By Alan Caruba
A RETURN TO BASIC VALUES
By Alan Caruba
While Israelis are fighting and dying, families huddling in bomb shelters and soldiers going off to face death, the men and women in suits and power suits moving through the great halls of diplomacy are using them as pawns in a larger game.
Israel’s function within the great halls of diplomacy was always as a lever on the Arab states. It was not an end, but a means of moving them one way or another. When the Arab states drifted into the Soviet orbit, the “Special Relationship” was born. The relationship accomplished its goal once Egypt was pried out of the Soviet orbit. It has lingered on because of the emotional and cultural ties of Israel and the US.
Now Obama is using Israel as a lever to push Egypt back into the Islamist camp. Egypt’s rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood broke the Arab Spring. Political Islam, which seemed to be on the ascendance, is back to being a freak show represented by terrorists and Turkey’s mad mustachioed dictator.
Egypt was where Obama went to begin the Arab Spring. Egypt is still his target. Israel is just the lever.
The reason Israel was never allowed to truly win any wars was because it was being used as a lever. By being a “good lever” during the Cold War, it could damage Egypt enough that the latter would come to the negotiating table overseen by the US and move back into the Western sphere of influence.
Israel couldn’t be allowed to win a big enough victory because then there would nothing to negotiate. Likewise, Israel wouldn’t be allowed to keep what it won because then there would be no reason for Egypt to come to the negotiating table. Sometimes Israel would even be expected to lose, as in the Yom Kippur War, to force it to come to the negotiating table.
Swap Egypt for the PLO and that’s how the disastrous peace process happened. Then swap the PLO for Hamas and that is where we are now.
Obama’s initial support for Israel’s war on Hamas was only to the extent necessary to bring the terrorist group to the negotiating table. And then once Hamas comes to the negotiating table, the White House will back its demands against Israel in exchange for getting the Brotherhood on board with its agenda.
Israel is just the means; the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam are the objective. That objective may mean the end of the West, but those striding boldly through the halls of diplomacy are not worried.
The real target of the Hamas campaign wasn’t Israel; it was Egypt.
Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood had included Hamas. That crackdown worried Hamas far more than anything that Israel was doing. Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood’s loss of power meant a major setback for the sugar daddies of the Arab Spring; Qatar, Turkey and their Western allies.
The new alignment had placed Qatar, Turkey, Obama and the EU in one row, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the PLO were in another row.
I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but sometimes I miss Saddam Hussein.
Yes, he was a cruel despot. Between September 1980 and July 1988 he pursued an eight-year war against Iran that killed an estimated combined million troops on both sides and achieved nothing. He had ruled from 1979 until 2003 when George W. Bush decided to remove him by invading Iraq, believing as other nations did that he had weapons of mass destruction. Had he not posed a constant threat to neighboring nations, he might still be in charge. He was hanged in 2006, but the U.S. would stay on until our troops were withdrawn by Barack Obama in 2011.
In places where troops have remained like Germany, Japan and South Korea, a long state of peace has existed. At their invitation we have military installations in 130 nations around the world.
“The Great Big Book of Horrible Things” by Matthew White provides a brief review of Saddam’s dictatorship, noting that “Iraq is an artificial country with borders that were drawn to suit the European colonial powers rather than to reflect local allegiances.” He could say the same thing of Syria what owes its borders to decisions made following World War One by the British and French.
Saddam maintained control by propagandizing himself as a great hero and by killing or imprisoning anyone who disagreed. There was no end to the barbarism he imposed. The Kurds were blamed for the loss of the war with Iran and it is estimated he killed anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 Kurds between February and September 1988; some of them with poison gas. In 1991, after an American-led coalition drove Saddam out of Kuwait, the Shiite Arabs of the southern marshes rose in revolt and some 50,000 were massacred. The Kurds were driven into the mountains of the north and American air cover helped them establish an autonomous zone.
Libya experienced a similar dictatorship by Muammar Gaddafi who took power in 1969 until overthrown during the “Arab Spring” in 2011, a revolt that has left a barely functioning nation. Like Saddam he exercised the same repression to control the nation’s tribes.
Not a classic dictator like Saddam and Gaddafi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, a former air force general, kept tight control there from 1981 to 2001 thanks to the support of the military. He was a major U.S. ally. After Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed in the wake of Mubarak’s removal, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, another general was elected to the office of president.
