairo on Sunday called for "the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese to liberate and recover the Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and the Lebanese part of the Ghajar village, and to resist any Israeli aggression or occupation through the legitimate means." Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil proposed the clause after coordinating with President Michel Suleiman and Salam. Al-Joumhouria newspaper quoted informed sources as saying that Suleiman does not reject the adoption of Bassil's version of the resistance clause. But the March 14 coalition continued on Tuesday to hold onto its condition for the adoption of a clause under which the resistance is put under the authority of the state.
Several alliance officials have stressed “the right of Lebanon as a state and not the right of the Lebanese to resist Israel.” Speaker Nabih Berri warned last week that Suleiman would be compelled to call for binding parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister after March 17, when the one-month deadline set by the constitution for drafting the policy statement ends. He said the cabinet would be considered resigned if it fails to agree on the blueprint by that date.Salam has also the option to call for a government session to vote on the blueprint. But al-Liwaa newspaper said that efforts are underway to convince the prime minister to keep the meetings of the ministerial committee open ended until next Monday to avoid a cabinet session.

Suleiman Calls for Apology to the People over Lack of Respect to Dialogue Decisions

Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/President Michel Suleiman urged on Tuesday Lebanon's rival political parties to apologize to the Lebanese people over their failure to implement decisions reached at the all-party talks.
“We should apologize to the Lebanese people” for lack of respect to the decisions taken at the national dialogue table, Suleiman said during a speech at an awards ceremony held at Baabda Palace. “Unfortunately we haven't respected what we've agreed to in parliament and the national dialogue sessions in Baabda,” he said. “We haven't made enough effort to force certain parties to respect the agreements,” he said in reference to Hizbullah, without mentioning it. “Some parties have backed off from the Baabda Declaration,” Suleiman said in another reference to the Shiite party, which has been locked in a verbal dispute with him. The declaration was adopted by the representatives of the rival parties during a national dialogue session in Baabda in June 2012. The leaders from the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance and the March 14 coalition agreed to distance Lebanon from the policy of regional and international conflicts. Suleiman said during a speech earlier this month that Lebanese parties should not hold onto inflexible equations that hinder the adoption of the new government's policy statement.
His remark drew a sharp retort from Hizbullah, which said the president needed “specialized care.” “The Baabda Declaration was the major reason for the creation of the International Support Group for Lebanon which has taken major decisions,” he said. “Those not respecting the decisions of the Group would be held responsible for the failure to implement them,” he said. The future governments should follow up on the donations made by certain countries to help the Lebanese army and the country's economy, Suleiman added. The International Support Group for Lebanon, which was formed in New York in 2013, appealed last week for nations to extend pledges of financial help for the country. Participants at the ministerial meeting in Paris stressed the need "to not only speed up the promised aid but provide additional help."

Syria Says it Freed 25 in Exchange for Nuns
Naharnet Newsdesk 11 March 2014/The Syrian government freed only 25 prisoners — and not the 150 reported by foreign mediators — in exchange for 13 Greek Orthodox nuns who had been held by al-Qaida-linked rebels, the country's information minister said Tuesday. Qatari and Lebanese officials, who were mediating between Damascus and the rebels holding the nuns, said previously that 150 women prisoners were released early Monday. "The real number of those who were freed in exchange for the release of the nuns, who were kidnapped by armed terrorist gangs, is 25 persons," Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said on state TV.
Damascus typically does not comment on releases in exchange for people held by rebels. Al-Zoubi's remarks were a rare acknowledgement that President Bashar Assad's government made any concessions to the rebels fighting to oust him from power. The nuns were captured in December as opposition fighters overran a Christian village, north of the capital. The women were held by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front rebel group in Yabroud near the Syrian border with Lebanon. In recent weeks, the town has been the scene of fierce fighting as Syrian government troops, backed by Lebanon's Hizbullah militants, try to oust the rebels from the border area.
Their release and return to Damascus Monday provided an unusual example of regional actors cooperating to reach across the Syrian civil war's sectarian and ideological fault lines, which have sharply split the Middle East.
The energy-rich Gulf nation of Qatar, a chief backer of the rebels fighting to topple Assad, was involved in the mediation. Lebanon's General Security Chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, a powerful figure trusted by the Lebanese militant Hizbullah group and its Syrian government allies, was on hand to receive the nuns early Monday. Al-Zoubi denied there were any direct contacts between Syrian and Qatari officials to reach the deal. Assad's government accuses the Gulf state of supporting terrorists — a term they use for the rebels — in a plot to destroy Syria. The Syrian conflict started as largely peaceful protests against Assad's rule in March 2011. Since then it has deteriorated into a civil war in which more than 140,000 people have been killed, activists say. Millions have fled their homes and sought shelter in safer parts of their homeland or in neighboring states.
According to a UNICEF report released on Tuesday, more than half of the 2 million Syrian refugees — about 1.2 million — are children. Nearly a half of those are under the age of five. Another 3 million children have been displaced inside Syria because of the fighting, the report said. Children have been hit hard during the conflict, now entering its fourth year. More than 10,000 children have been killed in the fighting, UNICEF said. Thousands have lost limbs, parents, teachers, schools, homes and virtually every aspect of their childhood, the report said.Source/Associated Press.


