Cynical Synapse

Sun, 23 Oct 2011

Changing Landscapes of the Arab World

Arabian desert

Much is and has been changing in the Middle East. Syria is a holdout against the Arab Spring, but, in the first free, democratic elections in decades, Tunisians are voting today. Of course, one problem is we—the US—may not like the outcome of the election.

Second to depose its despot, former President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has not made any substantial progress toward elections. Libya became the third Arab state to win its freedom with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi a few days ago. In a bizarre twist, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Office called for inquiries into the manner of Gaddafi’s death.

Presidents Obama and Mubarak

Despite public diplomacy in support of the Arab Spring uprisings, the US gained substantial benefits from close ties with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. In Bahraini ports, the US has headquarters for its Fifth Fleet. Last month’s killing of Anwar al-Awlaki had Yemeni complicity, if not outright support. Despite these cozy relationships, Pres. Obama warned the oppressers their time was short:

Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship, and those leaders that try to deny their dignity will not succeed.

Yesterday, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Sultan Abdul Aziz al Saud, 83, died at a New York hospital. Al Saud served as his country’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Aviation. He was Saudi King Abdullah’s half-brother. While Saudi Arabia will likely remain a close US ally in the region, uncertainty of Saudi succession and other key governmental changes leave the future at least somewhat unpredictable. On top of that, on Friday Pres. Obama announced all but a couple hundred US troops will leave Iraq by year’s end. Those remaining will provide security and other diplomatic-related services as US missions, a common practice around the world.

New Year’s 2012 will usher in a Middle East vastly different from what the US is accustomed to. That’s new, and unpredictable, territory for the presidential candidates.
 


 

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

Al-Awlaki Killed in Predator Strike—All’s Fair in Love and War

Filed under: Arab states, Global War on Terror, National security, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 3:44 pm

MQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missile

SEAL Team 6, the same special operations group that killed Osama bin Laden in May of this year, killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the jihadist recruiter for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The airstrike was carried out by an unmanned Predator drone; it fired a Hellfire missile at the car al-Awlaki was riding in. Also killed in the attack was Samir Khan, the media jihadist who published Inspire, AQAP’s webzine.

It’s not easy being a terrorist leader affiliated with al Qaeda these days. More than a half-dozen high-profile terrorist leaders have been killed or captured this year. Hunting and eliminating al Qaeda’s leadership has often been likened to a game of whack-a-mole. Granted, there’s always another one popping up, but the deaths of bin Laden and al-Awlaki are serious blows. Both were charismatic. Bin Laden was the soul, the ideology that was al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki was the jihadist recruiter able to radicalize via the Internet.

Samir Khan, Anwar al-AWlaki

Al-Awlaki was a US-born Yemeni cleric and key propagandist for AQAP. Prior to siding with al Qaeda, he visited and preached in the US as well as Yemen. His front man, Khan, was also born, raised, and educated in the US. He went to Yemen two or three years ago and “pledged to wage jihad for the rest of our lives.” So, because of their citizenship, there’s a hue and cry al-Awlaki and Khan had their rights violated. They were assassinated rather than brought to justice, denied due process. Seriously?

Besides being AQAP’s chief recruiter, al-Awlaki exchanged emails with MAJ Nidal Hassan, who shot and killed 13 at Fort Hood. He sent the Undie-bomber on his groin-burning failed attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit. He attempted to ship explosives in cargo planes to the US. What part of al-Awaki was an enemy combatant do you not get? Both he and Khan were traitors, materially aiding and abetting AQAP in its efforts to attack their country and innocent civilians, including children.

They got the due process they deserved.
 


 

Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Two-Faced, Schizophrenic Nature of US Foreign Policy

Filed under: Allies, Arab states, Diplomacy, Hypocrits, Israel, Libyan War, Middle East, Oil, Palestine, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 1:50 am

schizophrenic

No wonder allies and enemies alike are confused by US foreign policy. We talk a good game, but we often fail to follow through. It seems we’re not very good at walking the talk; we don’t do as we say. Sometimes, in our arrogance, US motives are misperceived.

Consider the similarities and differences between Libya, where the US supported intervention, and Syria, where the US simply huffed and puffed, doing nothing. Syria is largely Arabic and Muslim; Libya is even more so. Syria is in the Middle East while Libya is in Africa. France and England have considerable interests in Libyan oil, but not in Syria. When the rebellion began in Libya, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—mostly France and Britain—decided civilians needed protection from the regime’s heavy-handed response to the uprising. I wonder at what point did Libya cease being a sovereign state so such foreign military intervention became legitimate. Not that I’m a Qaddafi supporter, but the rule and application of law is not supposed to be just a matter of convenience.

Syrian police beat protestors

With Syria, the regime also responded with military force against rebelling civilians. The result has been at least 2,700 Syrians killed and probably double that as refugees. From NATO? Sanctions and finger-wagging.

The US praised the Arab Spring, the regime change it brought in Egypt and Libya, and the freedom and democracy it harkens. Why doesn’t this apply to the Palestinians? The US has long supported a two state solution between Israel and Palestine. I’m a slow learner, but recently it dawned on me, why do the Palestinians need Israel’s permission to become a sovereign state? Maybe the Palestinians realized the same thing and that’s why they’re going to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and Security Council.