An ongoing civil war in Syria has killed an estimated 160,000 to date and Bashar al-Assad is the son of its previous dictator, Hafiz, who had seized power in 1970 and was elected president a year later, never to relinquish the office until he died in 2000. Al-Assad presently controls about forty percent of the nation, supported by his tribe, the Alawites and military aid from Iran.
What these dictators had in common was a Middle East that did not directly challenge the United States or the West. They were more interested in selling oil.
The Israelis are ready to go to war even if the United States is not.
The news out of the Middle East reflects how President Obama’s policies have led to an Islamic terrorist takeover of huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. No nation watches these events more closely than Israel. On June 6 the chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz cryptically remarked that the IDF is gearing up to address the growing numbers of terrorist forces on its border with Syria. He noted Iraq as well for good measure.
When Israel is in the news, it is usually because it is under attack or responding to one. The only other times have been news of “peace talks” between it and the Palestinian Authority (PA), but none of those talks over decades has ever achieved peace because, as the diplomatic community knows, the Palestinians do not want it.
Most recently, the PA announced “unity” with Hamas, a Palestinian organization that all nations identify as terrorist. As Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow of the Middle East Forum, recently noted, “As long as the military branch of Hamas remains independent, there is no Palestinian unity.”
Why the PA would engage in this charade is known only to them. There are no advantages in it because they do not gain any presence in the Gaza Strip, the home to Hamas. As far as the U.S. and Europe are concerned, says Inbar, “the establishment of a real, stable Palestinian state (is) more unlikely than ever.” Hamas has already asserted itself by kidnapping three teenagers, one of whom is an American
Though most U.S. taxpayers are likely unaware of it, the U.S. gives an estimated $440 million in aid to the PA every year. They are not likely to be pleased now that the PA has entered into some form of unity with Hamas. Official State Department statements referred to something they called “an interim technocratic government…that does not include members affiliated with Hamas” and made it known the U.S. expects the PA “to do everything in its power to prevent attacks from Gaza.” A European Union spokesman said it would insist that the new government recognize Israel’s right to exist. That will not happen.
Israel’s initial response was to announce plans to build 1,500 new housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, making it clear the decision was its retaliation for the creation of the Palestinian unity government with Hamas. Israel made it known it might withhold the taxes it collects on behalf of the PA. This is well short of a shooting war and, of course, the U.S. ambassador to Israel repeated the Obama administration’s longtime opposition to new settlement construction.
What exists at this point—and has for a long time—is an Israel that is an oasis of sanity in the Middle East in contrast to the conflicts occurring in the region’s other nations.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday ordered the U.S. State Department to issue an alert to Americans in Libya to leave the North African nation and to U.S. citizens contemplating a trip to that “unpredictable” and “unstable” country advising them to cancel their travel plans.
The aftermath of the rebellions in Libya and Egypt has been disappointing for the Obama administration, with the Egyptian government at war with the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Muslims, while the Libyan government remains weak and unable to deal with terrorists, militias and warlords, said security expert Iris Aquino.
“Leading from behind isn’t what it’s cracked up to be, is it Mr. Commander in Chief?” quipped Aquino, a former NYPD cop and undercover officer.
The warning, promulgated on Tuesday, said in part: “Due to security concerns, the Department of State has limited staffushing at Embassy Tripoli and is only able to offer very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Libya. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on December 12, 2013.”
Fierce battles have been fought in Libyan cities and towns between heavily-armed militias and equally powerfulIslamic terrorists in Benghazi and even the capital city of Tripoli. Just recently armed jihadists attacked Libya’s National Congress.
While the news media in the United States, for the most part, has ignored the allegations that it wasPresident Obama and his underlings who armed the Libyan jihadists in their rush to depose the country’s ruthless dictator Moamar Khadhafi, it is now viewed as one of the reasons for the hesitation by the Obama White House to arm the rebels in Syria attempting to depose its own dictator.
The Obama administration has deployed Navy warships and military forces off Libyan coast should the need to conduct an emergency evacuations arise, according to government officials.
“Because of the presumption that foreigners, especially U.S. citizens, in Libya may be associated with the U.S. government or U.S. NGOs, travelers should be aware that they may be targeted for kidnapping, violent attacks, or death,” the State Department warned in its alert.
“U.S. citizens currently in Libya should exercise extreme caution and depart immediately,” it said.