Al-Atrash Confesses to Transporting Weapons from Lebanon to Syria Only
Naharnet Newsdesk 11March 2014/Detained suspect Sheikh Omar al-Atrash denied on Monday claims that he had transported booby-trapped vehicles to Lebanon, reported LBCI television.
It said that he confessed to only transporting weapons from Lebanon to Syria. He did not transport weapons from Syria to Lebanon. Al-Atrash was arrested in January. An arrest warrant was issued against him for carrying out terrorist activities in the country. He was also questioned over his role in transporting suicide bombers to Lebanon. Al-Atrash, 24, has also been charged with detonating bombs and explosive-rigged vehicles, attacking the army in Majdelyoun and al-Awwali bridge areas in the southern city of Sidon in December and launching rockets on Israel.

Israel PM says no deal unless Palestinians recognize Jewish state

Daily Star/REUTERS/Amir Cohen/ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ruled out any deal with the Palestinians unless they recognize Israel as the Jewish state and give up their refugees' right of return. "I will not bring a deal that doesn't cancel the (refugees') 'right of return' and doesn't include Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state," Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on his official Twitter feed.

FBI Bulletin: General Warns Congress Of Growing Middle East Threats

Foreign Policy: By Evan Moore, Patrick Christy | March 7, 2014
Even as Washington focuses on the crisis in Ukraine this week, our top general for the Middle East warned Congress about growing threats in his area of responsibility. U.S. Army General Lloyd Austin (USA), who heads the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), told the House Armed Service Committee on Wednesday that the region has reached a “strategic inflection point,” with looming dangers emanating from Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda affiliates. U.S. policymakers and lawmakers should heed four key takeaways from General Austin’s testimony.
(1) Iran’s regional security threat continues to grow. While it remains to be seen whether U.S.-led diplomacy and pressure will succeed in reversing the Iranian nuclear threat, General Austin cautioned that Iran’s growing counter-maritime, missile, and cyber capabilities together pose “a very real and significant threat to U.S. and our partners’ interests.”
What’s more, CENTCOM’s commander warned that the regime in Tehran has increased its support of terrorists and violent extremists in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East—thereby “contributing to the humanitarian crisis and significantly altered political-societal demographic balances within and between the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq.” In particular, General Austin noted that “Iran presents a number of other threats to the region. Their ability to mine the straits, their ability to conduct cyber attacks, their ballistic missile capability, and of course… the activities of the Qods force and their efforts to spread malign activity not only around the region but across the globe.” In a clear demonstration of this threat, Iran this week claimed that it has acquired missiles with multiple warheads, while Israeli security forces intercepted an Iranian missile shipment bound for Gaza on Wednesday.
(2) Syria, which lies at the center of a worsening regional conflict, is now a strategic threat and humanitarian catastrophe. General Austin cautioned lawmakers that “[t]his growing crisis must be addressed,” adding that if it is “[a]llowed to continue unabated, it will likely result in a region-wide conflict lasting a decade or more.” As the crisis in Syria worsens, waves of refugees and spillover violence are pouring into neighboring nations. Non-governmental observers estimate that as many as 140,000 Syrians have died in the three-year conflict. The United Nations now reports while more than 6.5 million people are internally displaced in Syria and more than 9.3 million people in Syria require humanitarian assistance, over 2.5 million Syrians have fled and sought refuge in neighboring countries.
In particular, CENTCOM’s commander warned about the real dangers posed by safe havens for terrorists in Syria. While the United States estimated that only 800-to-1,000 jihadists were in Syria a year ago, he believes there could be as many 7,000 or more violent extremists there today. Still, some independent analysts worry that’s a lowball number. Washington Institute’s Aaron Y. Zelin estimates that as many as 11,000 Islamist extremists have entered Syria over the last three years, adding: “Even the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s didn't attract as many foreigners as Syria in the same period of time.”
Western intelligence and security agencies are also increasingly concerned that extremists who left the United States and Europe to fight in Syria may eventually come back with plans to cause harm at home. Last month, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson ominously warned that Syria also “has become a matter of homeland security,” with al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorists in that failed state now “actively trying to recruit Westerners, indoctrinate them, and see them return to their home countries with an extremist mission.”
(3) Complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would be catastrophic. General Austin warned lawmakers that “in the wake of such a precipitous departure, [the Afghan government’s] long-term viability is likely to be at high risk and the odds of an upsurge in terrorists’ capability increases without continued substantial international economic and security assistance.” CENTCOM’s commander should know—he played a critical role in the U.S.-led surge in Iraq and, in the aftermath of America’s complete withdrawal, has watched Al Qaeda reassert itself in that country.
To be sure, the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) has demonstrated impressive capability during its first fighting season “in the lead” for providing security, and nearly reached the brim of its authorized level of 352,000 soldiers and police. Still, the ANSF is a force that relies heavily on U.S. intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and logistics assets. General Austin thus cautioned that if the United States completely withdraws from Afghanistan—a contingency the Pentagon is now planning for given outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a bilateral pact that would permit a residual U.S. military presence after 2014—then the ANSF likely “would fracture because of a lack of support both fiscally and our inability to provide advice and counsel to the Afghan security force.”
