A complete–and bloody–realignment of the entire Middle East is occurring
Obama’s Iraq Surrender
By Arnold Ahlert
Friday, May 31, 2013
After almost a century of existence, the borders that form the modern Mideast nation states appear to be on the verge of disintegration. Part of the driving force behind this meltdown, as observers are beginning to acknowledge, is of course the intractable sectarian war in Syria. But a far bigger part of the picture is the accelerating destabilization of Iraq.
The breakdown of Iraq, with its far-reaching regional ramifications, is attributable in no small part to President Obama’s abandonment of the U.S.‘s mission in the country, a betrayal committed in total defiance of the military establishment’s recommendations, which squandered the hard-won victory handed down by President Bush. As predicted, our precipitous withdrawal has left the once pacified nation riven with sectarian strife, primarily among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Kurds. As the region descends, the consequences of Obama’s folly are only becoming more obvious: a nation that once stood a chance at being a source of stability in the region is instead rapidly becoming its maelstrom.
In 1916, Sir Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France signed a secret agreement, with Russia’s approval, to dissolve the Ottoman Empire. The Sykes-Picot agreement was concerned with creating Middle East spheres of influence for France and Great Britain following their victory in WWl. The League of Nations facilitated the mandates over the territory captured by both nations. France got Syria and Lebanon, and Britain got Iraq. The agreement also separated the British mandatory Palestine, known by its Arab residents prior to WWI as “Surya al-Janubiyya” (Southern Syria), from the French mandatory of Syria to the north. For its approval of the deal, Russia received territory that eventually became Turkey.
Thus, the artificial borders of five countries were established. In the ensuing years, two critical realities were also realized: in Syria, the Alawite minority, the sect to which current president Bashar Assad belongs, was granted power over the Sunni majority. In Iraq, the Sunni minority was empowered at the expense of the Shi’ite majority. In other words, borders created to satisfy European sensibilities largely ignored the realities of historic ethnic, tribal and sectarian divisions. these divisions were exacerbated by the rise of dictators, tyrants and Arab monarchs who maintained power after the French and British withdrew in the middle of last century.
It is those divisions that are now asserting themselves.
The current flashpoint involves the 370 mile border separating Iraq from Syria. The civil war on the Syrian side has drawn everyone in the region into the conflict. On the Shi’ite side, troops from Iran and their Lebanese-based proxy, Hezbollah, have aligned themselves with Bashar Assad. Troops from Saudi Arabia and Qatar are fighting on the side of the rebels, along with elements of al Qaeda. Turkey also has Sunni allies in Syria, but their main ambition appears to be separating Kurdish elements from both Syria and Iraq, because they have made peace with the Kurdish rebels within their own borders, and are seeking to expand their regional influence as a result.
Then there is Russia. They have proposed a “peace” conference scheduled for June 15-16 in Geneva, Switzerland, as an attempt to end the two years of fighting in Syria. Yet their motives are profoundly transparent, as evidenced by the reality that they have reportedly shipped anti-aircraft S-300 rockets to Assad. This move preempts any effort by Western nations to establish a “no-fly” zone over Syrian airspace (an idea the Obama administrated toyed with, but never followed through on), thereby tipping the balance of power in Assad’s favor. Yet more importantly, it establishes that Russia’s position at the peace conference will be an effort to dictate post-war terms, with the intention of keeping Assad in power. Since rebel forces consider this completely antithetical to their ambitions, the fighting will undoubtedly continue.
The most likely outcome of that fighting is a stalemate leading to the breakup of Syria into three mini-states, respectively controlled by Kurds, Sunnis and Alawites. Since most of the Alawites live in the coastal corridor that includes Damascus, even this seemingly chaotic scenario accrues to Russian interests. They maintain an influence in the region, and they will still have their naval base in Tartous.
