Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Assorted Twitter Messages -- May 14

A Twitter timeline is like a cocktail party, a mixture of minds and messages trying to be relevant in 140 characters or less. Some succeed but others are incoherent and need to go home.
This first one has a beautiful picture from Damascus. Responses indicate the old town remains untouched by the war. 
These refers to a disgusting video that surfaced a few days ago.


Andy Carvin is in Oslo for Freedom Forum, a three-day symposium of journalists and luminaries from all over the world. He's making notes as he listens to Hannah Song who is informed about North Korea. Some of this is new information for me.


This is priceless. 
In the US all Muslims are a threat to our Judeo-Christian traditions 
and in Egypt Shias appear to threaten Sunnis the same. 
Shias are more dangerous than naked women: Salafist MPs
Nour Party MPs argue that Iranian tourism to Egypt threatens national security and will undermine the country's 'Sunni doctrine'
Ahram Online, Monday 13 May 2013

Members of the culture committee of Egypt's Shura Council discussed their concerns on Monday about the possibility of Iranian tourism to Egypt, with some expressing fears that it could spread Shiism in the country. 
According to Ahram's Arabic news website, members of the committee called on Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou to discuss the issue in the council, the country's upper house of parliament which is holding legislative powers until a house of representatives is elected. 
The committee, headed by Fathy Shehab El-Din of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), engaged in a heated argument on the effects Iranian tourists could have on Egypt. 
The members of Egypt's constitution committee meet at the Shura
Council in Cairo September 11, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
[Notice the date. What was happening outside?]
"The Shias are more dangerous than naked [women]," MP Tharwat Attallah of the Salafist Nour Party said during the meeting. 
"They are a danger to Egypt's national security; Egyptians could be deceived into [converting to] Shiism, giving it a chance to spread in Egypt," he added. 
Attallah also called upon the current ruling regime to limit Egypt's relationship with Iran, as the previous regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak had done. 
Similarly, MP Abd El-Galeil El-Qassem, also of the Nour Party, said that Shiism would undermine the "essence of religion and the [Sunni] doctrine." 
He said that Egypt should put restrictions on Iranian tourism in Egypt because, according to him, Iranians aim to create strife in the country. 
However, MP Yehia Abo El-Hassan from the Islamist Al-Wasat Party disagreed with their concerns, saying that "the countries that cut off relations with Iran are the US and Israel." He added that tourists only come to Egypt for a limited time. 
The Salafist Call and the Nour Party, its political arm, held a conference in April against the spread of the Shia doctrine in Egypt. 
The Salafists and several other Islamic groups have expressed their concerns recently at potential Iranian Shia influence in the country. 
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were cut following Tehran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, but relations have improved since the election of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2012. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt in February 2013. 
In April, more than 50 Iranians – the first official group of Iranians to visit Egypt for tourism in decades – arrived in Upper Egypt amid tight security. The visit came as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed in February.


This from Joseph Dana is a hidden gem. 
The link points to much more than an "interesting bit of advocacy." He's looking at the embryonic start of Obama's Middle East diplomatic game plan. When the dust settles from the Syrian civil war (and it will) the ME landscape will be a very different place than it has been for decades, perhaps since WWII. 
I'm expecting Iran to be a player with Egypt, Israel and Turkey sharing hegemony. 
I'm just an old guy blogging in retirement and can afford to be wrong. 
But if what I just wrote comes anywhere close to what happens, remember you read it here first. 

Israel Fights America’s Battles
Why the U.S.-Israel alliance may be returning to its Cold War roots

By Jordan Chandler Hirsch and Sam Kleiner|

May 13, 2013
Jordan Chandler Hirsch is a former Staff Editor at Foreign Affairs. Sam Kleiner received his DPhil in International Relations at Oxford. Both are J.D. Candidates at Yale Law School. 

