Friday, July 31, 2009

Islamic terrorists in Bosnia

Some 14 years after the Dayton Peace accords ended the fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Muslim portion of that country reportedly serves as a base for an estimated 80 prominent Islamic terrorists. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

I doubt we'll hear much about this problem from the U.S. government, especially with with people like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke in key positions. They advocated strong support for the Bosniac, or Muslim, side during the war, and touted the Dayton Accords as a big success. Messy stories like this don't match that narrative.

If you want to read more, I wrote a book review on Islamism in the Balkans last fall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Israel and Honduras

Here's a new thought: there are two countries, Israel and Honduras, where Obama has not hesitated to 'meddle' - to tell the governments and people what to do and exactly how to do it. What's interesting is that, in both cases, he has failed to rally any significant support for his positions within those countries.

According to Aluf Benn, editor at large of the Israeli daily Haaretz, there is absolutely no support, even among Prime Minister Netanyahu's opponents, for Obama's position on freezing Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Nor does Obama appear to enjoy the sympathy of the Israeli public, who think he's a softie who can be easily deceived or bullied by Iran and North Korea, and resent him implying that the establishment of Israel was simply a pay-back for the Holocaust.

As for Honduras, the government and the public appear willing to withstand external pressure, including the suspension of $18 million in U.S. military and development assistance, to keep President Roberto Micheletti in place until elections in November. Former President Manual Zelaya, camped out just over the border in Nicaragua, is reportedly losing steam in his attempt to reinstate himself, despite support from just about everyone, including the United States.

Now, mind you, I'm not saying this is all bad: Israelis are known for their disputatious politics, and we seem to be moving them toward more consensus. Honduras, like many Latin American countries, has struggled over the years to establish a firm constitutional order, and we're definitely getting them united on that topic.

Maybe the State Department should survey the globe, determine where greater internal unity would be in our favor, and start putting pressure on those governments. Certainly it's worth a try!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Choosing between the Mideast and Iran

Obama had to choose between two priorities: either achieving progress in resolving the Mideast conflict, or stopping Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. The second issue directly affects U.S. national security; the first does not.

The Saudis are a key player behind the scenes on both issues. They have a common interest with Israel and the United States in thwarting Iran. They have also invested many, many years in the Mideast conflict - politically, that is; not militarily.

By making the Mideast conflict his first priority, and by demanding that the Israelis halt all new settlements, despite the agreement reached with the Bush administration, Obama apparently expected the Saudis to respond by being 'helpful,' according to this article. Yet the opposite has happened. The Saudis don't want to make any concessions until all settlement activity is halted - something that will not happen. And they are trying to make sure no other Arab country is forthcoming either.

In the space of a few short months, the Obama administration has managed to fail to exploit the reports of growing convergence between Israel and its Arab neighbors regarding Iran. It has also made an unachievable (and nonsensical) goal the sine qua non of its Mideast policy. It will take a while to dig out of this hole.

The joys of summer camp

Summer camp: a great time to relax, learn new skills, play sports, make friends...or learn how to abduct an Israeli soldier. That is, if you're one of the 120,000 Palestinian kids in summer camps run by Hamas.

But, not to worry, another 240,000 children are in regular summer camps run by UNRWA, the UN refugee commission in Palestine. UNRWA, which has its own ties to Hamas, must be doing something right, since a senior Hamas official criticized these programs for corrupting the kids so that they'd accept normalized relations with Israel. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Monkey business

Just in case you're getting really tired of all those unpleasant subjects in my other blog entries, here's one to amuse you. Enjoy!

Defending human rights

In case you missed it, there's been an interesting controversy recently regarding Human Rights Watch, one of the foremost NGOs supposedly protecting human rights worldwide.

Its director, Ken Roth, confirmed that HRW officials have sought to raise funds in Saudi Arabia, essentially by criticizing Israel's human rights record. The spokesman for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu compared this initiative to a women's rights group asking the Taliban for donations.

As Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic points out here, HRW put itself on shaky ground by fundraising in a country that it often targets for human rights failures. More generally, I assume HRW's ability to raise funds in the United States will suffer if stories like this continue.

Morocco in the lead

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has just lent his support to a project to provide the Islamic world with information about the Holocaust - a goal diametrically opposed to the Holocaust denial pushed by Iran and others.

Morocco once had a population of around 300,000 Jews; today, only 3,000 remain, but the government has said it would welcome the return of Jewish emigres. It has played a role over the years in seeking to reconcile Arabs and Jews, and distinguishing between Moroccan Jews and Israelis in order to separate the Mideast conflict from domestic issues.

European governments would do well to emulate King Mohammed VI's policies. Not only do they have violent street demonstrators shouting 'death to the Jews' when the Mideast conflict flares up; in many classrooms, teachers are bullied into not even mentioning the Holocaust.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Allowing Israel to exist

Hamas is famous for having a charter that commits it to ending Israel's existence. Usually, Hamas is contrasted with Fatah, who are seen as the 'good guys.' But guess what: according to a senior Fatah official, that organization has never acknowledged Israel's right to existence and has no intention of ever doing so.