(4) The terror threat posed by Al-Qaeda (AQ) and its affiliates persists. As General Austin told lawmakers, “While AQ core is less capable today, the jihadist movement is in more locations, both in the [CENTCOM] region and globally. This expanding threat is increasingly difficult to combat and track, leaving the U.S. homeland and our partners and allies more vulnerable to strategic surprise.” Twelve and a half years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the threat of the al-Qaeda network has evolved. The American Enterprise Institute’s Katherine Zimmerman has assessed that “the decentralization of the al-Qaeda network has not made it weaker,” adding: “Al-Qaeda affiliates have evolved and now threaten the United States as much as (if not more than) the core group; they can no longer be dismissed as mere local al-Qaeda franchises.”
Across the Middle East, threats to the security and interests of the United States and its allies are growing. As Congress considers the Pentagon’s budget request for fiscal year 2015, it should remember General Austin’s caution that a shrinking U.S. defense budget raises doubts about “whether or not the [U.S. armed] services would have what they need to provide trained and ready forces” in the event of another conflict in the region. Indeed, CENTCOM’s commander urged decisionmakers in Washington that “it is critical that we do what is necessary to bolster security and stability in this most important part of the world.”
Americans appear to understand instinctively the importance of U.S. land forces in defending America’s security and interests in the Middle East and around the globe. A recent Fox News poll found that “by a 59-36 percent margin, voters oppose cutting Army troops to reduce military spending.” U.S. policymakers and lawmakers should heed General Austin’s warnings, and give the U.S. military the resources and tools that it needs to advance America’s core national security interests in an increasingly dangerous Middle East.
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More sitcom than CENTCOM
by David P. Goldman/Asia Times
March 10, 2014
American foreign policy is more sitcom than CENTCOM. That in a way is the good news. Our failures are comic while those of other nations are tragic. Americans do not understand the tragic impulses of other peoples because they are exceptional. The Europeans failed as nationalists, and are failing as post-nationalists.
Because Americans are not an ethnicity but a union of immigrants committed to a concept, our nationalism discloses a universal impulse. We blunder when we forget how exceptional we are, and ignore the tragic impulses that impinge on other peoples.
Only once in the past century have we read the world aright. We got it wrong when Woodrow Wilson proposed a utopian (ideal, perfect) postwar vision in 1919, when the isolationists tried to stay out of the European conflict in the late 1930s, when Roosevelt and Truman let Stalin absorb Eastern Europe, when we overextended and then turned tail in Vietnam, and when we undertook to turn Iraq and Afghanistan into Western-style democracies. Ronald Reagan got it right when he decided that it was time to roll back communism - but he also understood that we would have to live with Russia as a nation.
We have stumbled into the world's troubles like incongruous (inappropriate)clowns in a tragedy: we observe the anguished faces of the other characters and conclude that everyone else on stage is insane. That is how Americans view Russian President Vladimir Putin. As Time magazine reported last week:
An Obama administration official leaked to the New York Times on Sunday the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama she wasn't sure if Putin was in touch with reality. "In another world," Merkel reportedly said, according to the leak. Then in a conference call with reporters later in the day, three administration officials took turns firing rhetorical shots: "[B]eing inside Putin's head is not someplace anyone wants to be."
I doubt that Merkel ever said it, but that's a different question. Russia, as Colonel Ralph Peters (retired) told Sean Hannity last week, "believes in Russia"; to the Obamoids, belief in one's country is prima facie evidence of mental defect. Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain and Senator Marco Rubio meanwhile compare Putin to Hitler, an example of what the late Leo Strauss derided as "reduction ad Hitlerium".
Contrast that to President Obama's characterization of Iran in his interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg:
[If] you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they're not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits.
That's been the longstanding view of this administration.
Just how does one define rationality in global politics? Here is a question that helps: What is the rational self-interest of a nation that will cease to exist within the horizon of present-day expectations? We look uncomprehendingly on the petty wars of perished peoples and marvel at the sheer vanity of their forgotten battles. How do we know that someone in the future won't look back at us the same way? There have been Great Extinctions of the Peoples before in world history, but never with the breadth and speed of the demographic declines in our own era. That should give us something of an objective gauge with which to judge the rationality of actors.
Iran's unprecedented fertility decline has accelerated - from about 7 children per female in 1979 to only 1.6 last year, according to a UN estimate. Russia, meanwhile, is struggling to emerge from what seemed like a demographic death-sentence only a few years ago. Ukraine is Europe's poster-boy for demographic death.
Iran is dying a slow and dreadful death: by mid-century more than a third of its people will be over 60, and by the end of the century, half its people will be over 60, imposing an impossible burden on a poor country. Its rulers are taking urgent steps to reverse the fertility decline, opening clinics to treat infertility, which reportedly affects one-fifth of all Iranian couples, against a world average of around 8%. Why infertility is so widespread in Iran is unclear; it might be due to the fact that the reported incidence of chlamydia, a bacterial STD that causes infertility, is several times higher in Iran than in Western countries. Former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad began campaigning for earlier marriage and bigger families in 2009, but fertility has continued to fall.