In a separate statement, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, said, “Libya is at a crossroads. On one side lies the achievement of the transition through the political process and the forging of a Constitutional Charter based on nationally agreed principles, with a view to achieving the goals of the 17th of February revolution and fostering the rule of law, the respect of human rights and the welfare of its citizens. On the other lies chaos, fragmentation, violence and terrorism.”
It didn’t take Egypt very long to revert back to a military oligarchy with elections. That oligarchy wasn’t brought back by an armed coup in the dead of night, but by popular protests.
In Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi brushed away the effects of the Arab Spring. Now in Libya, General Khalifa Hifter is set to undo Obama’s military intervention which put the Muslim Brotherhood on the road to taking over Libya, as they had taken over Egypt.
Forty-five years ago a group of officers led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized control of Libya. Gaddafi enjoyed support from the military and Federalist opponents of a central government. And the rest is history, except that history in the Middle East repeats like a broken record.
Now Khalifa Hifter, a former Colonel (his post-Gaddafi rank is higher and disputed), is leading another military coup while vowing to free Libya of chaos, instability and corruption. Like Gaddafi, Hifter focused on Benghazi and Tripoli. His forces pounded Islamic militias in Benghazi, including those responsible for the murder of four Americans, and seized the parliament in Tripoli.
Hifter, who has spent a long time living in the United States, claims to have American support, but his real support probably comes from the east.
Like Gaddafi, Hifter is supported by the military and the Federalists. However he isn’t fighting a weak monarchy, but the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and other Islamist militias. But like Gaddafi, his takeover was probably inspired by Egypt and possibly even planned out by Egypt.
Egypt’s new government, which overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, can’t risk allowing the group to control a bordering country and one of the largest oil reserves in Africa. Gaddafi used Libya’s oil wealth to fuel his insanity and fund terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood would funnel it into pursuing its program of regional and global takeovers and the Islamic militias that control much of Libya would become a problem for Egypt.
Egypt’s immediate security agenda is to control border instability fed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza and Sinai. It would only be natural for Egypt’s new rulers to turn their attention to their country’s large western border with Libya.
When he released a video calling for a change of power, General Hifter appeared marginalized and isolated. Now he has powerful financial, military and tribal allies. And many ordinary Libyans see him as a possible alternative to the random brutality of militia rule, of which the Benghazi attack that killed four Americans was just one example, the collapsing governments and the threat that the simmering civil war which never really ended might heat up until the bloodshed becomes as extreme as anything in Syria.
The Syrian Civil War is also Hifter’s best asset and greatest threat. The conflict called away many Jihadis who had originally fought in Libya, but if that unholy war collapses and there isn’t a more appealing conflict waiting in the wings, they may drift back to Libya to fight its military.
An Egyptian judge pronounced sentence following the guilty verdicts against the leader of the terrorist-designated group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and 682 of the organization’s members and supporters on Monday. The group is facing the ultimate sentence of public hanging, the same as delivered last month to other Brotherhood members and supporters, according to Middle East news outlets.
An Egyptian court in March 2014 sentenced 529 members and supporters of the outlawed group to death by hanging after being convicted of a number of offenses such as cop-killings, assaults on civilians, and destruction of property, according to an Examiner report.
This latest death sentence for Mohamed Badie, the 70-year-old Brotherhood supreme leader, is expected to result in anger and a desire for vengeance on the part on Egyptian Islamists, who have been targeted by police and security forces since the army removed the duly-elected President Mohamed Morsi from office in July 2013.
“If they executed me a thousand times I will not retreat from the right path,” Badie was quoted as saying upon hearing his death sentence. The comments were published on the Facebook page of Osama Morsi, son of the Brotherhood leader ousted as president.
As a result of Monday’s death sentences, the Islamist alliance, that includes the Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafists, is urging the Egyptian people to participate in numerous protests and demonstrations denouncing the death sentences. The first of these demonstrations is scheduled for Wednesday in Cairo, according to the Middle East news media.
Meanwhile, Islamist militants hiding in the Sinai Peninsula launched numerous attacks against Egyptian border police and security forces since Morsi’s overthrow. The Islamists claim they’ve killed hundreds of police, security and intelligence officers and will continue the killing until Morsi is restored to power, according to former counterterrorism task force member and police detective Sid Franes.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed Zaki died in the blast from an improvised explosive device (IED) that alleged Islamic terrorists placed beneath his police vehicle in the western suburb of October City, according to Schneider.
