Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Diplomacy of Discord

The River War

In my last post, I showed Iran's tactical game play in the Mid East, particularly with regards to Israel. But supposing the Iranian Navy were able to enter the Red Sea, what then?

There are no numbers yet, but several reports cite Muslim Brotherhood (MB) activists among the protesters. With the uprisings intensifying this Friday just gone, the involvement of the mosques seems all the more plausible.

But so what. So what if the MB takes power and gains a significant power-sharing position in any future government. There is a possibility that it would respect peace accords with Israel, with the benefit of reaping US aid (reportedly in the region of $1.5 billion annually). But that's not what we saw from Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Of course, Hamas are in the pockets of the Iranians. They were not reliant on US aid for their survival. But US aid isn't the only thing Egypt has.

The quotation at the outset of this post is from a book written in 1899. While Egypt's greatest resource might no longer be the Nile, substitute the word 'Nile', with 'Suez' and you might be getting onto the right track.

In 1956 and '67, wars between Egypt and Israel were fought over the Suez Canal; a vital shipping artery for oil to Europe and the US. But even more than this, Egypt also possesses unique geographical relations to Saudi Arabia, and borders Sudan and Libya (all 3 countries with oil). But not only this, if we're to believe the reports that the Muslim Brotherhood is taking advantage of the recent coup in Tunisia (which neighbours Libya from its other side), and considering Iran has been funding insurgents in Yemen (to the south of Saudi Arabia), this makes Egypt prime real estate, enveloping two countries (Libya and Saudi Arabia) which means killing more than two birds with one stone.

So, would Iran attempt to take over the Suez Canal, especially considering Israel's decisive wins in both conflicts?

Iran wouldn't need to be in control of the Suez, in order to wreck havoc and affect oil prices. Iran has invested in remote controlled, naval warfare vessels (speed boats) which could easily attack oil-tankers.
"IRNA said Zolfaqar was a new generation missile-launching vessel which can be used for patrol as well as for attack operations.
"It is designed for quick assaults on ships and is equipped with two missile launchers, two machine guns and a computer system to control the missiles," the report said."

When looking at the history of conflicts between Israel and Egypt, they have always been in Israel's favour. But not so with Iran-backed Hezbollah. In 2006 Israel fought a disastrous campaign against Hezbollah, in which Israel attempted to quash Hezbollah almost exclusively from the air. While Hezbollah is not a traditional army fighting to hold, or take, a specific territory, it nevertheless managed to entice the Israelis to overwhelm Hezbollah with sheer power. An act that resulted in Israel's munition supplies being depleted after only one month. And when looking at Israel and Hezbollah's encounter before this, the Lebanon War, it lasted from 1982-2000. A full eighteen years of conflict.But Israel has now improved its military once more, thanks to chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and these encounters with Hezbollah have become hard lessons.

This just goes to show Iran seems to be hoping to extend this method of warfare to other regions. To digress briefly, these are classic tactics based on Sun Tzu's The Art of War. A three thousand year old text from China about all things strategic. How Islamists got a hold of this is more than likely during the Cold War, when the Communists backed various Arab regimes.

But there are several other examples of how Iran has successfully employed asymmetrical warfare, and against a rival even more powerful than Israel, the US.

In Iraq, Iran funded rival Sunni and Shia insurgents, not only for the purposes of keeping the US bogged down in conflict, but as a psychological tactic to demoralise US public opinion back home. Something the left in the US has only been too willing to oblige.

In Nigeria, Iran has been happy to help fund jihadists there. So Iran has no problem funding Sunnis, it doesn't even have issues supporting and training non-Muslims how to fight. If it serves their purposes. As Sun Tzu says, war is an extension of policy. The best way to get what you want is not to even lift a finger; let someone else do it for you. This we saw in Vietnam, in Afghanistan against the Soviets and in the war on terror.

The best example of these principles applied, is Bevin Alexander's How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror

So to return to our original premise, Iran doesn't need to posses the Suez Canal, should the US or its allies allow Iran to reach it, nor does it need to posses Egypt, in the traditional sense. As long as it fuels chaos from there and creates instability, it is only a matter of waiting while it bides its time, waiting for others to wear themselves down.

With regards to Israel, it is considerably more restrained after having been impeded from pursuing its aims with Iran by the Obama administration. Israel has to contend with Hezbollah, Syria and possibly Turkey in the north; Hamas in Gaza, and potential uprisings to Israel's East (West Bank, Jordan). Lastly, it seems from within, Israel's left are attempting to coordinate uprisings from Israel's Arab community, as they have done for well over a decade.