I argued nearly a decade ago (see Demographics and Iran's imperial design, Asia Times Online, September 13, 2005) that Iran's decision to acquire nuclear weapons is an entirely rational response to its demographic decline: "Iran's motives for acquiring nuclear power are not only economic but strategic. Like Hitler and Stalin, Ahmadinejad looks to imperial expansion as a solution for economic crisis at home. ... This may appear to be a desperate gamble, but conditions call for desperate gambles. Ahmadinejad is not a throwback, as I wrote with a dismissiveness that seems painful in hindsight. He has taken the measure of his country's crisis, and determined to meet it head-on. Washington, from what I can tell, has no idea what sort of opponent it confronts."
Iran is rational, but not in the way Obama seems to believe. If you need $100,000 for an operation that will save your life and have only $10,000, it is rational to bet the whole stake at 10:1 odds. Iran must break out or break down. That is why it will gamble on nuclear weapons acquisition.
Apart from some fine work by the demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, though, the glaring facts of Iran's demographic predicament have escaped notice by America's policymakers. Not so the demographics of Russia: the prevailing view among Western analysts (and especially hawkish ones) holds that Russia is a doomed nation. In December 2011, Professor Eberstadt published an essay entitled "The Dying Bear: Russia's Demographic Disaster" in Foreign Affairs. Last year I reviewed on this site Ilan Berman's book Implosion, which stated this widely held view as follows:
Russia is dying. Russia is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline due to abysmal  (bottomless) health standards, runaway drug addiction, and an AIDS crisis that officials have termed an "epidemic." The population of the Russian Federation is declining by close to half a million souls every year due to death and emigration. At this rate, the once-mighty Russian state could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. And according to some projections, if Russia's demographic trajectory does not change, its population could plummet to as little as fifty-two million people by 2080. It's a phenomenon demographers have described as "the emptying of Russia" - a wholesale implosion of Russia's human capital and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state. (See Reports of Russia's death are exaggerated, Asia Times Online, October 15, 2013).
A specter is haunting Russia: the specter of depopulation. The cohort of Russian women of child-bearing age is so depleted that even a recovery of Russia's birth rate will not forestall severe problems. Nonetheless I thought Berman's thesis one-sided and overstated. Russia's total fertility rate has recovered from around 1.2 a decade ago to 1.7 last year, and Russia's population increased slightly in 2013 for the first time in almost two decades.
We do not know quite why this has occurred, but it seems that Putin's aggressive efforts to promote fertility have had some effect - unlike in Iran. Like Jonah's prophecy to Nineveh, the threat of extinction may have motivated Russia to change course. And like Jonah, our modern prophets rankle at the prospect that the ban of doom may have been lifted.
I suspect that Russia's revived nationalism has a great deal to do with rising fertility. That includes the revival of the Orthodox Church, which is consubstantial with the Russian state. Countries that lose their faith and their identity also lose their motivation to bring new generations into the world; that is how civilizations die, the title of my 2011 book on demographics and geopolitics. Putin's nationalism is also a rational response to an existential threat. The Germans might go gentle into that good night, but Russia will fight for its identity and its future existence.
Russian nationalism - historically an imperial more than a national identity - always was a brutal business, and especially nasty towards national minorities, as my ancestors from the Pale of Jewish Settlement on the Western order of the Russian Empire knew all too well.
A core goal of Putin's national revivalism is the reintegration of Russians left stranded in the "near abroad" by the collapse of the Soviet Union: Russia's imperial policy of salting its border states with Russian settlers backfired when the evil Soviet empire collapsed. From the Russian vantage point this is not a matter of scoring points but an existential issue, a sine qua non of what it means to be Russian, and exemplary of the motivation for Russians to want their culture to continue.
Western pundits ridicule Putin's claim that Russia is a bulwark against Western decadence. From a Western standpoint, Putin's methods are repugnant. But they are the only methods Russia has ever known. The problem is that Western Europe is decadent. Most European countries are headed for demographic extinction. Russia, which seemed passed the point of no return, is struggling to retrace its steps.
That leaves the West with a conundrum concerning the Russian intervention in Crimea and possibly elsewhere in Russian-majority areas in Ukraine. Russia does not want to be like other European countries. Hungary, Poland, and the Baltic States have the lowest fertility rates of any nations in the West, ranging from just 0.82 children per female for ethnic Magyars in Hungary (excluding the Roma) to about 1.2 for Poland. That is where Russia was in 2000. Russia prefers the fecund past to the bleak future of the Europeans. That is why the nations of Europe fought the First World War 100 years ago: to avoid becoming what they are today. They fought to sustain belief in their destiny as nations. As Col. Peters said in the cited interview, "Putin believes in Russia's destiny."
The re-assertion of Russian identity, meanwhile, is as brutal a business as Russian self-assertion has been since the time of Peter the Great. Putin's patriotism is not my patriotism. I don't particularly like what Putin did in Crimea, but it was delusional to expect any other course of action. Russia is short of Russians, and it cannot ignore the 22 million Russians left stranded in newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union.