Meanwhile in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a police commando was shot to death while he participated in a special operation that targeted a nest of Islamic terrorists opposed to the new Egyptian government, according to Middle East news outlets.
Jihadists increased their attacks on police, military, intelligence and security personnel and have killed hundreds of ranking officers as well as rank-and-file officials ever since the Egyptian military removed and arrested legally-elected President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.
Over the weekend, Islamist gunmen ambushed an intelligence officer and a police officer while they were patrolling a desert road leading to the Suez Canal. That attack came a day after a police officer died in another bombing claimed by the newly-formed terrorist group Ajnad Misr (Egyptian Soldiers).
The radical group told the Egyptian news media that they are waging war against police officials due to the government’s intense crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now officially banned in that nation. So far, the Egyptian government claims more than 1,300 people have been killed and 16,000 were arrested.
Besides imprisonment, hundreds of Islamists have been tried in criminal court and sentenced to death by judges. Their insurgency is a threat to the security during the May 2014 presidential election, in which many expect former top Army officer, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, to beat his opponents.
Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is a popular retired field marshal who has vowed to destroy terrorist groups once he’s elected president of Egypt. In an effort to bring stability during the election cycle, President Barack Obama promised the Egyptian government that the United States will give the Egyptian security forces about a dozen Apache helicopters which were originally going to be given to President Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood official who was overthrown before the Apaches could be delivered.
As another Passover begins, the echoes of “Once we were slaves and now we are free” and “Next year in Jerusalem” resound briefly and then fade into the background noise of everyday life. We can board a plane tomorrow and fly off to Jerusalem. Some of us are already there now. But will that make us free?
Since Egypt we have become slaves again, lived under the rule of iron-fisted tyrants and forgotten what the very idea of freedom means. And that will likely happen again and again until the age ends. What is this freedom that we gained with the fall of a Pharaoh and the last sight of his pyramids and armies?
Freedom like slavery, is as much a state of mind as a state of being. It is possible to be legally free, yet to have no freedom of action whatsoever. And it is possible to be legally a slave and yet to be free in defiance of those restrictions. External coercion alone does not make a man free or slave, it is the degradation of mind that makes a man a slave.
What is a slave? A slave is complicit in his own oppression. His slavery has become his natural state and he looks to his master, not to free him, but to command him. Had the Jews of Egypt merely been restrained by physical coercion, it would have been enough to directly and immediately smash the power of the Egyptian state. But their slavery was mental. They moaned not at the fact of slavery, but at the extremity of it. When their taskmasters complained to Pharaoh, it was not of slavery, but of not being given the straw with which to build the bricks.
The worst slavery is of the most insidious kind. It leaves the slave able to think and act, but not as a free man. It leaves him with cunning, but not courage. He is able to use force, but only to bring other slaves into line. And most hideously, this state of affairs seems moral and natural to him. This is his freedom.
The true slave has come to love big brother, to worship at the foot of the system that oppresses him. It is this twisted love that must be torn out of him. It is this idolatry of the whip before which he kneels, this panting to know who his superior and who his inferiors are, this love of a vast order that allows him to be lost in its wonders, to gaze in awe at the empire of tomorrow which builds its own tombs today, that must be broken. These are his gods and he must kill them within himself to be free.
The Exodus is not the story of the emergence of free men who were enslaved, but the slow painful process by which slaves became a nation of free men, a long troubled journey which has not yet ended. That is why we celebrate Passover, not as an event of the past, but as of a road that we still travel, a long journey from slavery to freedom.
Having escaped from Pharaoh, they built a glittering calf, and having left the desert behind, they sought out a king.
At least five other people were wounded in the bombings and State TV named the officer as Brigadier-General Tariq al-Mirjawi, the head of the police investigation bureau.
Egypt has witnessed several attacks against government targets by militant groups following the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood last July. Last year, the government banned the Brotherhood and last week about 525 members and supporters were sentenced to death, according to an Examiner news story.
The government says Islamists have killed almost 500 people since last summer, most of them police officers, soldiers, and intelligence officers.
There have been fears of an increase in violence in the run-up to the presidential election in May, according to observers.
Wednesday’s bomb blasts occurred near a riot police unit which was posted outside of Cairo University.
Some officials suspect the bombers were university students who are either members or supporters of the radical Muslim Brotherhood.
Officials said police had been the targets of the blasts, which were reported to have been caused by improvised explosive devices.