Friday, February 26, 2010

Making friends

Arab journalist Hussain Abdul-Hussain explains in the Huffington Post blog what's actually going on with U.S. policy towards the Mideast: "As Bush went out recruiting allies, and making enemies, Obama lost America's friends while failing to win over enemies."

Abdul-Hussain provides a sad litany of former friends, like the pro-democracy Lebanese, who have decided they'd better make peace with Syria because the United States won't back them up.

As for Iraq: "after losing more than 4,300 troops in battle and spending $700 trillion since 2003, America today cannot find a single politician or group that would express gratitude to Americans for ridding Iraq of its ruthless tyrant Saddam Hussein, and allowing these politicians to speak out freely.

On the contrary, shy of making their excellent backdoor ties with Washington known since they fear Obama will depart Iraq and never look back, Iraqi politicians started expressing dissatisfaction with the United States in public."

Nor has the United States fared better with its enemies: "Apparently, the benevolent Obama failed to impress America's number one enemy, Al-Qaeda.

Between September and December, the group sent a suicide bombers into New York and Michigan. The first was foiled, the second luckily failed."

Unfortunately, there are no signs that our policy toward the Mideast or the Muslim world is likely to change. (Thanks to Barry Rubin.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dubai assassination

I've been waiting, for weeks now, for some analysis that makes sense about the January 20 assassination of senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Since that doesn't seem to be forthcoming, here are my outstanding questions:

-- Why would anyone want to send in 26 people to kill one guy in his hotel room? The Dubai authorities have released a graph, which you can see here, of all the people they think are involved.

-- The Dubai authorities are 99% sure that the Israeli Mossad mounted the operation. But I cannot believe that Mossad would engage in such shoddy work as forging European passports with the wrong number of numerals or letters. I also find it difficult to believe that Mossad wouldn't have known about all the hotel cameras, etc. After all, I watch crime shows on TV and I know all about them!

-- What about the two suspects who fled to Iran? Not the usual safe haven for Israelis and the people who cooperate with them.

-- A friend of mine has also wondered if the assassination actually occurred, since the usual reaction to such a death has not occurred.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


British journalist Melanie Phillips provides excerpts here from a new report, by the Intelligence and Analysis Information Centre in Tel Aviv, arguing that London has become the European center for Hamas.

Various Hamas activists, according to the report, are involved in such efforts as building support for the UN's anti-Israel Goldstone report, or filing lawsuits against Israeli political and military leaders for alleged war crimes.

So how does Hamas, which the EU as well as the United States blacklists as a terrorist organization, manage to do this? Among other things, its members hide their affiliation: they "are careful not to identify themselves formally as Hamas activists, preferring to appear as supporters of the Palestinian cause."

Shining the light of day on Islamist activity is extremely helpful; too bad it seems to happen so rarely.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So it was true after all

Rashad Hussain, a 31-year-old deputy associate counsel in the White House, was recently appointed U.S. special envoy to the Organization of Islamic States (with 57 members, the most important Muslim organization).

Soon after his nomination it emerged that Hussain, while still a law student, had complained publicly about the 'politically motivated persecution' of Sami Al-Arian, at that time a cause celebre of the left and Islamists. Al-Arian was subsequently convicted of assisting a terrorist organization. (The comments were made at an event organized by the Muslim Student Association, an organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.)

Hussain denied having made such statements, and they were mysteriously censored from an article about the meeting. The White House backed up his claim until - you guessed it - a recording turned up. Now, Hussain says his comments were 'ill-conceived or not well-formulated.' But not to worry, he continues to enjoy the White House's confidence and has been dispatched to his new post in Jeddah.

Hussain was reportedly involved in drafting President Obama's Cairo speech to the Muslim world. He is a dreadful choice to represent the United States to the Muslim world, but it's probably safer to have him there than inside the White House.

Reverse lawfare

I've referred in previous posts to the threat of 'lawfare': lawsuits launched against people who criticize Islam or Islamic organizations. The suits are designed to intimidate, bankrupt, or otherwise silence any voices of opposition.

Security expert David Harris, writing in The Ottawa Citizen, suggests a remedy for this problem: "Passengers and others victimized by terror threats should be encouraged to sue airlines and other entities that have failed in their duty to safeguard passengers’ well-being." It's certainly an idea!