On the Iraqi side of the border, the developments are even more ominous. Despite being largely ignored by the American media, the disintegration of Iraq is continuing rapidly. The deaths of 700 Iraqis killed in sectarian violence throughout the country in April represents the largest number of casualties in the last five years. In the northern part of Iraq, the province of Iraqi Kurdistan has, for all intents and purposes, dissolved its ties with the Shia-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad. They are in the process of cutting autonomous deals with international oil companies, and next September a new pipeline will carry oil from Kurdistan to Turkey linking them to their Kurdish brethren in that region. In the process they have ignored U.S. opposition to any oil exports “without the appropriate approval of the Iraqi federal government.”
Iraqi Sunnis, who held a vise-like grip on power during the days of Saddam Hussein, have little incentive to remain united with the current government either. In late April, after Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) opened fire on Sunni protesters in Hawija, Kirkuk, killing 20 and wounding over 100, Sunni tribal militia began mobilizing against the government. Several clashes between the ISF and the militias have taken place, with thousands of tribe members in Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din vowing to seek revenge. Other clashes have broken out in the Anbar provice cities of Ramadi and Fallujah as well. In Mosul, protesters demanded a withdrawal of government forces.
Furthermore, the efforts of Sunni leaders to maintain ties to the Maliki government have undermined their credibly with their constituents, who see them as sellouts to a regime that has consistently ignored the concerns of Sunnis. Many Sunnis are convinced that Maliki is intent on establishing a “Shi’ite crescent” in conjunction with Iran. The Sunni counterweight to that reality is their alliance with Sunni rebels in Syria. That effectively obliterates the Syrian-Iraqi border, and establishes the possibility that they will precipitate a civil war with Maliki to realize a separate state comprised of Sunnis from both nations.
In a column for the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker explains that the battle in Hawija represented a critical turning point in the effort to keep Iraq united. Yet far more importantly, he inadvertently reveals the fecklessness of President Obama’s politically motivated and premature withdrawal of American troops from the country. “Al-Qaeda in Iraq has already begun to reestablish itself in areas that Iraqi and U.S. forces cleared at enormous cost over the past five years,” he writes.
And Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Iraq’s front group in Syria, is attempting to hijack the secular resistance to Syrian President Bashar al Assad. These developments threaten not only to unravel the gains made since 2007, but also to energize the forces of violent extremism in the heart of the Arab world, already burning in Syria.
Crocker further notes the current Sunni-Shi’ite confrontation is reminiscent of the one which occurred in 2006 that precipitated the troop surge so vehemently opposed by Obama and the Left. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) declared that the war in Iraq was “lost” before the troops even arrived in country. Yet Crocker notes that, as a result of the hard-won security established by those troops, “Sunni and Shiite leaders opted to resolve their differences through accommodation rather than through violence.” He believes the current impasse can be resolved by “a sustained, high-level diplomatic effort.” Yet absent the presence of U.S. troops to add weight to that diplomatic effort, such a prescription appears hopeless.
On Friday, October 21, 2011, President Obama, in a statement similar to the one he made last week regarding the war on terror in general, “declared” that the war in Iraq was over. “I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year,” Obama said. “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.” In doing so, he ignored the advice of military commanders who insisted a minimum of 20,000 troops should be left behind to ensure the stability that America’s fighting forces fought and died to establish. Thus, Obama has made a mockery of our soldiers’ sacrifices and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory—all so he could placate his leftist base.
The tragic consequences of that decision are unfolding at a rapid pace. A complete—and bloody—realignment of the entire Middle East is occurring, none of which accrues to America’s interests. In the Middle East, the U.S. has traded possible stability for almost certain chaos. As for our new role in shaping events there, it is best described by NY Post columnist Benny Avni. “What are America’s interests in any of this?” he writes. “Doesn’t matter. By opting to sit out, we’ve basically forfeited any say in the outcome.”
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri May 31, 2013 1:36 pm
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Christopher A. Preble
That’s the question posed by US News and World Report’s “Debate Club” today.