Israel's current leadership is more competent than any other having served within the last few decades. It has seen many intifadas and peace processes, and in the last few months Benjamin Netanyahu has shown himself to be particularly adept at negotiating more time with Obama's suicidal peace policies. What Israel must be aware of now, is not rushing into provocations, nor attempt to win wars with overwhelming force, especially when it has to consider Barak Obama's indolence where Iran is concerned.

The next few hours will be crucial...

Update 1/31/11: "Egyptian intelligence chief and newly [July 2009] appointed Vice President Omar Soliman told then-Central Command commander Gen. David Petraeus, “’we hope Iran will stop supporting Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other cells’ within Egypt … ‘but if not we are ready.’”" Washington Times

Update 2/4/2011: Shippers concerned over Suez Canal vulnerability

Update 16/2/2011: Classic Sun Tzu ambush, taking things in a new direction: Iranian Warships in Med A Serious Provocation say Israel


With all that's happening in Egypt at the moment, one wonders why some are afraid of what seems to be a pro-democracy movement attempting to free itself from the tyranny of its Egyptian dictatorship. What has been most notable is how quickly president Barak Obama made an announcement siding with the protesters stating that:
"The people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere."

Obama's Statement In Context

Obama's support of the protesters has been in marked contrast to Obama's silence and hesitance with the Iranian uprisings back in 2009. So is this a president that has learned? Is it simply an inexperienced leader having made mistakes and tried to correct the mistakes of the past?

US secretly backed Egyptian uprising for 3 years

While the above article could, on reflection seem promising, the other question that needs to be asked is why there have been no similar efforts in other countries such as Iran, Syria or North Korea? Maybe there has been, but they have simply not materialised yet? However, digging further, things suddenly become clearer:
"Top President Barack Obama funder Jodie Evans and her terrorist sympathizing group Code Pink have provoked a violent crisis in Egypt" 
"...Evans was joined in Cairo by Obama pals Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dorhn, both former terrorists with the Weather Underground."

So in fact not a professional CIA operation, as one can presume being initiated under the George W Bush administration, but convicted terrorists, deeply hostile to Israel and the West, fomenting revolution. These are same people behind the flotilla in May 2010, in which 9 terrorists (with ties to Hamas and Turkish PM Erdogan), were killed. This situation seems to contain an undercurrent of radicalism within it, both of the religious and the left.

But this isn't all that's wrong with this picture. In the background there's more...

Regional Concerns

Iran to Deploy War Ships in Red Sea And Mediterranean

Having the Iranian navy in these waters is a serious provocation, not only to the current Egyptian administration and Israel, but Egypt's neighbour, the oil-rich Saudi kingdom. But this is something Iran has tried several months ago and failed with.

So why does Iran want to enter these waters? Is it just about taking control of the Suez Canal? Or does the fact that Iran-friendly Muhammed el-Baradei wish to become Egypt's leader provide a missing connection?

There are credible reports that the Muslim Brotherhood is attempting to stir the streets, which has started a power struggle along its border in the Sinai Dessert with Gaza and Israel.

Beduin terrorists attempt takeover of northern Sinai

Latest: Egypt shuts borders until further notice.

All this happens to coincide with America's pull out of Iraq as well, allowing radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to re-enter the country. This gives Iran a new front to play with; essentially expanding Iran's borders. Next door to Iraq, a worried Jordan, with similar uprisings stirring. Next to Jordan, the West Bank and Israel.

Digging Deeper

Stepping back for a moment, the recent, seemingly unconnected, 'Palileaks' documents reveal an interesting connection. For clarification, these leaks have sought to seriously undermine the PA, and of course de-legitimise Israel. And from the reactions to the reports, we've seen them to be highly successful. These documents having been leaked from Al Jazeera.

