Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Morning -- May 19

In the summer of 1982, a rumor made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared. As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, as his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. Decades later, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumor. The pilot was real.

If that doesn't get your attention nothing will. 
Heads up.


I linked this Friday, and copied the whole article. Second item. 
Here is an excerpt.
If you find this paragraph slightly confusing her extended commentary may blow your mind.
For years the Ikhwanists have been backed by the Qatari arrivistes, who are a thorn in the side of the other, larger Wahhabi state in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, for their own part, are throwing dollars and clout behind Salafists in all the countries where they intend to counter the influence of the Ikhwan and similar parties.
Sharmine Narwani is not without her critics. My sense is that anyone giving weight to the importance of BRICS is fighting an uphill battle, but a decade from how she will be remembered as prescient.
I'm more impressed than persuaded by these critics.   

Of course it goes without saying that being an insulting, lying, anti-Semitic, America hating supporter of terrorism isn’t enough to get one removed from the Huffington Post. That’s exactly the kind of thing that they like to see. The problem is that Narwani went a bridge too far and started defending the regime in Syria while it was bombing its own people. This caused her to be removed from the Huffington Post and sent to Al-Akhbar and Veteran’s Today, where presumably the readership would mirror her views to a larger degree.

Fortunately for her, she has found a website far left enough to take her in, despite this long, ugly and checkered history. This website would be the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’, of course! Were you expecting anything less? Narwani hits the ground running with a stalwart defense of the Assad regime in the grand tradition of calling everyone who isn’t her a liar.


Since the economic crisis of 2009, the most incorrect call that people have made has been to call for inflation or hyperinflation due to aggressive monetary easing and/or large government deficits.

In a recent blog post, the pseudonymous hedge fund manager Pawelmorski wrote this fantastic line:

Inflation is clearly in the toilet and not set to resurface any time soon (so to speak), and looking really extraordinarily low once you look at core measures. The hyperinflationistas have lost the argument so comprehensively that you have a certain grudging admiration that they’re still sharing their wisdom.

We really don't need to go back over all of the hyperinflationistas being referred to here. Basically anyone who's turned on CNBC over the years has heard someone predict a collapsing dollar and spiraling prices, thanks to crazy Bernanke and his magic printing press.


Why Erdoğan was smiling after Obama meeting
By MahirZeynalov
May 17

Many had accepted that the talks would mostly be about a defiant Obama thanking Erdoğan for his Syria efforts but resisting his calls to step up efforts to hasten the end of the Syrian regime. In the news conference, journalists waited for Obama and Erdoğan to display a deep cleavage on Syria, the top agenda item in more than two hours of talks at the White House. It didn't happen
On Syria, Obama said he agreed with Erdoğan that Assad must go. He made it crystal clear to Erdoğan that Assad will not stay in power for long. This is the most important outcome of the meeting and the primary source of Erdoğan's delight. 
Simply, Obama possibly told Erdoğan, "Don't worry, I will never tolerate Assad to stay there for good. I'm just waiting for the rebels to finish the job. If they can't we will." 
Happy to hear that, Erdoğan asked back how he is going to make that happen. Obama spoke about a two-track strategy. One is a joint initiative with Russians in a conference in Geneva that foresees Assad and his cronies relinquish power while preserving the core structure of the state system. The possible negotiated settlement as a result of the II Geneva process is the best option for all. 
But Assad is gaining ground militarily and Russia is pushing to delay the conference to allow the Syrian regime to have even an upper hand in the talks by further defeating opposition on the ground.
Turkey, rightly so, believes that the conference won't simply work. With too much hate on the both sides against each other, Syria's warring factions could hardly agree on a power-sharing agreement. It is simply not going to happen. 
Obama's second track includes direct military engagement in Syria with allies on the forefront of the intervention. With Assad regime getting stronger every day and Iran and Hezbollah directly involved in the fight, military engagement seems more possible than ever. 
To bolster this initiative, the Obama administration has suggested the possible use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to the Syrian regime and declared it as a red line for intervention. If Washington has no intention to intervene, why would it then mention the use of chemical weapons in Syria only to face pressure to act and risk seeming hypocritical? 
Washington and Ankara are on the same page. Turkey is poised to play an important role in the second, military track of the Washington's Syrian policy. Before the Geneva conference in early June, supporters of the Syrian opposition will convene in Amman to find ways to deal a military blow to the Syrian regime and embolden the opposition fighting against the Assad regime. 
It is now clear that Washington and its allies are determined to shape Syria's future without Assad. During the press conference, Obama said he reserved the right to resort to both diplomatic and military options to resolve the Syrian crisis. On the diplomacy track, if the initiative with Russia fails and the Syrian regime continues to take cities back, Washington will employ the second, military track. This is where Turkey will play a greater role. 
UPDATE: Erdoğan confirmed in an interview on Saturday that "the most tangible outcome" of the Obama meeting is an agreement on Syria that Assad will go.
==►  And as these talks were happening and being announced a raft of ignorant assholes in Washington and beyond were chattering about umbrellas. This is a measure of ignorance that causes historians to roll their eyes in disbelief.


I'm stopping today's collection with this provocative, insightful piece by Issandr el Amrani, The Arabist, perhaps the most erudite of all the observers in the Middle East. The guy knows and reads everything. The breadth of his attention span is amazing. 

Here he passes along in translation a candid examination of diplomatic duplicity that everyone knows about but no one wants to admit -- quite simply, as the title says, a double standard. 