Here’s the opening to my response.
Tragically, the Iraq War was not worth the costs. The leading advocates for war understated the costs and exaggerated the benefits. They claimed that the war would be cheap, perhaps even profitable, thanks to lower oil prices. They suggested that it would be easy, a “cakewalk,” not requiring a long-term U.S presence to stabilize the country after Saddam Hussein’s ouster. They blithely dismissed concerns about the tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and between Sunnis and Shiites.
We now know how wrong they were. A new report from the Watson Institute for International Studies at BrownUniversity tallies up the costs: nearly 4,500 U.S. troop fatalities, more than $1.7 trillion spent, and another $490 billion owed. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed in the sectarian bloodletting that occurred after the collapse of Saddam’s regime exceed 130,000. Millions were displaced, many still have not returned to their homes. The Iraqi Christian community has been decimated.
You can read the rest here and vote for the best argument.
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Christopher A. Preble
With thanks to Mark Thompson at Time’s Battleland for calling this to my attention, the discussion yesterday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” concerning the decision to invade Iraq was more interesting than the others that I’ve seen or read.
Host Howard Kurtz noted that editors at the New York Times had admitted to having “printed too many credulous claims about Saddam and Iraq.” Kurtz explained that Len Downie, then the editor of the Washington Post, had admitted “he had made a mistake of not putting more skeptical stories on the front page. Even the people who ran the news organizations seem to acknowledge that they had fallen short.” Given all this, Kurtz asked the panelists, “Didn’t most of the media…get rolled by the Bush administration during this run-up to war?”
The panel, which included Thompson, and Fred Francis, formerly with NBC, explained why the press got the story wrong: Saddam fooled a lot of people, including his own people and his neighbors. He fooled many people in the U.S. government, too.
But the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran properly looked past the distractions of phony Iraqi connections to 9/11 and Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear weapons. Chandrasekaran agreed with Kurtz that “there was far more that we all could have done. You could go to Iraq. I was in Iraq for the bulk of the six months leading up to the war. What you couldn’t really do is get an independent assessment of what Saddam really had.”
But, he continued:
it wasn’t just the issue of weapons of mass destruction. It was the broader questions. What is the political transition plan? Truth squadding the White House’s claims that Iraq could pay for it, the reconstruction of its country, the questions of the long simmering tensions between the principal religious and ethnic groups in the country. These were questions that were all easily reportable. They should have had more coverage. We didn’t do enough in really aggressively looking at all of that.
Chandrasekaran (who will be speaking at Cato in a few weeks) is right. The greatest argument against launching a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein was what would come after him. The advocates for the war hyped the threat of Saddam’s weapons, and what he would do with them, to build a case for the benefits that would obtain from the war. We now know that they exaggerated these benefits because Saddam didn’t have nuclear weapons. But the claim that Saddam would use the weapons, or give them to terrorists, was also dubious, and was noted as such at the time (and well before) by some of the leading opponents of the war.
But the war hawks also downplayed the costs of invading Iraq by claiming that there would be no need for a long-term U.S. troop presence, and certainly not as large as Army leaders had estimated. They dismissed the overwhelming evidence that Iraq was beset by ethnic and sectarian divisions. Bill Kristol famously dismissed the notion that “somehow the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni” as so much “pop sociology.” I suspect that they were aware of these divisions, because it would have been far harder to convince the American people to support a conflict if they knew that it was going to be long and costly, instead of the “cakewalk” that the war’s supporters claimed.
I cannot prove the war hawks knew the truth about Iraq and concealed it. I’m certain that they should have known. But they weren’t trying to stop a war; they were trying to start one.
And that is why those who should have known better and did not speak up, or who lent their credibility as experts to the side making the case for war, deserve special scorn on the 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. They failed to stop the war. The news media’s coverage was inadequate and lazy. In retrospect they should have paid more attention to the vocal few who raised serious objections. But reporters cannot be blamed for not finding experts who did not speak publicly. Or at all.