The Obama administration is staffed by the sort of utopian liberal internationalists who attended conflict-resolution seminars at Ivy League colleges. Putin seems a throwback, and that is just what he is: he is trying to revert to Russian identity prior to the 1917 October Revolution, not without some success. To compare him to Hitler is Billingsgate (impurity). The hawks seem upset that Russia has not chosen to accept its decline with Stoic resignation. It is easier to condemn Russian brutality than to suggest an alternative path by which Russia would remain viable a century from now.
It was inevitable that Russia would intervene if Ukraine became unstable. It is tragic in the full sense of the world, namely an outcome to which the participants are driven by circumstances they cannot control. Russia's interest in Ukraine, particularly in the Russian-speaking eastern half of the country, is existential not opportunistic.
As in Georgia, there was nothing the United States (let alone the Europeans) could have done to hinder it, and nothing they can do to reverse it. The tragedy will play itself out, and at the end of it - the very end - there will be no Ukraine, because there will be no Ukrainians.
Whether Russia survives into the next century is an open question upon which the crude conclusions of hawkish foreign policy analysts shed no light. I do not know the answer, but I am sure that America will have to deal with Russia as a strategic power for the indefinite future - a power of second rank, perhaps, but not one to be trifled (make fun) with in its back yard.
I am an American and a hawk who wants America to be the world's dominant superpower. Whatever our errors, we are the only nation in the world capable of altruism. We hawks had a mandate after September 11, 2011, such as no-one had in America since Pearl Harbor, and we misplayed hand after hand until our chips are nearly gone. If we fail to understand the underlying trends that drive events and the motivations of the main actors, we will be out of the game entirely.
What should we have done in Ukraine? As I wrote on February 20, the West had the opportunity to promote a constitutional referendum including the option of partition. If Russian speakers in Crimea or the Donbas region preferred affiliation with Russia, so be it. Ukraine's constitution was in ruins before the Russians moved in. The odious Viktor Yanukovich beat the "Gas Princess" Yulia Timoshenko in a reasonably fair election in 2010, and proceeded to abuse his presidential powers. When the Maidan Square demonstrators chased him out, Ukraine's parliament voted unanimously to dismiss him. The absence of a single "nay" recalls Soviet-era majorities.
The West could have been midwife to a new national consensus - either a single Ukraine reaffirmed by popular mandate, or a decent divorce on the Czech-Slovak model, or perhaps a federal solution somewhere in between. Instead, we encouraged a constitutional crisis in Ukraine. Now we are stuck with the dubious Ms Timoshenko, one of the wealthiest oligarchs to emerge from Ukraine's post-independence theft of national assets, and an intransigent Russia in possession of Crimea.
*David P. Goldman is Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.


Prejudice's Latest Victim: Islam
by Andrew E. Harrod
Family Security Matters
March 5, 2014
It is therefore discriminatory to equate Islam with Islamist terrorism and undifferentiated to attribute violence from Islamist fundamentalists and terrorists to Islam," the Swiss Press Council (SPC) assessed in a November 13, 2013, opinion. The SPC thereby condemned an admittedly shoddy March 29, 2013, Basler Zeitung (BZ) article with a value judgment having troubling implications for free speech concerning Islam.
Entitled in German "Every Five Minutes a Christian is Murdered," the article made the increasingly recognized argument that Christianity is the most persecuted religion worldwide. Similarly increasingly recognized is the article's identification of "Islamic extremism" as Christianity's greatest current threat. For sources, the article referenced, among others, Christian aid organizations like Open Doors.
"Not an extremist, but doctrine" in some 200 Koran verses and 1,800 hadith call for the conversion or death of nonbelievers, the article stated. Christians and Jews as "dhimmi" under Islam are only "second-class citizens" with limited religious freedom. The article concluded that
Whoever says this is all accidents, only snapshots, is mistaken....Islam, however peaceful it can appear, has in its most radical manifestation another face. A hateful grimace, which knows no mercy, which has only one thing in view: world domination.
"The majority of Muslims," the article conceded, are peaceful. Yet was this not also so in the Third Reich? Was it not also there the few, who controlled the many...It is a dangerous error to believe that the majority of Muslims are peaceful because of Islam; they are peaceful despite Islam.