Then we hear Egypt has shut down Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is based in Qatar. Dore Gold had this to say about Qatar, from his book The Rise of Nuclear Iran:
"Qatar was the most reluctant of the Gulf countries to adopt the anti-Iranian line. It had concerns about the fact that it had to share its maritime natural gas fields in the Persian Gulf with Iran, so it chose an approach that accommodated Iran. After the NEI [National Intelligence Estimate], this nuanced Qatari policy became a sharp break from the other Sunni Arab states. During December 2007, when Qatar hosted the summit meeting of the six Arab Gulf states, in the framework of the Gulf cooperation Council (GCC), the Qataris decided to invite President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran to attend, without consulting with any of the other leaders." (p.257-8)
Pinhas Inbari further reinforces the ulterior motives behind Al Jazeera's actions:
"al-Jazeera is serving Qatari policy to deepen unrest in the Arab world and link the current local upheavals to the Palestinian problem. In its presentation of the Palestine Papers, al-Jazeera distorted the contents in order to delegitimize the PLO and present Israel as a hard-line non-partner. There is also reason to suspect forgery in the documents referring to refugees since the person suspected of the leaks is the same person who wrote them."
The consequences of 'PakiLeaks', or the 'Palestine Papers' would be to pave the way for a more militant group to sieze power in the West Bank, most likely Iran-backed MB group Hamas.

Whichever angle one looks, and the deeper one digs, we find the fingerprints of Iran.

History Repeats Itself

In July 2006, the international community was united and increasingly resolute on sanctions for Iran. On the 12th of July, the US, Germany, China, Russia and Britain (all five permanent members of the UN) convened in Paris to recommend they will refer Iran's case to the Security Council in light of the fact that they had not received a response to their negotiation package from Iran.

Of course, this was the same day the Hezbollah ambushed an Israeli border patrol, killing 8 Israeli soldiers, kidnapping two. The 2006 Israel/Hezbollah war ensued.

Once again the international community fell for the ploy to distract attention away from Iran in order to criticise Israel. However, a UN resolution was voted on (1696) and passed with a vote of 14-1. Revealingly, Qatar was the only dissenting voice.


Today, sanctions have been passed on Iran, and they are biting. But most importantly where Egypt is concerned, this provides a most welcome distraction for Iran not only to shift attention from itself onto Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, but fulfil it's aims of dominance over the region; something analysts have been warning would happen for some years (something I'll explore a little bit in my next post).

This is not to say the Muslim Brotherhood do not pose a problem in and of themselves, but without a backer they are significantly limited. Certainly, without a state sponsor, they are simply incapable of taking on the likes of the US or Israeli military for long.

So once again we see a solution to many problems in the region by taking care of one: Iran. However, as seems to be increasingly obvious, the difficulty in curing these problems lie not at their root, but further afield, in Washington.

Update 1/31/11: Baradei negotiating coalition gov with Muslim Brotherhood Rubin Reports

Bingo! "Egyptian intelligence chief and newly [July 2009] appointed Vice President Omar Soliman told then-Central Command commander Gen. David Petraeus, “’we hope Iran will stop supporting Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other cells’ within Egypt … ‘but if not we are ready.’”" Washington Times

Update 2/4/2011: More regional concerns.

John Bolton on why Lebanon is more important than Egypt.

Iraqi PM accuses Iran of arming fighters.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Macy Grey: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

In the last few days, the popular singer/songwriter Macy Grey started a furious debate by asking a question on her FaceBook fan page. The question related to whether she should go to Israel to perform or not. Also within the question was a statement in which she described the way Israel treats the Palestinians as 'disgusting' amounting to 'Apartheid' (spelled with a capital 'A').

At the time of this writing she has confirmed her attendance. But it's still worth discussing as the issues arise with every celebrity visiting Israel and are much more than simply being about music.

A visit and a performance in Israel, so the activists imply, would be to ignore - and even accept - Israel's position in the conflict. This may not be true on the part of the artist, but this is how the political activists hope the recipients of these messages will perceive the campaign.
However, even though Grey is critical of Israel, at the same time her instincts show her to be thoughtful and not easily manipulated: in the same statement she quite astutely asks:
"I don[']t know how my NOT going changes anything"
Indeed, her doubts are perfectly legitimate. It does not and will not change anything since the conflict, aside from the physical issues on the ground, is all about who is justified and unjustified. In a very real sense, for the moment the debate over the Israel/Palestine conflict is the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The Campaign

The lobbying of Macy Grey did not start with her question, it started when it became public knowledge that she wanted to perform in Israel. And Grey's experience is certainly not unique. Any celebrity wanting to perform in Israel can expect to be the target of a well planned campaign by political activists, thought out well in advance.

The BDS (Boycotts Divestment Sanctions) movement is a group of organisations based in Ramallah, West Bank, and endorsed by the PA (Palestinian Authority). Since a new law was passed in Israel, NGOs (non governmental organisation) must now provide information as to their sources of funding. In a recent investigation by NGO Monitor, shows the use aid from Europe (Holland, to be precise) intended for the Palestinian people, to fund its activities.