That is where Colin Powell comes in. He is likely to be remembered for his crucial role in making the case for war at the United Nations on February 5, 2003. But Powell should also be remembered for his words of caution six months earlier, in August 2002.
It is known today as the Pottery Barn principle–“If you break it, you own it.” But what Powell actually said reflects a deep appreciation for the folly of regime change and preventive war: “You are going to be the proud owner of twenty-five million people,” Powell warned the president. “You will own all their hopes, aspirations, problems… . It’s going to suck the oxygen out of everything.”
We know about this exchange from Bob Woodward, and Powell was probably the veteran reporter’s source, so the words could be dismissed as self-serving, or simply invented after the fact. But they shouldn’t be. Because what Powell allegedly said to Bush then could just as easily have been said by Condoleezza Rice in 2007 with respect to war with Iran, or by Hillary Clinton in 2011 regarding Bashar al-Assad in Syria, or by John Kerry in response to North Korea’s latest antics today. And even if Powell never said them, the sentiment is spot on. I only wish he had said them in public.
Whenever reporters, scholars, academics–or anyone in the public at large, for that matter–hears someone making the case for preventive war, the Pottery Barn principle, Powell’s unspoken warning from a war that never should have happened, should be burned in their brain. I think that it is. And that explains why Bill Kristol’s modern-day Project for a New American Century has proved far less effective than its predecessor.
I sincerely wish that we didn’t have to suffer the loss of blood and treasure, the thousands of American dead, and tens of thousands wounded, to learn these lessons. But I especially hope that we’re not already forgetting them.
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Iraq boosts gold reserves by 25 tonnes
Submitted by cpowell on Sun, 2012-12-23 16:30. Section: Daily Dispatches
By Javier Blas
Financial Times, London
Friday, December 21, 2012
Iraq has joined the growing list of countries buying gold for their official reserves, purchasing more than 25 tonnes of the precious metal in the market to beef up the gold reserves of its central bank for the first time in years.
The purchases by Baghdad come as Iran is using gold as a currency to settle import-export transactions with neighbouring countries, including Turkey. But Iraq has so far not disclosed any gold transaction with Tehran.
Analysts said it was unclear whether the purchases showed dealings with Iran or were simply a sign that the Iraqi central bank is diversifying its foreign exchange reserves, as others in emerging countries have done recently.
Iraq joins countries from Russia to Brazil in buying gold to diversify its official reserves this year. According to data released late on Thursday by the International Monetary Fund, Iraq bought gold during August-September, lifting its official precious metals reserves from 5.8 tonnes to 31.07 tonnes.
The so-called official sector — a group that includes central banks, sovereign wealth funds, and other quasi-government entities — has been a significant buyer of gold since 2010, having been a strong seller in the previous 15 years.
The Iraqi additions are among the biggest officially reported so far this year, behind only Russia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. Some countries have bought gold secretly in the past, including China, disclosing their purchases years later.
The purchases have lifted Iraq in the global ranking of gold holders from 78th to 54th position, according to data from the World Gold Council, the lobby group of the gold industry. Iraq is the first buyer of gold in the Middle East region that has acknowledged its purchases, although the market suspects Saudi Arabia and several regional sovereign wealth funds have also bought gold in the past.
"Having a new buyer in the central bank space, and especially from a new region, is an important development," said Joni Teves at UBS in London.
Gold has been trading in a relatively narrow band of between $1,500 and $1,800 per troy ounce for the past year. Over the past week, spot gold prices in London fell 2.5 per cent to $1,651 per ounce. On Thursday, gold prices briefly hit their lowest since August, trading at $1,635 per ounce on the spot market.
Weak physical demand, particularly from India and China, has weighed on the gold market for most of the year, analysts said. The weakness from the jewellery sector is so far offsetting bullish financial factors, including ultra-low interests rates in major economies and the worries about the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts in the US.