In response, the Union of Islamic Organizations in Zurich (Vereinigung der islamischen Organisationen in Zürich or VIOZ) issued a May 24, 2013, complaint to the SPC. Against descriptions of Islam as aggressive and authoritarian, VIOZ cited the "merciful" Koran's verses 6:35, 6:107, 16:9, and 16:93 as evidence of Islamic tolerance. Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan and "great Islamic centers like Al Azhar in Egypt," meanwhile, had taken a "clear position" against "Islamists" described in the article. Indeed, "there is no notable declaration of an Islamic university that approves of the killing of innocents or terrorism."The article's undocumented reference to 200 Koran verses and 1,800 hadith, VIOZ meanwhile criticized, actually came from a similarly undocumented comment (#27) to a blog entry at Michael Mannheimer's website. Originally appearing in the article, VIOZ added, were quotations from the "sociologist and Islam critic" Mannheimer, even though Mannheimer is actually the "known rightwing populist" Karl-Michael Merkle. VIOZ and an April 3, 2013, BZ correction removing two "Mannheimer" quotations from the original article both noted that Merkle currently faces German hate speech charges for his condemnation of Islam (see here and here). Along with Merkle's contributions, the BZ article was a "complete journalistic plagiarism" of internet sites, as extensively documented at the website of the German journalist Hardy Prothmann cited by VIOZ.VIOZ noted as well Prothmann's inability to find an original source for the article's supposed quotation of German feminist Alice Schwarzer condemning the Koran as "just as racist as Hitler's Mein Kampf" and worthy of banning. Schwarzer herself stated in a 2010 university lecture that she had only compared Islamic laws such as stoning for adultery to Mein Kampf, not the Koran. The article similarly referenced a Christian gruesomely murdered with a cross rammed through her mouth while bound to a bed, yet Prothmann could only find such an image at Merkle-Mannheimer's website. Yet as the Swiss journalist Martin Hitz has discovered along with others, including the anti-Islamist Gates of Vienna website, this image comes from the Canadian horror film Inner Depravity.Given these facts, SPC's nonbinding judgment rightly criticized BZ for transgressing various SPC standards concerning, for example, transparency with respect to the article's sources and information. Problematic is SPC's judgment with respect to Paragraph 8 of the SPC "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of a Journalist." This prohibits "any allusion" to characteristics such as religion "that could be discriminatory in character," a measure banning "generalizations" but not "criticism of single persons." Hereby BZ's presentation of violent "Islamism" as "nothing other than the natural consequence" of Islam was an "evidently discriminating assertion" and "grave" violation of Paragraph 8.SPC has thus questionably asserted that Islam's essential essence is benign. Yet numerous Koran verses reference religious warfare such as 2:190-93, 4:74, 8:12, 8:39, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 9:111, 9:123, and 47:4. Whether 200 or not, they contradict VIOZ's assertion that in the Koran "no person has power over another in questions of belief." Traditional Islamic norms mandating death for apostasy and blasphemy are also well-established, irrespective of supporting hadiths' number. In their July 1999 terrorism definition, meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's 57 predominately Muslim states (including "Palestine") exclude "armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony." This exclusion is predictable given the 2013 justification for terrorism as jihad made by a leading Islamic law professor at Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam's preeminent authority in Cairo, Egypt.Ideas like Islam demand the strictest of scrutiny, irrespective of followers' individual feelings. After all, Friedrich Hayek's classic treatise The Road to Serfdom contended that socialism was inherently totalitarian, no matter how well-intended. The SPC, however, has called such principles of intellectual rigor into question with its condemnation of BZ's "discrimination" against inanimate Islamic religious belief. Future critical commentators may rue this development long after BZ's eminently forgettable article has faded into obscurity.
This article was sponsored by the Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.

Israel's Governance Law: Raising the Electoral Threshold
By: Neri Zilber/Washington Institute
Far from disenfranchising certain groups, the pending legislation could spur smaller parties to form new political alliances that would likely favor the center-left opposition in future elections.
As the Israeli Knesset prepares to pass a series of electoral reforms under the rubric of a new "Governance Law," one provision has drawn particularly strong criticism: the raising of the threshold required for political parties to obtain seats in the legislature to 3.25% of total votes cast. Media attention has focused on opposition concerns about the measures being "anti-democratic" and potentially disenfranchising Arab Israeli citizens. Yet close analysis of recent electoral results and political realities indicates that the new law could actually help the Israeli center and left.
Israeli parliamentary elections are conducted on the basis of nationwide proportional representation, with parties gaining a share of Knesset seats based on the number of votes they receive -- provided they meet a minimum threshold of votes. Until 1992, that threshold was 1% of all votes cast; parties falling under that requirement were not granted seats. The threshold was raised to 1.5% for the 1992 election, and to 2% for the 2003 election. The new Governance Law would raise it to 3.25%, among other measures.
The primary initiators of the bill are Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (of the Likud-Beitenu alliance) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (of the Yesh Atid Party). Lapid demanded that the measures be included in the coalition agreement he signed with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after the January 2013 election. While Lapid has championed government reform and, as he terms it, a "new politics," the idea of raising the threshold is not new. The twilight of overwhelming electoral successes by the Likud and Labor Parties in the 1990s saw the concurrent rise of smaller niche parties. In order to form -- and maintain -- stable governing coalitions, prime ministers required the support of these oftentimes single-issue parties, leading to distortions in government priorities (or, as it is referred to domestically, political blackmail). Supporters of the current reform bill believe it will cut down on fragmented coalitions, increase government stability, and reemphasize overarching national priorities.
Yet opposition criticism of the proposals has been vociferous. On January 20, Labor chairman Isaac Herzog called the move "a danger to pluralism and the lifeblood of democracy." The same day, Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon opined that the government was trying to "throw out of the political arena populations that are already discriminated against" and to "mortally harm Israeli democracy." And Ahmad Tibi -- head of the Raam-Taal alliance, a primarily Arab Israeli faction -- called the move "anti-democratic" on December 26, describing it as "a right-wing initiative" aimed at Arab parties and other minorities. Currently, opposition figures are boycotting debate of the bill in the Knesset and have stated their intention to boycott the Tuesday vote.
