Saturday, June 18, 2011

Erdogan’s Imperial wet dreams

From HotAiur Greenroom, 13 June 2011, by J.E. Dyer:

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a comfortable majority in Turkey’s parliamentary election on 12 June – not enough to change the national constitution without the agreement of a parliamentary coalition, but a solid 325 or so out of 550 seats, and a higher margin of victory than AKP achieved in 2007.

Erdogan wasted no time projecting a decidedly Ottoman-sounding theme in his victory speech. According to foreign media:
In his victory speech, Mr Erdogan … alluded to Turkey’s aspiration to be a voice in the West for the Middle Eastern region and Muslims, saying Bosnians, Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians also benefited from his victory.

“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul, Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, the West Bank, Jerusalem won as much as Diyarbakir.”
Imagine Nicolas Sarkozy proclaiming in a victory speech that Moscow had won as much as Paris, Washington as much as Lyon, Ankara as much as Marseilles. Equally to the point, imagine David Cameron announcing that New Delhi had won, as much as London; Boston as much as York; Dublin as much as Leeds.

You can’t. Because it is freighted wording – imperialist at worst, absurdly arrogant at best – to speak of your electoral victories as conferring benefits on foreign humanity – especially on those once occupied by your nation in its days of empire.

Granted, Barack Obama spoke in arguably similar terms after his election to the Oval Office. He didn’t make the case explicitly, but there was an implied “Cairo won, as much as Washington” theme in his early speeches. So you could make the case that he started it, if you wanted to put in the effort.
But Erdogan’s references are awful darn particular. Sarajevo, Damascus, Beirut, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. The tenor of his appeal is both Islamist and Ottoman – and, of course, from a historical perspective, the two go together. The West’s most recent memories of Islamic conquest involve the Ottoman Empire, which controlled parts of the Balkans – gained in bloody wars of conquest and occupation – right up to the last years before World War I.

Sarajevo, in particular, was an emblem of Ottoman conquest, much as Cordoba, Spain was an emblem of conquest by the Muslim Umayyads several hundred years earlier. Sarajevo’s Ottoman conquerors used the city as a capital from the mid-15th to the late 17th century. Although they were driven out of it by Austria-Hungary in 1697, after their defeat at the “gates of Vienna” in the previous decade, Ottoman rule continued in much of the Balkans, including Sarajevo, for two more centuries. Ottoman officials put down revolts mounted by Bosnian Serbs in the Sarajevo of the 1830s, and it was not until 1878 that Austria-Hungary wrested Sarajevo from Istanbul for good. The Ottomans continued to rule parts of the Balkans until the First Balkan War in 1912.

Erdogan’s allusion to Sarajevo is the exact opposite of a throw-away line. He knows perfectly well how incendiary the reference is for East Europeans – just as he knows that naming cities in the West Bank one after another, and concluding with “Jerusalem” (which he called Al-Quds), implies a direct Turkish interest in the disposition of these cities that evokes the era when they, too, were under Ottoman rule.

His rhetorical pairing of Ramallah and Jerusalem with Diyarbakir is of particular interest, considering that Diyarbakir is in a majority Kurdish area of Turkey, and regularly exploded in protest in the weeks leading up the 12 June election. Many in Diyarbakir would disagree that Erdogan’s win was a win for them; his outreach gesture of allowing the Kurdish nationalist party to field candidates in this election resulted in several jailed Kurdish leaders, deemed terrorists by the central government, being elected to parliament. Their status is unclear, and a number of observers think the electoral gains by the Kurds will only encourage them to press harder for autonomy. But Erdogan’s going to “name it and claim it” anyway. The implied signal to the Palestinian Arabs seems dubious, at best.

Perhaps most interesting of all is Erdogan’s list itself. Sarajevo, Damascus, Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem. In four of these former Ottoman holdings, there is, or has been, an acknowledged modern dispute over sovereignty. But what about Damascus? Should the Assads – or Iran – be alarmed that it was on Erdogan’s list? Does Damascus need the healing hand of Erdogan and the AKP? Or is Syria – but not Jordan, Egypt, or Iraq – considered by Erdogan to be properly in modern Turkey’s “sphere”?

The answers to these questions and others we will presumably discern in the days ahead. But there he is, folks. 

[Erdogan ] The new voice of the Middle East in the West – representing Muslims from Sarajevo to Jerusalem.

Massacres in Syria, UN Debates Israel

UN Watch Statement to the UN Human Rights Council on Agenda Item 7: “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories” delivered by Hillel Neuer, June 14 [FOLLOW THE LINKS TO TAKE ACTION BY EMAIL]:

Mr. President,

History will record that the highest human rights body of the United Nations met today for no objective reason. Nothing in recent events, nothing in logic, nothing in human rights justifies today’s debate.