Fatah will convene a general assembly on August 4 to review its policies, including this one. Several senior Fatah figures have spoken out against any recognition of Israel; it will be interesting to see if their views prevail, or if Fatah manages to change course.

If none of the Palestinian leaders accepts Israel's right to exist, how can any outsiders, whether the United States, the EU or the UN, steer the Mideast conflict to a peaceful conclusion? (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Muslim governments and human rights

Egyptian liberal Magdi Khalil analyzes here the strategy of Muslim governments aimed at reducing the overall level of international human rights standards, while restricting any criticism of Islam or of their policies.

He recounts how Muslim members of the UN's Human Rights Council, which control 26 of the 53 votes on the Council, consistently "use a strategy of obfuscation and blackmail to prevent the rest of the world from discussing problems rampant in Islamic states." (Thanks to MEMRI.)

All Muslim governments belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) which, like the EU, seeks to have its members vote as a bloc in international organizations like the UN. Increasingly, the OIC is succeeding in this goal, particularly when it involves human rights standards or anything that can be construed as criticizing Islam.

Who is damaged by this: anyone at risk of having his/her human rights violated; Western governments bullied or snookered into lowering their standards; and Muslim governments seeking to provide better protection for their citizens.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

U.S. policy on Iran

Well, we're getting more details on just how the Obama administration intends to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. It will negotiate; if negotiations fail, it will offer regional allies a defensive umbrella against the threat of an Iranian nuclear missile attack.

That's certainly an intriguing position. First, have we essentially conceded defeat? Second, this defensive umbrella is presumably a missile defense system. But the Obama administration has cut back on funding for the system and has left open the possibility that the current system could be subject to negotiations with the Russians.

If you were Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Israel, would you be reassured? Actually, you don't have to wonder about Israel; the Israeli minister for secret services has already criticized the proposal.

(Thanks to Daily Alert.)

More on boycotts

Here's a creative response to boycotts of Israeli goods, this time from Canada. The Jewish community in Toronto decided to urge members to purchase targeted goods. The result: the items singled out for boycotting were sold out. Probably the smartest way to respond. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

No to boycotts of Israeli goods

The European Court of Human Rights, a Council of Europe institution located in Strasbourg, has ruled that calling for a boycott of Israeli goods is discriminatory and hence illegal. Given the increasing frequency of such calls for boycotts, usually coming from the left, I wonder if this ruling will dent the current 'moral authority' enjoyed by the Court.

Rift in Iran deepens

Last Friday Hashemi Rafsanjani offered a potential compromise to end the dispute over Iran's June 12 election results. Journalist Amir Taheri reports here that President Mahmoud Ahmedinjad rejected the proposed compromise. So the rift within the governing class is likely to grow even larger in the coming weeks.

An interesting anecdote in Taheri's article: Ahmedinejad, not wanting to attend Rafsanjani's speech, flew to the city of Mashad to give a speech of his own. The provincial governor in Mashad reportedly refused to meet Ahmedinejad or have anything to do with his visit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Believe it or not

These two news items, unfortunately, come from the United States.

First, the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir is holding a recruiting conference on July 19 at a hotel in Chicago. Hizb ut-Tahrir is dedicated to overthrowing Western democracy; if you want some insights on how it operates, read Ed Husain's The Islamist. In the 1990s, Husain spent time working inside Hizb ut-Tahrir in London. (Thanks to the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.)

Second, here's a video taken at this year's Arab festival in Dearborn, Michigan. Note the open thuggery, and the clear message that Christians aren't welcome. (Thanks to Smooth Stone.)

Potentially great news

Two researchers, one in Cleveland and the other in Israel, appear to have developed an anti-radiation sickness medication. They have completed several tests and believe that the product could win FDA approval within a year or two. The medication is derived from a protein found in intestinal bacteria and appears to have no significant side effects.

Yes, I know this isn't a blog for medical experts, and I certainly have no particular expertise in that domain. But anything that reduces the impact of nuclear weapons and dirty bombs has tremendous strategic significance. Which is probably why DOD is helping to fund the project.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What is going on?

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its annual convention on July 4 in Washington, DC. Speakers included Imam Warith Deen Umar, the former head of New York prisons’ Muslim chaplain program, who ranted about Jewish conspiracies to control the world. As evidence, he noted that Jews Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod occupy key positions in the Obama administration.

As Pamela Geller reports, "Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett and officials of the Department of Justice were present at the ISNA convention, where Umar engaged in this hatred of Jews. What does that say? 'In her remarks,' reported Hammad Hammad at the White House website, 'Jarrett spoke of the importance of President Obama’s Cairo speech, where he emphasized that the United States and Muslim communities share fundamental values, such as justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of human beings.'"

Is antisemitism among the fundamental values shared by the Obama administration and Muslim organizations like ISNA? Jarrett needs to clarify. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

So what is our policy?

President Obama, as everyone knows, has made better relations with the Muslim world a priority. Two critics track the downsides and inconsistencies in his new approach:

-- Anne Bayefsky of Eye on the UN compares the speeches Obama gave in Cairo and Ghana, noting that Obama cheerfully puts the blame for developing country misfortunates squarely on such things as governmental corruption, incompetence and repression - as long as it's not a Muslim country.