A brighter note

For those of you who have noticed that (1) even the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has admitted Iran is on its way to building nuclear weapons and (2) the Obama Administration clearly has no plan for stopping this, the Israelis apparently want to show that they at least are working the problem.

On February 21, the Israeli air force 'unveiled' a very large drone (in fact already used during last year's Gaza conflict) that can fly for 20 hours, up as high as 40,000 feet. It can "provide surveillance, jam enemy communications and connect ground control and manned air force planes." Will the drone be armed? Palestinians have alleged that it has been, but Israel has never confirmed that capability. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nothing like an old grudge

You may have heard that Germany is stepping in to prevent a Greek default that could do grave damage to the euro. But don't for a minute think that their reception is all sweetness and light. This from the John Mauldin Report:

"Greek opposition lawmakers said on Thursday that Germans should pay reparations for their World War Two occupation of Greece before criticizing the country over its yawning fiscal deficits.

"How does Germany have the cheek to denounce us over our finances when it has still not paid compensation for Greece's war victims?" Margaritis Tzimas, of the main opposition New Democracy party, told parliament."

This was during a debate in the Greek parliament on how to handle the Greek debt. And it was echoed by both the left and right political parties. Somehow they forgot about the German government paying 115 million deutschmarks in 1960, not a small sum back then. It seems that many Greek politicians are still in the denial stage of dealing with this crisis."

Oh well, sometimes you just can't win!

China and Iran

Barry Rubin explains here why China won't agree to sanctions against Iran:

"Chinese state companies are currently developing the following oil projects in Iran: Kouhdasht; Yadavaran; North Pars gas field; North Azadegan oil field; Masjed Soleyman oil field; Garmsar block exploration and development. Most of these are still in development but are vital for the future of Chinese development. Total investment: well over $6 billion. And there’s a lot more Chinese involvement in Iran’s economy, including construction of a huge oil refinery.

The Chinese want to make money and ensure their energy supplies. Sanctions on Iran run counter to both these goals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The lie grows

Several weeks ago, I reported that the Israeli medical team in Haiti was already being accused of trafficking in human organs - a further iteration of the libel contained in a Swedish article last August.

Well, the lie surfaced in the UK this past week. Jenny Tonge, the Liberal Democratic Party's spokesperson on health issues in the House of Lords, called for an official Israeli investigation of these rumors. Here's how it happened, according to The Guardian:

"The latest row followed accusations in the online Palestine Telegraph – of which she is a patron – that members of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) had been harvesting body parts in Haiti.

She subsequently told the Jewish Chronicle: 'To prevent allegations such as these – which have already been posted on YouTube – going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.'"

Tonge was stripped of her position, but you can be sure this isn't the last we'll hear of this lie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sorry to be right

Being able to say "I told you so" is usually sweet, but not this time.

Over a year ago, Mark Richard (a former senior Department of Justice official) and I predicted, in an article published in Policy Review, that U.S.-EU counterterrorism and law enforcement cooperation would suffer if the EU adopted the Lisbon Treaty.

Well, the Treaty was adopted on December 1, 2009, and the European Parliament, which under the Treaty acquired new powers in this area, has just rejected an agreement allowing the EU and the United States to share financial data that may be linked to terrorists. The agreement had already been renegotiated, but the Parliament found it still lacked sufficient protection for personal data.

Expect more of this in future. The Parliament has a great deal of pent-up resentment at being excluded from such issues in the past; it lacks the law enforcement expertise necessary to make informed decisions on such issues; and many of its members are convinced that the United States is out to abuse their privacy and to somehow take advantage of Europe.

Just for the record, here's the report prepared by Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, perhaps the most prominent European expert on fighting terrorism. It documents the agreement's proven value to European governments as well as to the United States. (Thanks to John Rosenthal.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Update from Dallas

It seems that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) isn't taking the critical article about military chaplain and ISNA official Louay Safi referred to in my previous post lying down. Jihad Watch reports that ISNA is urging its members to contact the editor of the Dallas Morning News, or staff writer Brooks Egerton, to demand a retraction.

Note that ISNA doesn't claim that Egerton said anything inaccurate about Safi, just that what he said created a negative impression. That, by the way, is the classic definition in Islam for defamation - not that what you said is false, but that the person in question doesn't like it.