Our meeting is automatic—the consequence of a decision adopted four years ago, shortly after this council was created, to keep a permanent agenda item on one country only: Israel.

History will record that at a time when citizens across the Middle East were being attacked by their own government—by rifles, tanks, and helicopters—the UN focused its scarce time and attention on a country in that region where this is not happening; the only country in the region which, despite its flaws, respects the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion; the only country in the region with free elections, an independent judiciary, and the equal treatment of women; the only country where gays are not persecuted, arrested or stoned to death, but, on the contrary, march in their own annual parade, as they did in Tel Aviv three days ago.

Mr. President, that is why the logic of this agenda item represents the opposite of human rights, and why it embodies the pathologies that so discredited this council’s predecessor.

Indeed, this item is so unjust, so biased, so selective, so politicized, and so contradictory to this council’s own principles of equality and universality, that it was condemned by the Secretary-General himself, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, on 20 June 2007, the day after its adoption.

And so we ask: In its recent 5-year review, despite everything happening in the Middle East, why did the Council decide to perpetuate this item, an act that will be finalized this week by the General Assembly?

Mr. President,

History will record that when citizens were being persecuted or massacred by their own governments—in Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and elsewhere—the UN chose to turn a blind eye to the victims, and instead endorsed the cynicism, hypocrisy and scapegoating of the perpetrators.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Colonel Richard Kemp: A True Friend

From Honest Reporting, June 13, 2011, by Simon Plosker:

Richard Kemp
Today, Israel faces a conspiracy of delegitimization, which aims to give validity and justification to attacks on Israel by groups such as Iran’s proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, allowing them to strike at Israel with impunity, and encouraging the view that any retaliatory or defensive measures by Israel are by definition disproportionate and should be criminalized.

The more traction this idea is allowed to gain, the greater the instability between Israel and its neighbors. This lessens the chances of any lasting peace, and consequently increases the blood that will be shed on all sides in the region.

The most powerful weapons in this conspiracy are legal, diplomatic and media. Fundamentally, we are talking about a war of words, words that are given unprecedented potency by the internet, by the globalization of the 21st century.

If this is a war of words, we must also use words to counter attack.

On June 12 I had the privilege to hear retired British Army Colonel Richard Kemp speaking in Tel Aviv. To recall, Kemp was an almost lone voice in defending the actions of the IDF during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. He testified before the UN, opposing the Goldstone Report, saying that no army in the history of warfare had done as much as the IDF to avoid civilian casualties. (See video below.)

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I had the opportunity to ask Col. Kemp about the personal cost he has paid for standing up for Israel. He said that there was no longer any neutral opinion concerning Israel in the UK. You were either anti-Zionist or treated as a nutcase and with considerable contempt.

However, despite the vitriol to which he has been exposed, he declared that he supported Israel because it was the decent and right thing to do and that he was proud to be criticized by those who wished Israel harm.

He mentioned other incidents where Western armies have made mistakes resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties or examples of naval blockades enforced by other navies in similar fashion to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Yet, in none of those cases did the media react in the same manner as they do when Israel is involved.

Kemp also referred to an international conspiracy to delegitimize Israel as her enemies were in no position to defeat Israel on the battlefield.

Colonel Kemp – I salute you. As a respected former member of Britain’s armed forces with over thirty years experience, including commanding British forces in Afghanistan, you have no need to stick your neck out on Israel’s behalf. But you have and that is the sign of a true friend.

Read Kemp’s full speech here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Egyptian delusions

If the Grapel scandal is an indication of where the Arab Spring’s winds of change are headed, the portents are dismal indeed.

You need not be privy to classified intelligence information or have an intimate familiarity with the inner workings of Israel’s undercover agencies to grasp that Egyptian allegations of espionage leveled against against American-born Ilan Grapel, 27, are baseless.

“Delusional” was the way Grapel’s distraught mother Irene aptly put it, while father Daniel chose “totally false.” A senior government official traveling with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Rome added, as if it were necessary to make such clarifications, that there was not a shred of truth to the claim that Grapel was connected to the Mossad.

Grapel, known for his left-wing political views and love for Arabic, is a third-year law student from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been in Cairo since May 10 volunteering at St. Andrews Refugee Services as part of a program to advance democracy and constitutional rights in the Middle East. Something of a joker, Grapel cited on his Facebook page “preaching” at Al-Azhar University in Cairo as his job.

Egyptian officials do not merely lack a sense of humor, however. They are cynically exploiting the fact that Grapel made aliya and served as a paratrooper in the IDF (and was wounded in action during the 2006 Second Lebanon War) to remake him unfoundedly as a ruthless Mossad agent. A unit in the Egyptian security forces whose only job is to uncover Israeli espionage attempts has apparently concocted a story about Grapel to justify its own existence.