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:25 am
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Christianity May Be Eradicated in Iraq and Afghanistan, Says Chair of U.S. Religious Freedom Commission
By Terence P. Jeffrey
December 22, 2011
(CNSNews.com) – Despite long-term U.S. military occupations aimed at establishing representative governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, Christianity now faces the real threat of eradication in those countries because of severe and persistent persecution of Christians there, according to the chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Similarly, despite the “Arab Spring” rebellion in Egypt earlier this year, the survival of Christianity is also threatened in that country because of the escalating persecution of Christians.
“We are looking at two different countries where the United States invaded, occupied, changed their governments in the last decade–Iraq and Afghanistan–where it’s possible Christianity might be eradicated in our lifetime?” CNSNews.com asked USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo in a video interview.
“Yes,” said Leo, “and, unfortunately, that is sort of the pattern throughout the Middle Eastern region. The flight of Christians out of the region is unprecedented and it’s increasing year by year. It’s a very, very alarming situation.”
In Egypt, according to Leo, anti-Christian violence and discrimination may inspire a mass migration of that nation’s Coptic Christian population, thus achieving a strategic goal sought by radical Muslims.
“The radical Islamists would accomplish their goal, if they drove the Coptic Christians out of the country, absolutely,” Leo told CNSNews.com in an Online With Terry Jeffrey interview.
Leo, who also serves as vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, was initially appointed and reappointed to USCIRF by President George W. Bush, and most recently was reappointed again by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.).
In its official report published earlier this year, USCRIF said that Christian leaders in Iraq were themselves warning of the end of Christianity in their country.
“Half or more of the pre-2003 Iraqi Christian community is believed to have left the country, with Christian leaders warning that the consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” USCIRF said in its annual report. “In 2003, there were thought to be 800,000 to 1.4 million Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East members, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, and Evangelicals in Iraq. Today, community leaders estimate the number of Christians to be around 500,000.”
Iraqi Christians have been targeted by murderous attacks in recent years, according to USCIRF. In 2010, for example, al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists killed 50 people and wounded 60 more, during Mass, at a Catholic church in Baghdad. Among those the terrorists killed were two priests. In the months following the massacre, a series of bombing attacks on homes in Baghdad killed at least seven Christians and wounded 50 more. Christians were also shot to death in Baghdad and Mosul, while 70 Christian students were injured by a roadside bomb attack on a convoy of buses taking them to a university in Mosul.
A Christian cardiologist was attacked by gunmen who targeted him at the medical clinic where he worked.
According to Leo, the Iraqi government has not taken adequate steps to protect Christians or prosecute those who attack them.
“One of the big problems from the very beginning was that our country and others were unwilling to acknowledge that the fight in Iraq was largely a sectarian conflict and there wasn’t enough emphasis placed on the flight of Christians and other religious minorities, particularly in the northern part of Iraq,” said Leo.
“So, the strategy didn’t take into account the fact that you were going to have a huge, huge flight of Christians out of the country, and then you were going to have the same kind of impunity or privately driven violence that we were talking about in Pakistan, but this time in Iraq,” Leo said.
“That is precisely what has happened,” he said. “So, it is very ironic that here we are trying to stabilize and democratize a country and at the same time we are losing large percentages of religious minorities … which have always been such an important part of the Iraqi fabric of society, holding it together. And so that is a very, very serious problem.”
CNSNews.com asked Leo what kind of leverage and what types of instruments the U.S. would have to protect the Christian population in Iraq once President Obama had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country.
“I have no idea,” Leo said. “I’m very, very concerned about what will happen after our presence is completely gone, and I don’t know how we continue to put pressure on the Iraqi government and on the security forces and others in Iraq to protect the Christians in the absence of any presence.”
USCIRF asked that the State Department officially name Iraq as a “country of particular concern” for the lack of religious freedom there, but the State Department declined to do so.