One of the highest profile groups of these is the online magazine Electronic Intifada. It has been key in disseminating articles which include accusations of genocide by the Israelis, apartheid, Holocaust Denial, that Jews living in the West Bank is illegal, that checkpoints are a source of humiliation to the Palestinians, that Israel's security wall is unjust etc. Most likely all the issues quoted in the activists campaign against Macy Grey. All of the issues raised are contained with the arguments surrounding the publication of former US president Jimmy Carter's book 'Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid'.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

With the publication of Carter's book, there were mass walkouts from Carter's own 'Carter Center' by professors and diplomats who had been with the ex-president during his meetings to secure peace deals in the Middle East. Overall, they objected to his approach as well as his incorrect use of terms, language, incorrect maps and so on.

In one particular example, the former president contested Dennis Ross, a Middle East Envoy and senior advisor to the State Dept as well as 4 US presidents (including Barak Obama); the meeting, Ross points out, in which he was present, but Carter was not.

The debate over Carter's book even provoked a response from Bill Clinton, who had not only attended the peace negotiations Carter talks about, he mediated them. Clinton remarked of Carter's book simply: "... it's not factually accurate and it's not fair."

For those wishing to read more, CAMERA (the Comittee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) has compiled a list of summaries to various critiques of Carter's book, as well as articles by those having left the Carter Center explaining why. For those who prefer paper to a pixels however, there is CAMERA's publication with much the same content.

Operation Cast Lead

If there is one other issue activists will cite as being 'proof' of Israeli war crimes, it is Israel's military operation from Dec 2008 to Jan 2009 called Operation Cast Lead.

The operation was launched in response to 8 years and 12,000 rocket attacks by Hamas, categorised by the European Union and the US State Dept as a terrorist organisation. The rocket attacks in question mainly targeted and devastated the town Sderot next to Gaza, where Hamas rule with an iron fist.

Following the operation, a UN investigation into the conflict was launched, headed by Judge Richard Goldstone, a South African Jew and self-declared anti-Apartheid activist.

The Goldstone report was published and found Israel guilty of war crimes; the political activists went into overdrive.

However, no sooner had the report been approved at the UN, did things start to unravel.

On the 28th Oct 2009, in an interview with Aljazeera, the secretary general of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference) stated that they had commissioned the Goldstone Report, thus giving Israel's claim that the report was biased, some merit. The OIC contains several member states in the Islamic world who not only fund al Qaeda, but created it, and many of its off-shoot organisations.

Second, was the grave revelation of Judge Richard Goldstone and some of the sentences he passed during the Apartheid in south Africa. The judge was found to have sentenced dozens of black people to death by hanging. Goldstone's response was that he was 'obligated to uphold the laws of the land'. Jewish professor of law at Harvard university, Alan Dershowitz, retorted 'That's what Mengele [SS officer and Nazi physician] said'.

Lastly, and specifically related to the war crimes findings against Israel, was how the Goldstone Commission decided to investigate specific incidents. What came to light was that far from the Goldstone Comission conducting a criminal, fact finding investigation, incidents of alleged war crimes were recommended by Israeli human rights organisations. The Goldstone Commission then went to the relevant people and places (presumably under the watch of Hamas) and carried out their search for the facts. 

However, far from Israeli human rights organisations being impartial, they have a history of controversy and unfounded claims of human rights abuses by Israel. Just this year, these same human rights organisations to have been shown to be funded by the same countries that commissioned the report; the same countries with ties to the terrorists Israel was defending itself against.

In addition to the above cases, the flotilla incident in 2010, in which Israel is accused of mounting a 'peace activist' boat in international waters illegally, and killing 9 Turkish terrorists seems certain to admonish Israel of any wrong doing.


So what does this actually say about the situation? Certainly, innocent civilians have died. No one denies this. But unlike Turks denying the Armenian Genocide, in Israel there is no proof. What there is evidence of is conflict, and fierce debate as to who is to blame for the deaths. This is a tragic and seemingly unsolvable dispute over land, with the 'leadership' of one side (the Palestinian) attempting to blame Israel for the suffering it has been complicit in creating due to the misuse of aid (among many other things).

Certainly, conflict is unpleasant. But to use powerful terms with devastating consequences, to attempt to hide behind women and children in a conflict you have provoked and then attempt to profit from this by laying blame on your enemy is the very definition of 'disgusting'.