For two weeks in the summer of 1982, U.S. and Soviet jets dueled in the skies over Lebanon in one of the largest aerial dogfights since World War II. The pilots were Israelis and Syrians. In a classic Cold War proxy battle, U.S.-backed Israel humiliated Soviet-backed Syria, downing 86 MiGs without a single loss. It was the finest example of Israel’s strategic value to the United States: In return for the planes, Israel served as America’s shield and a model for the superiority of American-made weaponry. 
In the summer of 2013, American-made Israeli jets are humiliating Syria once again. Israel’s ability to evade sophisticated Russian-made anti-aircraft systems to bomb Syrian territory over the past week does not just signal a possible expansion of Syria’s civil war or the latest salvo in the struggle with Iran. It also suggests that the U.S.-Israel alliance may be returning to its Cold War roots—which is good news for both countries. 
The strategic bond between the United States and Israel did not begin with the Jewish state’s founding in 1948. Many U.S. officials cautioned against becoming too close with the nascent state, which identified itself as a socialist country, had diplomatic support within the Soviet bloc, and was hated by America’s Arab oil suppliers. As the United States attempted to build a regional security alliance to contain Soviet power in the Middle East, President Dwight Eisenhower pressured Israel to cede a large portion of the Negev Desert so that Egypt and Jordan could link borders. He also forced Israel to abort its military incursion into Egypt to seize the Suez Canal in concert with Britain and France. 
But as Cairo and other Arab capitals increasingly sided with Moscow, Washington began to see Jerusalem as a possible bulwark against Soviet influence. In 1962, John F. Kennedy told Golda Meir, then Israel’s foreign minister, “The United States has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to what it has with Britain over a wide range of world affairs”—a statement that wasn’t true at the time, but did turn out to be prophetic. The Kennedy and Johnson Administrations generally ignored Israel’s development of nuclear weapons during the 1960s and sent moderate amounts of small arms that helped the Jewish state smash Arab armies fighting with Soviet weapons in the Six Day War. 
Israel’s victory—largely achieved with French-made jets and homemade Kfir fighters rather than American weapons—suggested the benefits of a strategic alliance with Israel. After the Six Day War, the United States would supply the advanced weapons and Israel would do the fighting. Over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, Israel rescued the U.S.-supported Hashemite monarchy in Jordan from a Syrian invasion, embarrassed the U.S.S.R. by downing Soviet planes over the Suez Canal, and opened its port in Haifa to the U.S. Sixth Fleet to counter the establishment of a Soviet submarine base in Syria. Despite several points of tension, such as U.S. displeasure with Israel’s full-scale invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the partnership between the two countries became a key component of Washington’s Cold War strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean and a powerful advertisement for high-end American arms. 
But the end of the Cold War shook the strategic foundations of the U.S.-Israel relationship. No longer worried about the Soviet threat, U.S. officials began to see Israel as an obstacle to building relations with erstwhile enemies in the Arab World. The rise of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank furthered this view. Many in Washington embraced the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drove anti-American resentment across the Middle East and saw Israel as a chief obstacle to regional harmony. President George H.W. Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker tried to force Israel to make peace with the PLO at the Madrid Peace Conference in the hopes of winning friends among the Arabs. When the United States cobbled together a coalition of Arab nations against Saddam Hussein, it sought desperately to keep Israel out of the war, suggesting that it saw the Jewish state as a strategic burden rather than an asset. The signing of the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn and subsequent negotiations at Wye and Camp David seemed to suggest that Israel’s chief value to the United States was as a source of prestige for presidents who could deliver that most enchanting diplomatic prize, Middle East peace. 
The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah gave the Jewish state its first real opportunity since the end of the Cold War to quiet doubters by applying the classic alliance model. In a new Middle Eastern proxy struggle, this time between the United States and Iran, Israel sought to crush Hezbollah. Yet it did not perform up to its Cold War standard. In a bumbling operation, it fought the Lebanese terrorist group to what many saw as a draw, causing then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, to lose faith in its value as an arm of U.S. deterrence in the region. 
The strategic drift between Washington and Jerusalem opened up space for critics to call for an end to a special relationship that had outlived its usefulness on the ground. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer spearheaded this campaign in 2006 with an explosive article arguing that there was no longer any strategic rationale for a continued alliance. Although critics rallied against aspects of their work, their basic contention was widely accepted in Washington. In 2010, Gen. David Petraeus, then the head of U.S. Central Command, testified on Capitol Hill that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “foments anti-American sentiment” and “limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships.” Tensions during the Obama Administration’s first term over the stalled peace process and Iran seemed to underscore the idea that official Washington saw the alliance with Israel as a costly political burden that served no evident military or strategic purpose. 
But recent events in the Middle East suggest that 20 years of uncertainty about Israel’s strategic value may be ending. 
The Israeli bombings in Syria over the past week came with Washington’s close coordination and President Obama’s post-strike blessing. Although the United States does not seek any escalation of the war in Syria, it appears to have deputized Israel to police the spread of chemical weapons and advanced Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah.  [Take a look at this, too.
Iran, to be sure, poses a lesser threat to the United States than the Soviet Union. Yet its drive for regional hegemony comes exactly as the United States is attempting to disengage from the region. That makes the strategic logic of relying on Israel to guarantee U.S. interests more clear than it has been in a generation for Republicans and Democrats alike. Those who want the United States to intervene more actively in the Middle East can take solace in the fact that the United States still has a means of striking back at Iran and containing other possible regional threats, like Syria’s aborted attempt to develop its own nuclear bomb. Those who want the United States to get as far away from the Middle East as possible, meanwhile, can be happy that Israel will do the fighting while America extracts itself. 
The Pentagon, at the very least, appears to be embracing the idea of Israel fighting America’s battles in the Middle East in exchange for high-end weapons systems, the same way it did during the Cold War. The strikes in Syria came two weeks after a major arms sale between the United States and Israel in which the Jewish state will receive anti-radiation missiles designed to target enemy aerial defenses, upgraded radar systems, Osprey helicopters, and air refueling tankers—a sale that U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel described as a “clear signal” to Iran. 
The United States has long had moral, emotional, and domestic political reasons to support Israel. The return of the American-Israeli alliance to its Cold War foundations will aid both countries in overcoming their disagreements and coordinating their efforts in Syria and across the Middle East. Just as Israel downed Soviet-made Syrian jets in the Cold War, it will now destroy Iranian-made missiles, bolstering U.S. deterrence as Washington’s proxy war with Tehran approaches its climax.

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