In Afghanistan, Leo says, a constitution that was drafted with the help of the United States government has effectively given the Afghan government license to deny religious liberty to people who adhere to minority faiths, including Christianity.
“Conditions for religious freedom remain exceedingly poor for minority religious communities and dissenting members of the majority faith, despite the presence of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan for almost 10 years and the substantial investment of lives, resources, and expertise by the United States and the international community,” says the USCIRF report. “The 2004 Afghan constitution has effectively established Islamic law as the law of the land.”
“In the past year,” says the USCIRF report, “the small and vulnerable Christian community experienced a spike in government arrests, with Christians being detained and some jailed for the crime of apostasy.”
The State Department has reported that in March 2010 the last public Christian church in Afghanistan was razed.
“This is one of the saddest cases that we look at every year,” said Leo.
“Speaking personally, I wrote a separate opinion in the case of Afghanistan,” he said. “I think one of the sources of the problem was way back when we helped hammer out a constitution for the new Afghanistan. In that constitution, there is what we call a repugnancy clause, which basically says anything that’s inconsistent with Sharia principles is violative of this constitution. That clause, no matter what else is in the constitution, basically forecloses the kind of reform that you’re looking for, because any extreme religious sub-sect can impose its radical view of Sharia and enshrine it in the constitutional system in Afghanistan. And if that’s the kind of government system they have, there is no real way to ensure freedom of religion broadly speaking. There’s no way to ensure that religious minorities are going to have freedom in law.”
Leo is uncertain religious freedom can ever recover in Afghanistan from the damage done by the new Afghan constitution.
“The constitution drafting process with which we were involved was a disaster and I’m not sure Afghanistan can ever fully recover from the damage that we inflicted by not holding the line on the kind of constitution drafting that we should have been pushing for,” he said.
He rejects the argument made by those who point to language elsewhere in Afghanistan’s Constitution that says Afghanistan will abide by international agreements that call for respecting human rights.
CNSNews.com asked: “So Islamic apostasy laws that hold it a capital offense for someone to convert to Christianity are legitimate under the Afghan constitution as it was written?”
“Yeah,” said Leo. “There are cute-by-half scholars who will tell you that it’s not because there is another provision in the constitution that says they’ll abide by international agreements. Those who know how the world really works will tell you that a repugnancy clause is what it says. It is a repugnancy clause that trumps everything else in the constitution. So the bottom line is even though Afghanistan has been a party to a lot of these international agreements, they have essentially reserved on them and they have created their own distinctions and I don’t think there is really any hope that the country is going to begin abiding by those human rights agreements.
“And they do in fact prosecute people for apostasy?” asked CNSNews.com.
“They do,” said Leo, pointing out that “there were a couple of instances over the past year where Christian converts where quietly released–thanks to the U.S.”
“So are we looking at an Afghanistan where after the United States leaves Christianity is eradicated there?” asked CNSNews.com
“Unfortunately I think that’s where things are headed,” said Leo.
Egypt, he says, is headed down a similar path.
Leo and follow religious freedom commissioners, Nina Shea and Elizabeth Prodromou, filed a separate statement attached to the section of the full commission’s report that focuses on Egypt.
“We write separately to underscore the concern that Egypt is on a trajectory that is part of a broader trend toward the irreparable and severe diminution of Christian and religious minority populations,” the three commissioners said.
“In several countries covered in this report—Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—the non-Muslim religious minority communities are facing existential threats while experiencing varying degrees and manifestations of intolerance and injustice,” they said.
“By far, the largest non-Muslim minority community among these countries is Egypt’s Copts, numbering between 8 million and 12 million,” they wrote. “A year and a half ago, Coptic worshippers were massacred during a Christmas Eve attack on their church in Naga Hammadi in southern Egypt.