As for whether ISNA is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood (a question Joe raised after my last entry), here's a paper from The Investigative Project pointing out that ISNA itself has essentially confirmed such ties.

Jihad Watch urges those interested in freedom of the press to contact the Dallas Morning News to tell them not to apologize or retract the article. I've already done so; if you want to as well, here's the contact info:

Maud Beelman,
The DMN News Editor

Brooks Egerton,
staff writer

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Confusion reigns

This article from the Dallas Morning News provides valuable if painful insights into the degree of confusion within the U.S. government over how to figure out who are 'moderate' Muslims and who are extremists and potential terrorists.

U.S. officials continue to deal with organizations like the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood - yet its president, Ingrid Mattson, spoke at President Obama's inaugural. Another senior ISNA official, Louay Safi, has served as a military instructor until recently, when he was suspended from working on military bases pending a continuing criminal inquiry. In fact, it's even worse: he has been runing the military program certifying Muslim chaplains for work in the U.S. military and prison system.

(Thanks to Zuhdi Jasser.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The NYT and Pakistan

Jihad Watch's Fitzgerald here takes exception to the lengthy New York Times article that covers the murder of a 12-year-old maid in Pakistan without ever revealing that she was a Christian and her employer a Muslim. Fitzgerald's article includes a short compilation of Pakistani murder or attempted murder cases in which the perpetrators were Muslim and the victims Christian.

And, indeed, it turns out that the Lahore Bar Association has effectively intimidated (with death threats) any Christian or Muslim lawyer who might step forward to represent the maid. Her employer was the former head of said Bar Association.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Geert Wilders on trial

The blasphemy trial of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands may have been postponed until June. In the meantime, the 4 judges have refused to allow all but four of his 18 requested witnesses. The only good news here is that one of the four is Wafa Sultan. She doesn't usually take much nonsense from anybody. (Here's my review of her recent book.)

UK commentator Pat Condell has made this video, which I thoroughly recommend if you want to understand why this trial is so important. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Poland's next steps

Last September 17, the United States unilaterally cancelled signed agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic to install a missile defense system on their territories. U.S. officials explained that the decision had nothing to do with placating Russia (which had threatened to install nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad, aimed at Poland) but everything to do with technical issues. They offered instead a Patriot short-range missile defense system, to be manned by U.S. personnel.

We're now seeing two results of that policy:

-- a senior Russian official threatened that Russia would not permit the stationing of the Patriot system, complete with American personnel, on Polish soil.

-- the Polish and Swedish foreign ministers called for the withdrawal of both American and Russian tactical nuclear weapons from Europe.

Here's my guess as to how the United States will respond: First, it will pretend that no Russian threat exists; then it will find an excuse not to deploy the Patriot system. What's more, it will find nothing to criticize in the call for eliminating tactical nuclear weapons - after all, Obama wants a new universal ban on nuclear weapons.

The American public won't respond, because it'll be too distracted by some domestic issue, and our ties to countries like Poland, who so wanted to be our close allies, will fray and diminish.

Ain't it great not to be Number One any more, and to renounce our attempt to dominate other countries? Get used to it; there will be more debacles like this one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hezbollah arming in South Lebanon

A senior U.S. official has expressed concern that Hezbollah rearmament in southern Lebanon may be the prelude to a new outbreak of war. I always thought Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a big mistake when he allowed a UN peacekeeping force, under European leadership, to patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border. At least on paper, their job was to keep precisely this from happening. However, since they never patrolled at night ... (Thanks to Daily Alert.)

More on universal jurisdiction

Remember the Israelis, including former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who declined to travel to the United Kingdom after discovering that they'd be arrested for war crimes if they did? Well, the British government pledged to fix that problem ... but hasn't.

As the weeks go by, it appears that Justice Minister Jack Straw is the chief obstacle. He is "known to be highly sensitive to the views of his Muslim constituents in Blackburn and is close to the Muslim Council of Britain, which opposes a change to the law."

On the other hand, Prime Minister Gordon Brown hasn't taken a clear position in support of the proposal; were he to do so, Straw would presumably have to act. If no proposal is submitted to Parliament by February 12, it is unlikely that the law will be changed in the coming months, due to upcoming elections. (Thanks to Daily Alert.)