Criticisms aside, Israel's electoral threshold will remain relatively low in comparative perspective even if the new law passes. Exact comparisons are difficult given that Israel, unlike other countries, has no district or direct constituency voting, only one national poll. Yet electoral thresholds around the world are generally higher than 3.25%. For instance, Poland, New Zealand, and Germany have a 5% threshold, while Turkey's is 10%. Twenty of the EU's twenty-eight states also have thresholds, only two of which are below 3%.
In Israel, raising the threshold will undoubtedly have political repercussions, but opposition fears appear to be overblown. In fact, the results of last year's general election should give center-left factions reason for optimism.
In January 2013, over 268,000 votes -- or 7% of the total -- went to parties that did not pass the 2% threshold. The hodgepodge of factions receiving these "lost votes" championed a wide array of causes, including the pro-marijuana Ale Yarok Party, the Pirate Party, the anticorruption Eretz Hadasha Party, and the Am Shalem Party, which opposes the orthodox Shas Party. Yet only one prominent sub-threshold party -- Otzma LeYisrael, a pro-settler faction to the right of Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home faction -- could be considered right-wing in the Israeli political sense of the term (i.e., against a negotiated two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict). Although the party garnered nearly 67,000 votes (or 1.76%, just missing the threshold), the remaining 200,000 "lost votes" overwhelmingly went to parties considered leftist (on social issues) or libertarian (on economic issues).
Backers of the higher threshold appear to believe that many of these fringe parties will either merge with more established parties or drop out of future elections entirely given their reduced likelihood of gaining seats. Yet if last year's results are taken as a baseline, these factions and the votes they represent would likely be drawn to center-left parties by a margin of 3:1 over center-right parties.
For example, the nearly 44,000 voters who cast their ballot for Ale Yarok could easily be drawn to the liberal Meretz Party if it publicly championed more permissive drug laws. To put this in perspective, Meretz garnered just over 172,000 votes in 2013, winning six seats. Another 44,000 votes would have given it at least one more seat -- in a legislature where the right-wing and religious parties hold sixty-one seats and the centrist and left-wing parties hold fifty-nine.
The biggest hypothetical prize, however, would be the 79,000 voters who supported the centrist Kadima Party, which squeaked into the current Knesset with 2.09% of the vote, garnering two seats. Given the higher threshold, Kadima and its chairman, former defense minister Shaul Mofaz, may choose to merge with another party in the next election, most likely a centrist faction.
Opposition vehemence against the Governance Law has largely centered on the fear that Arab Israeli parties will be unable to pass the higher threshold, effectively disenfranchising a fifth of Israel's citizenry. If the 2013 election results are taken as a baseline, then two of the three primarily Arab Israeli parties -- Balad (2.56% of the vote) and Hadash (2.99%) -- would not be represented under a revamped 3.25% threshold, though the third, Raam-Taal, would have just made it in with 3.65% of the vote.
Passage of the proposed electoral reforms may lead these factions to run on a unified party list. Arab politicians have resisted that idea for years given their serious ideological differences, and they may decide to continue running separately despite the new threshold, whether out of confidence in their chances of surpassing it or complete distaste for cooperation with one another. Yet under Israel's political system, they would not have to officially unite; rather, they could run on a joint electoral list and then disband it after the election, divvying up seats to the individual parties based on either past electoral results or election-eve opinion polling. Indeed, Raam-Taal itself is a coalition of Islamist and Arab nationalist parties.
More than a few observers have also argued that a unified list would increase Arab Israeli voter participation, thereby increasing their influence in the political system. According to official Israeli election figures, 77% of the valid votes cast in primarily Arab population centers last year went to the three main Arab parties, while just 1.6% of the votes were "wasted" on parties that failed to pass the electoral threshold (compared to the aforementioned 7% national figure for "lost votes"). Moreover, only 56% of eligible Arab Israeli voters went to the polls in 2013 -- 10 percentage points less than the overall national turnout and 20 points less than the Arab Israeli vote in 1999. In other words, the potential exists for much greater Arab Israeli vote tallies that would make the new threshold a nonissue.
Even as they criticized the proposed reforms this weekend, several Arab Israeli politicians publicly indicated that they would run on a joint list in the next election. Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka predicted that a combined list would garner up to fifteen seats (compared to the current eleven seats for Arab Israeli parties), noting that "such a move has impressive public support and would encourage voters to go to the polls." Similarly, Raam-Taal leader Ahmad Tibi, a longtime advocate for a unified slate, argued that a "joint list would increase voter participation in the elections and the number of Arab members in the next Knesset."
Based on recent voting patterns and political realities, the level of vitriol directed at the proposed Governance Law and electoral threshold reform is simply not warranted. Indeed, many current opposition leaders, including Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon, came out in favor of the previous threshold increase in years past.