“This year,” the commissioners said, “a crowded church near Alexandria was bombed by militants at New Year, and several Coptic villages have been targeted by pogrom-like mob violence. Attacks against Copts were carried out largely with impunity under an indifferent Mubarak regime. A recent announcement that the rising Muslim Brotherhood movement would seek the imposition of Islamic law in Egypt is now sending shock waves through the Coptic community.”
In October, after the USCIRF report was published, a crowd of Coptic Christians in Cairo protesting the burning of a Coptic church were attacked by Egyptian security forces, operating under the authority of the post-Mubarak regime, who reportedly shot and killed 24 protesters and wounded 300 more.
“The Arab spring got a cold snap,” says Leo, “and the bottom line is I’m not sure whether there is going to be much of a crop at the end of the day.”
“With what’s going on in Egypt, with the uncertainties that exist, there’s very little incentive for a young Coptic Christian to stay in the county,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you saw the same basic trajectory in Egypt that you see in quite a number of other countries which is to say they just get up and they leave.”
“The problem is that even under Mubarak, the courts, the prosecutors, the police weren’t really investigating and bringing to justice the people who are really doing this kind of stuff,” said Leo. “But then you have to compound that problem with you may actually have a government that steps up the official repression of religion.”
“You may see laws that may further restrict the kinds of churches or other gathering places that Christians can have,” said Leo. “You could potentially see upticks in discrimination against Coptic Christians in hiring and in education. Those are the kinds of things that the Coptics really have to be worried about. They are a fairly successful community in Egypt, so if they start seeing state repression through discriminatory laws, that’s going to create huge incentives for the Coptic Christian community to up and leave–especially the younger ones who feel they have a bright future ahead of them.”
For the first time ever, USCIRF recommended this year that the State Department list Egypt as a “country of particular” for its denial of religious freedom.
The State Department declined to do so.
Leo argues that the administration must find a way soon to get the Egyptian government to protect its own Christian population or it will be too late.
“There needs to be a tie-in between the enormous aid we give to Egypt and the protection of communities,” said Leo. “We haven’t seen that tie in yet. And it is complicated because security and police forces are not what they should be. And it’s not clear how you would funnel transitional aid and support to help deal with this problem. But we’ve got to start putting on the problem-solving hat and really trying to figure this out and we need to step up our efforts here."
“We’ve seen frustration on the part of the administration that they are just not sure how to do this,” said Leo. “I understand it and I’m sympathetic to it. But it’s time to try to harness some of that frustration to some entrepreneurial and edgy ideas that get the Egyptian government where it needs to be–and those probably need to be behind the scenes. And that’s’ fine, but something has to be done and has to be done now.
“There is very little time left,” he said.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Fri Dec 23, 2011 2:23 pm
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Victory in Iraq?
Whiskey & Gunpowder
by Jeffrey Tucker
December 15, 2011
Auburn, Alabama, U.S.A.
There is no peace treaty, no humbled enemy, no national glory and certainly no newfound freedom. The "liberation" of Iraq leaves a widely hated puppet dictator in charge with a mandate "to see that process of strengthened central authority continue," in the words of a U.S. cable revealed by WikiLeaks.
Still, the U.S. has declared victory in Iraq after a war that lasted not nine years, as the media says, but 20 years, if you include the first war and the decade of cruel sanctions that separated it with the second war on Iraq. At least 4,500 Americans are dead, 32,226 are wounded, uncountable millions of Iraqis are dead, too, the Iraqi economy is in ruins and the American economy is more than a trillion dollars poorer.
As the Americans held somber goodbye ceremonies at a heavily guarded airport, hundreds of Iraqis burned the American flag and cursed the infidels as never before. On the very day that the Americans said goodbye, there were bombings in Tal Afar, Mosul and Baghdad that killed six Iraqis and wounded 44 more.
The deaths on that day hardly made the news at all because it is so routine. This once-peaceful and relatively prosperous country — people from all over the region and the world came to study in its universities and play for its symphonies — has been reduced to warring religious tribes with far-diminished populations after all the emigration over the years of war. The scars are deep and the resentment extremely high.