-- Journalist Khalid Abu Toahmeh notes that, while the Obama administration zeroes in on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Hamas is rapidly turning Gaza into an Islamist state: women attacked for laughing in public or for entering a cafe unescorted by a male relative; males and females separated in public, etc.

Let's hope that something like the recent dust-up in Honduras arises to challenge this new U.S. policy toward Muslims. Something that reveals the illogic and contradictions and forces modifications before we do something really awful.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Iranian fatwa against regime

Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most senior contemporary Shiite cleric in Iran, has issued a fatwa in which he condemns recent actions by the Iranian regime and states that those actions justify the removal of the individuals who committed them. (Thanks to MEMRI.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Murder in a German court

Last week, an Egyptian woman was stabbed to death in a German court, a murderous turn in a case that began when her assailant allegedly insulted her for being a Muslim. The assailant is himself an immigrant from Russia.

The case has already stirred considerable outrage among German Muslims and in Egypt. The woman has been dubbed the 'hijab martyr', and her family is demanding revenge in the form of the death penalty for the killer (Germany, like all EU member states, has outlawed capital punishment). Here is a summary of the facts in the case from Islam in Europe. I suspect we'll hear more of this in the coming days.

Halimi murderers sentenced

A French court has given lengthy prison sentences to members of the gang that kidnapped, tortured and then killed French Jew Ilan Halimi. French authorities had originally refused to classify these acts as part of an antisemitic hate crime but were eventually forced to do so, based on the horrific evidence.

As Jihad Watch points out, French media reporting on the trial ignored or downplayed obvious Islamist statements by the perpetrators. Let's hope the French public is smart enough to figure out for itself what actually happened.

Jihad and the rules of war

British commentator Melanie Phillips reports here on a speech by UK Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of UK troops in Afghanistan and intelligence coordinator for the British government. He argues that that Islamist terrorists in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere all use the same techniques. Pretending that the situation in Israel is somehow different only weakens the ability of the West to respond to the threat.

He further notes that the Islamists do not ignore the international law of armed conflicts. On the contrary, they study it closely so that they can exploit the vulnerabilities of forces bound by those rules. Hence, for example, the frequency with which Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban hide among the civilian population.

None of this should come as any surprise - it's unfortunate that so few people, though, are willing to acknowledge it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Farewell multilateralism?

President Obama apparently feels that he's had enough summitry for a while - all those meetings, all those poobahs, all that protocol. Well, yes, but that's the essence of multilateral diplomacy.

So does this mean the United States will revert to its evil, unilateral ways?

I doubt it: Obama likes to delegate. He delegates budgetary, energy, and health policy to the Congress, and seems to like to delegate foreign policy to the United Nations and other bodies such as the Organization of American States (you know, the guys who just trashed Honduras).

Letting the other guys take the lead is also attractive when you've just attended a whole string of summits where you've actually gotten very little of what you wanted.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bummed in Bermuda

At least, that's what I suspect the four Uighurs released to the Bermuda beaches from detention in Guantanamo feel like, as they learn about the battles between Uighurs and Han Chinese in China's Xingiang province.

U.S. to oppose Iranian sanctions?

According to this report, the United States will seek to keep the G8 leaders from adopting financial sanctions against Iran. That's right - we apparently are willing to talk about sanctions, but not to apply them. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Meanwhile, British embassy staffers seized by the Iranian government will apparently be put on trial. The British are seeking to persuade their EU counterparts to pull their ambassadors out of Tehran to protest the arrest of the staffers.

Then there's always the question of how to keep the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Iranians have just announced that the Europeans will no longer be allowed to negotiate with them (as punishment for allegedly fomenting last month's unrest). President Obama wants to negotiate with the Iranians, while Vice President Biden is apparently giving Israel 'permission' to bomb the nuclear facilities.

Should make for a great meeting!

Remember Neda?

That is, Neda Soltani, the young woman shot on the street during the Iranian protests. Well, it turns out she was a Christian, as you can see from the photo here. Highly unlikely that she was protesting in favor of sharia law. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Obama, Iran and human rights

Here, summed up by Eye on the UN's Anne Bayefsky, is President Obama's policy toward Iran in the wake of the Iranian protests and their bloody suppression: negotiations to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons, probably after Israel is forced to make key concessions. In other words, exactly the policy he was pursuing before the Iranian elections on June 12.

Apparently, Obama views President Ahmedinejad's legitimacy as in no way damaged by the fact that he just rigged an election and beat up, arrested or killed thousands of people who dared to protest.

As we celebrate our freedom on July 4, we're busy sending the message either that (1) freedom and democracy don't really count, or (2) they only count for us. Now we get to wait a 'decent interval' before Obama throws up his hands and admits that diplomacy has failed to get Ahmedinejad to renounce his pursuit of nuclear weapons and annihilation of Israel. So we'll fail not only vis-a-vis our values but our strategic goal.

Thank you, President Obama!