MAY 19, 2013 
One of the odd outcomes of the Egyptian uprising is the disenchantment, not to say anger, of part of the secular opposition with the West in general and the US in particular. These have, the idea goes, betrayed democratic ideals by encouraging, even boosting, Muslim Brotherhood rule after the fall of Mubarak. The US Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, is widely believed to have told Washington that the MB are "the only game in town" (as have a number of analysts). Many voice disappointment with the silence of the Washington and Brussels over abuses by SCAF or Morsi, or the muted response to the recent constitutional declaration crisis.

Thomas Carrothers, in a recent Carnegie piece (to be discussed separately later), mentions this malaise between diplomats and policymakers. His former colleague Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst turned revolutionary politician, turns the tables around and accuses the West, in the piece below, of reinforcing the "shadow government" of the Brotherhood at the expense of the formal government controlled by the Morsi administration and the Freedom and Justice Party.

As always, our In Translation series is made possible through the support of Industry Arabic, whose friendly and efficient services we urge you to try out.

The West's Double Standards
Amr Hamzawy, 
9 May 2013
The bifurcation of Egypt's government into an official and unofficial administration – as has been noted before – is at the root of a serious crisis that is blighting the chances for democratic transition and the rule of law. One half of this dual administration is made up of the president, his team of advisors and his government as the executive wing on one hand and the Freedom and Justice Party as the legislative wing on the other. Meanwhile, the other half of this administration is composed of the Muslim Brotherhood and the shadowy figures that they have placed in influential political and executive positions that involve direct, decision-making authority. This dual administration now holds sway over the Egyptian state, its institutions and agencies, while giving birth to disastrous mix-ups and derailing plans to reform the state, to implement transparency and freedom of information, and to ensure accountability and equal opportunity. 
Egypt now has an official administration for its foreign affairs linked to the presidency, the Foreign Ministry and the Freedom and Justice Party, and an unofficial administration in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Guidance Bureau and committees. 
Egypt now has an official administration for international cooperation, grants, aid and loans through the relevant ministries, and an unofficial administration in the form of Muslim Brotherhood negotiators, who have trotted over a wide span of countries and regional (the European Union) and international (the IMF and the World Bank) donor institutions. 
Egypt now has an official administration that has stumbled into files on the former regime's corruption and cases involving businessmen -- which fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecutor's Office, an office whose chief employee (the Public Prosecutor) was appointed by the president. This is taking place alongside an unofficial administration presided over by shadowy figures and mediators from the Muslim Brotherhood, who are seeking to reach settlements and deals whose terms are unknown to the public. 
This bifurcation into an official and unofficial administration surpasses previous examples as it is turning into a general pattern of governance. Meanwhile, it is we, the citizens of Egypt and Egypt herself who pay the price for disastrous mix-ups, and we end up empty-handed with regards to implementing the groundwork for real democracy, transparency, freedom of information, accountability, etc. 
The danger also lies in the fact that Western countries – with their typical double standards – have accepted this bifurcation and have started to deal with these dual administrations in Egypt completely out in the open. If you go to the U.S., you will find Egyptian diplomatic delegations and representatives of the president and the government, as well as shadowy visitors from the Muslim Brotherhood and its committees, who are given great significance. If you go to Europe, you will find the same situation has developed on the scene and it has reached the point that the European Union is ready to fund undeclared activities with the Muslim Brotherhood and its representatives. 
These double standards are scandalous. The West talks about democratic transition, the importance of institutions and the need to strengthen the influence of parties and currents participating in politics, but then they cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood's unofficial administration and cut deals with them. 
They claim to back transparency, freedom of information and accountability in state institutions and executive and administrative agencies, but then they completely override this and refer to the shadow administration whose policies and practices cannot be known in detail and who cannot be held accountable. 
They give support to the idea of fixing the relationship between religion and politics, then they elevate the Muslim Brotherhood over the Freedom and Justice Party -- that was founded as the Brotherhood's political wing -- through their ongoing communication with decision-makers in the Brotherhood concerning Shura Council legislation, economic and social issues, matters related to aid, etc. This is despite the fact that all these issues fall within the Freedom and Justice Party's purview, not to mention that of the official administration consisting of President Mohamed Morsi, his team and his government.

[The Corothers piece linked above elaborates on what ordinary people call duplicity or corruption. Or, if you happen to be a diplomat or politician, all in a day's work.  It lays out in harsh language the main reason elected representatives (or unelected for that matter) working together results in compromises. Hence the old saying that politics is the art of the possible. JB]


The lack of a comparative perspective is unfortunate in multiple ways, but especially with respect to understanding political party development. A dose of comparative analysis would help relieve at least some of the uneasiness that so many U.S. observers now feel regarding Egypt’s new political life and also help avoid some policy mistakes. In a book I wrote several years ago examining the state of political parties in new or struggling democracies, Confronting the Weakest Link, I highlighted “the standard lament” that one hears about political parties in countries all over the world trying to move away from authoritarian rule:
  • Parties are corrupt, self-interested organizations dominated by power-hungry elites who only pursue their own interests or those of their rich financial backers, not those of ordinary citizens. 
  • Parties do not stand for anything; there are no real differences among them. Their ideologies are symbolic at best and their platforms vague or insubstantial. 
  • Parties waste too much time and energy squabbling with each other over petty issues for the sake of meaningless political advantages rather than trying to solve the country’s problems in a constructive, cooperative way. 
  • Parties only become active at election time when they come looking for your vote; the rest of the time you never hear from them.
  • Parties are ill-prepared for governing the country and do a bad job when they do manage to take power or gain places in the national legislature.
The woes of Egypt’s opposition parties fit this standard lament to a T. In short, they are hardly unique to Egypt. They are, in fact, one more example of a much broader pattern.

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