Yet to the U.S. governing elite, this is victory. During final ceremonies, official after official came to the microphone to assure the soldiers that their sacrifices have not been in vain, that they are brave and courageous and leave behind a wonderful legacy. But the soldiers themselves know otherwise. Everyone does. This war was a disaster from beginning to end, and it was wholly unnecessary.
Looking back to the first segment of war against Iraq, it was pushed because the first President Bush faced disastrously falling poll numbers, the end of the Cold War and growing cries to pull back on the American imperial presence in the world. He had a personal bone to pick with the one-time American puppet Saddam Hussein and a gigantic military budget that needed to be spent, lest the pressure mount give the money back whence it came.
The public-relations angle Bush chose was that Iraq had to be punished for invading Kuwait. Leaked cables have reinforced what close watchers already knew, namely, that the U.S. had been given a green light for that action by Iraq. Bush said that the aggression would not stand, but today, the U.S. not only owns and controls Kuwait — which is now populated by American troops — but also purports to control the future of Iraq, too. This type of aggression is perfectly fine.
So the first great opportunity for peace after the Cold War was squandered in a pointless struggle against one of the liberalized and nonfundamentalist, mostly Islamic nations where people of all religions lived in relative peace. Bush declared victory back then, too, but kept on the trade sanctions. President Clinton followed suit with punishing policies that kept the boot on the nation.
After Sept. 11, George Bush junior seized the opportunity to repeat the mission of his father and waged war yet again. Riding the wave of anger for terrorism on our soil, he attacked a country that everyone admitted had absolutely nothing to do with Sept. 11 (however, the terrorists did admit that that were partly acting out of vengeance for the sanctions), and then on the false pretense that Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction. We were really supposed to take seriously this idea that a now-impoverished country, with no real military and negative economic growth, was a genuine threat to the world.
Many people hoped that President Obama would stop the madness of what he called a "dumb war," but he did not. He stepped up troop levels instead. There would be more violence, longer terms for soldiers, more pressure, increased surveillance, more authoritarian measures. Nothing worked. As The Wall Street Journal puts it, "The advanced U.S. military was brought low by primitive weapons: homemade bombs made from fertilizer or discarded artillery shells."
The resistance grew and grew. The Iraqi people could never be made to love the empire that ruled them. The only genuinely successful Iraqi politicians these days are those who set themselves against U.S. presence. Finally, the incredibly obvious became undeniable, even to the arrogant conquerors: The only hope for Iraq was for the U.S. to leave.
The U.S. promised liberation and brought conflict, destruction and death. The pullout at this point is hardly a victory, but an incredible defeat, the very archetype of the truth that the world’s mightiest military force cannot finally prevail over a people that will not submit.
This lesson is not unknown to those who remain in Iraq. There are two bases and several thousand soldiers along with diplomats that remain. They are all targets and will continue to be for many years to come. Meanwhile, life in Iraq will certainly start to improve now. Income is lower there today than it was in 1940, so this wouldn’t be hard.
In truth, this pullout is one of the few pieces of good news that Iraq has had in many decades. And it should be a model for the U.S. for the future. Close the rest of the bases and pull the rest of the troops out. And do this in the other 140-plus countries in which the troops are stationed. That is the way forward.
In 2004, Dick Cheney declared of Iraq: "I think it has been a remarkable success story to date when you look at what has been accomplished overall." He might as well have been speaking for the military contractors who, as Robert Higgs has pointed out, made off with the loot that this war stole from the American taxpayers.
And it is not only about loot: It is about liberty. War mongering and freedom are not compatible. This war and other wars like it have made us less safe and more dependent on the police state. They give health to a war machinery that should have been dismantled a quarter of a century ago. Instead, it survives to find some war somewhere to fight another day.
Executive publisher, Laissez-Faire Books
Statistics: Posted by DIGGER DAN — Sat Dec 17, 2011 1:07 am
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