In 2010 alone, there were performances by several well known artists including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Metallica, Ozzy Ozborne, Rihanna and others. It's also interesting to note that the Iraqi musician, Ismail Fadel, also performed there.

One artist boycotting Israel has no effect on Israel at all. And to be perfectly blunt, one Macy Grey, one hundred, or no Macy Grey's performing in Israel will not have an effect.

Who performs in Israel doesn't matter. The point is these artists are important because their names are brands. In the sub-culture of which music fan likes whatever band, what a leader of a particular band does, is a statement and an endorsement. These artists are being used in an attempt to sell an idea.

The powerful terms applied to Israel have consequences. When applied incorrectly they cease to become criticism and become defamation (as well as abuse to genuine victims of Apartheid etc). It stops being debate, which is healthy and democratic, and starts becoming part of the effort on behalf of a Middle Eastern dictatorship to destroy one sovereign nation, by an enemy that has no limits about what they're willing to do to achieve their aims.

The BDS movement, therefore, is a campaign to focus attention away from those guilty of exactly the things they accuse Israel of doing.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Exploitation of Israel & Gilad Shalit

Having previously written about how terror works - and that it is a method of mass communication at a psychological level - there is one small example where the usual terrorists tactics have failed: Israel.

For one, Israel has national service. All Israelis, men and women, must serve in the army. This usually gives them an inside, upfront understanding of what is happening; the very real threat they're facing. In and of itself, this is enough to provide life-long convictions of what that society is up against (there are, of course, exceptions).

Secondly, there is the short history of the modern Israeli State. Which, aside from its religious roots, provides a narrative full of wars of annihilation; an Arab enemy's strong rejection of the Jewish presence; and from Israel's senior citizens, memories of the nation's birth. The desperation in the fight to survive; not knowing from day to day whether their continued existence was a certainty.

Lastly of course, there is the history of the Jews worldwide. A 2000 year history of persecutionin foreign lands culminating in the Holocaust.

All of these examples show why Israel has survived the barrage of propaganda and terrorism: because of an immensely strong self-belief and knowledge of its history. The above reasons, therefore, could not be a stronger antidote to claims of Jewish illegitimacy made by terrorists, despite their attempts to revise and erase facts from history. But this does not mean that Muslim fundamentalists have given up trying. In Israel, psychological warfare has taken on another form: hostage taking.

Generally, the psychology behind kidnapping is pretty straightforward; a person is kidnapped, and a ransom is demanded. Out of fear of harm to the hostage, the ransom is paid for the safe return of the hostage. But while hostage taking has been in practice by Islamic terrorists throughout the world, the way it now being used with Gilad Shalit is having repercussions at a political level.

In demonstrations worldwide, we have become accustomed to seeing the left virtually hysterical about one issue, but silent on others. We hear never ending hyperbole about Israeli 'war crimes', but nothing about the way Israeli civilians are targeted by terrorists, even child suicide bombers. In short, protests and campaigns are organised in accordance with political interest rather than being about human rights. And Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is no exception.

Rather than target Hamas and their supporters or the Red Cross in Geneva, the 'Free Gilad Shalit' campaigners have directed their efforts at the Israeli prime minister's residence, that of Benjamin Netanyahu. Their belief - and that of Gilad's father, Noam - is that as PM, Netanyahu and only Netanyahu has the ability to release the IDF hostage. It is simply a matter of negotiation - and will - on the part of the prime minister in order to negotiate an end to this ordeal.

But there is a problem. By raising Gilad Shalit's profile to such a high level, he has not only become a pawn more valuable to Hamas than all the prisoners in Israeli jails, his net worth has become an insurance policy for the terror organisation against any Israeli attempts to assassinate Hamas leaders.

In the left's pursuit to make Shalit a national symbol of the Israeli leadership's failure, with the left coming to 'champion' the Shalit family's campaign in a bid to weaken the Israeli PM, politically, the left have done irreconcilable damage to Gilad's case and the Shalit family and Israel's hopes.

The callously cynical exploitation of Gilad Shalit has helped Hamas become an international celebrity; as succinctly stated:

"Shalit is an irreplaceable asset for enhancing his [Hamas leader Khaled Mashal's] international prestige by bringing world leaders to his door to plead for the Israeli soldier's release. By this means, Hamas gains international legitimacy and recognition as a force to be reckoned with in the region rather than a bunch of rabid terrorists."

Should Gilad not come home, it is quite obvious who will be blamed, and who will make no bones about profiting from it.