West Bank settlements

As for Israel’s opposition to Palestine’s bid for statehood, it should be obvious. A sovereign Palestinian state means Israel can’t invade at any whim or fancy, it can’t build settlements wherever, and it the Israeli state has to treat a Palestinian state as an equal. Even if Palestinian statehood is in Israel’s long term interests, it is happy being the dominant party in the ongoing feud.

If When they make their case before the UN Security Council, the Obama Administration intends to veto Palestinian statehood. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about a two-state solution, I have to agree the US official position is on a collision course for disaster.

We are set to squander whatever remaining goodwill we have in the region at a crucial time, while demonstrating at the same time that we are incapable of being even-handed mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As one European diplomat put it the other day “it’s almost as though the U.S. wants to be seen as being isolated with Israel.”

Israeli security check

When you consider Israeli raids, security checks, and property usurpation, it seems to me Israel took its lessons from Nazi Germany. Only paranoid states take national security to totalitarian and arbitrary extremes. And, we wonder why Muslims distrust us.

Previously on Israel and Palestine:

Fri, 16 Sep 2011

Mission Distraction Redux: Train the Libyans

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Global War on Terror, Government, Libyan War, Middle East, Oil, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:07 am

Libyan rebels capture another city

I don’t know what the real deal is with Libya, but I’ll tell you “we” (the US/NATO) had no business there from the beginning of the uprising. Say what you want, but intervene not; until everyone looked the other way, Libya was a sovereign state. As for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), they said preventing civilian casualties was their primary purpose. So, why not NATO (or even United Nations) action regarding the thousands of casualties in Syria? A little huffing and puffing by the international community has accomplished nothing.

On the surface, Syria and Libya seem like very similar “Arab Spring” situations. There are distinct differences, however. Key US allies, in particular France and Britain, have substantial stakes in Libyan oil interests while none of the western countries have appreciable involvement in Syrian resources. Ugly as it is, that’s the simple reality of it.

volunteers receive military training in Tripoli

Since the French, especially, and British are the key stakeholders, I say let them train the Libyans in security and defense matters. Except the Brits and French want no part of supporting a new Libyan regime. Unfortunately, because we always have to have our fingers into the pie, US State Department officials are offering US assistance to Libya. From my perspective: what part of Iraq do you not realize was a distraction from the Global War on Terror? Why would you not think Libya is also a distraction?

In the Global War on Terror, which political correctness now calls “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), the Taliban, especially in Afghanistan, has always been the enemy of concern. I believe the war in Iraq distracted us—the US—from the key fight against terrorism and allowed the Taliban to build the insurgency we are now battling. We are paying a price—in lives, dollars, and public support—for failing to keep the focus where it needed to be.

Despite such recent history, my concern is we’re about to repeat the same mistake regarding operations in Afghanistan as we did in 2003. It doesn’t matter if it’s as big as Operation Iraqi Freedom or as small as training teams for Libya. In the likely future of constrained resources, we can’t afford anything taking our eye off the ball. And in my mind, we cannot permit the Taliban, who aided and abetted the 9/11 terrorists, any appreciable powerbase in Afghanistan.
 

Previously on Libya:

Sat, 26 Mar 2011

Inconsistency, Questionable Morality Mark War in Libya

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Government, Hypocrits, Libyan War, Military, Oil, Opportunists, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 11:40 am

US F-15 crash in Libya

Operation Oddity Dawn might be a better name for US military actions in Libya instead of the Pentagon’s Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Libyan war marks an increase in US military commitment without Congressional approval. There was no message from President Obama to the American people. And yet, US military are engaged in hostile missions over Libya on a daily basis. Never mind where funds are coming from to pay for this major operation by a US fleet in Libya while under a continuing resolution. By definition, continuing resolution means funding at previous year levels and no new programs or expenses.

Beyond domestic politics and policy, why Libya? President Obama says the basis of intervention is preventing a “humanitarian threat.” But how is Libya different from Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, or even Darfur? Certainly there were or still are humanitarian threats in those places. But no international hue and cry and no international intervention. With inconsistent policy and unpredictable actions, we should not be surprised other countries view the US with suspicion and a degree of mistrust.

Qaddafi compound hit by air strike

Last time I checked, Libya was a sovereign state; a full member state of the United Nations. Whether you like Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi or not—and I don’t—he is recognized as head of state. Clearly, the popular uprisings—revolution—is strictly an internal matter. There is no legitimate basis for the UN to sanction military action against the Libyan regime absent some threat to the international community.

At best, the “humanitarian threat” is a selectively applied rationale for attacking Libyan forces. The as-yet nebulous mission morphed from establishing a no-fly zone to attacking Libyan ground forces to regime change. Those are all questionable escalations of force or end state. Consider, also, the disproportionate use of force in attacking ground troops with jet combat aircraft and precision guided munitions.

NATO air strike in Libya

So, why did a western coalition come together so quickly? Simply put, Western Europe has a lot of business interests in Libya and there’s a lot of oil there. And what of the driving force behind the UN resolution on Libya? It seems the Arab League is not actively involved in the no-fly zone. It is more likely using Western forces to its own ends.

Here’s the real question: will Libya be better off without Qaddafi? Will the world?

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