Israeli political history is rife with examples of parties merging or running on unified slates in order to bolster their electoral fortunes, including the recent Likud-Beitenu alliance, United Torah Judaism (a merger of two ultraorthodox parties), Meretz (an alliance of three left-wing parties), and even the creation of the modern Labor (1968) and Likud (1973). While it is still too early to tell what shifting alliances the new electoral threshold will usher in, the bill could actually assist many of those now denouncing it as an "anti-democratic" or "right-wing" attempt to disenfranchise minority groups. Such a development could in turn alter the makeup of the next Knesset, and by extension the next government, with all that entails for future Israeli policymaking.
**Neri Zilber, a journalist and researcher on Middle East politics and culture, is a visiting scholar at The Washington Institute.


Why does Iraq keep surprising the U.S.?
Tuesday, 11 March 2014
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya
In the beginning, the American administration was surprised. It then forgot all about it, or pretended to have forgotten it, after a media fuss which didn’t last more than one day. The issue was linked to Washington’s discovery that the Iraqi government has sealed a weapons deal with Iran. Is there a deal? Is there something worth stirring fuss over when everyone knows that the Iraqi government is operated with a green light from Tehran? Does the deal change anything in the status quo which America cannot but recognize?
In the end, the issue is not linked to Iranian weapons - which Iraq buys within the context of the ongoing confrontation in the Anbar province. The issue goes beyond Iranian weapons and the “war on terrorism” which Nouri al-Maliki’s cabinet claims to be fighting in specific Iraqi areas. The issue is only linked to the Iranian presence in Iraq, a presence felt at all levels. It is a defect that affects the balance of power regionally, not just in Iraq.
This defect originally resulted from the American occupation of Iraq in 2003, of Iran’s direct and indirect participation in the American military operation and of all the acts that led up to the current situation of which the most recent incident is the Iranian-Iraq arms’ deal.
The surprise
In brief, the surprise itself lies in Washington’s surprise at the relationship between Tehran and Baghdad. It’s a relationship between master and follower. Baghdad’s attainment of Iranian weapons and paying cash for them fall within the natural context of issues. It’s on this basis that it was surprising for the American administration to issue one statement after another on the Iraqi-Iranian deal as the latter is nothing but a drop in the sea of the unbalanced relation between the two neighbors. Such statements only show that the Americans underestimate the intelligence of Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites - that is of those who aspire to take their country away from any foreign dominance be it Iranian or any other.
The Americans have no right to be surprised by anything that happens in Iraq. They’re reaping what they’ve sown
Moreover, what the American administration has done reveals there’s no hope that one can depend on it in any issue and that the agenda it has for itself is only concerned with avoiding any new war.
This is an administration that does not want to learn from the mistakes of the past. It simply appears to insist against realizing that Iran is the only victor of the war it launched against Iraq to topple the Baathist regime. It’s no secret that the Iraqi regime must have been toppled after all it committed against the Iraqis - to say the least. But was it necessary for the U.S. to work on facilitating Iran’s control over Iraq upon a sectarian and religious basis?
This administration must ask itself why Barack Obama - in his own style – is repeating George W. Bush’s mistakes in Iraq?
Losing out in Iraq
Perhaps Obama wanted to militarily withdraw from Iraq despite the consequences. Is there still someone who doesn’t know that the Americans lost Iraq since day one of the military campaign when they thought they would turn the country into a model of “a new Middle East?”
Is there any Arab who doesn’t know that occupying Iraq, disbanding the Iraqi army and establishing the Iraqi governing council upon a pure sectarian basis that marginalizes Sunnis will serve Iran and the sectarian militias linked to it? There’s nothing that calls on the American administration to be surprised of an Iraqi-Iranian deal especially that it wasn’t previously surprised that Maliki couldn’t attain the premiership post following the March 7, 2010 elections until after a green light from Tehran.
Has the American administration been surprised with Maliki’s complete shift towards the Syrian revolution. Maliki, under Iranian influence, shifted to supporting Assad after he demanded that he be tried in an international court for sending terrorists to Iraq. Has the U.S. been surprised that Iraqis are now fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Syria just because Iran wants that? Is the U.S. surprised that Iraq has become a passage for sending Iranian arms to the Syrian regime?
All this because Obama does not want new wars. He wants to be different to George W. Bush. He doesn’t even want to recognize that the American administration’s interest is serving the Israeli scheme in the region via the Syrian regime’s continuous act of slaughtering its people and destroying the entire country.
No one buys into American policy. Those who have accepted ongoings worse than the arms deal will find no problem in accepting this deal. The latter is nothing compared to what the Americans overlooked in Iraq. He who launches a war like the one they launched must bear the repercussions. The first of these consequences is Baghdad’s transformation into an Iranian city and the Kurds’ preference of autonomy - this is one of their rights if we take into consideration the injustice they’ve been through in the past.
In the end, the Americans have no right to be surprised by anything that happens in Iraq. They’re reaping what they’ve sown. They launched the war with Iran’s participation, they withdrew and Iran stayed.
*This article was first published in al-Arab on March 3, 2014.
Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer who has previously worked at Lebanon’s Annahar newspaper, he then moved to London and began writing political columns in Arabic language newspapers, including Al-Mustaqbal and Rosa El-Youssef.