In this hallucinatory parallel world, young, adventurous Americans like Grapel are singled out and charged with outrageous, trumped-up charges: The Mossad, not Emory University, runs the absurd Egyptian security narrative, sent Grapel to Egypt to take advantage of a supposed “security vacuum” created in the wake of January’s Tahrir Square uprising. “Saeed,” a spokesman for Egypt’s general prosecutor, told CNN that Grapel, who had been followed “for months,” had been recruiting “informants” to provide Israel with vital military and political information. The purportedly “undercover” Grapel, who in actual fact openly posted his day to day activities on Facebook, was further alleged to have attempted to incite sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians (as if Egyptian Muslims needed any outside encouragement not already provided by radical Muslim religious leaders, who regularly incite against the embattled Coptic community).

Egyptian newspapers have lapped the story up, featuring it on their front pages Monday alongside photos of Grapel republished from his Facebook account. “Egypt arrests Israeli Intelligence Officer, a big blow to the Israeli Mossad Intelligence Agency,” one typically truth-deficient headline said.

SADDER STILL, it would be misleading to view the Grapel fiasco as simply a peculiar blip.

Anti-Semitism and anti- Israeli sentiments run deep in Egypt.
As Rivka Yadlin, a student of Egyptian anti-Semitism, pointed out two decades ago,

“The abominable traits expressed in the behavior of Israel are perceived as singular, inherent and intrinsic in its very Jewish being. They are inherited within the Jewish community and are thus shared by the whole of Israel as well as by other Jews.”

Little has changed since.

And Egyptians seem to have a particular fascination with the Mossad. Last December, for instance, when a 70- year-old German snorkeler washed up dead on the Red Sea shore with shark bites in her right thigh and right elbow, Egyptian officials claimed it was a Mossad plot. “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hurt tourism in Egypt is not out of the question...,” South Sinai Gov. Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha was quoted as saying by state news site

A month before, Mostafa al-Feki, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Egypt’s People’s Assembly, claimed that the Mossad was behind violent clashes between Copts and Muslims. The fact that an increasingly Islamist Egyptian bureaucracy had refused to provide a construction permit for a new Coptic church was conveniently ignored by Feki.

WITH US State Department officials involved, it appears likely that Egypt will eventually relent and free Grapel. The sooner the better.

Those responsible for inventing the baseless accusations against him will doubtless never admit their folly, however. And what should give pause for concern – not just to Israelis but to all who value justice – is the ease with which such blatantly anti-Israel claims can be concocted and spread and believed by a captive Egyptian public regularly bombarded with anti-Israeli propaganda.

If the Grapel scandal is an indication of where the Arab Spring’s winds of change are headed, the portents are dismal indeed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ten crucial lessons of the Six-Day War

From, 14 June 2011, by David A. Harris:

Forty-four years ago this week, the Six-Day War broke out.

While some wars fade into obscurity, this one remains as relevant today as in 1967. Many of its core issues remain unresolved and in the news.

Politicians, diplomats, and journalists continue to grapple with the consequences of that war, but rarely provide context. Yet without context, some critically important things may not make sense.

First, in June 1967, there was no state of Palestine. It didn't exist and never had.
Its creation, proposed by the UN in 1947, was rejected by the Arab world because it also meant the establishment of a Jewish state alongside.

Second, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands.
Violating solemn agreements, Jordan denied Jews access to their holiest places in eastern Jerusalem. To make matters still worse, they destroyed many of those sites.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian control, with harsh military rule imposed on local residents.

And the Golan Heights, which were regularly used to shell Israeli communities far below, belonged to Syria.

Third, the Arab world could have created a Palestinian state in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip any day of the week. They didn't.
There wasn't even discussion about it. And Arab leaders, who today profess such attachment to eastern Jerusalem, rarely, if ever, visited. It was viewed as an Arab backwater.

Fourth, the 1967 boundary at the time of the war, so much in the news these days, was nothing more than an armistice line dating back to 1949 -- familiarly known as the Green Line.
That's after five Arab armies attacked Israel in 1948 with the aim of destroying the embryonic Jewish state. They failed. Armistice lines were drawn, but they weren't formal borders. They couldn't be. The Arab world, even in defeat, refused to recognize Israel's very right to exist.

Fifth, the PLO, which supported the war effort, was established in 1964, three years before the conflict erupted. That's important because it was created with the goal of obliterating Israel. Remember that in 1964 the only "settlements" were Israel itself.

Sixth, in the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War, Egyptian and Syrian leaders repeatedly declared that war was coming and their objective was to wipe Israel off the map.
There was no ambiguity. Twenty-two years after the Holocaust, another enemy spoke about the extermination of Jews. The record is well-documented.

The record is equally well-documented that Israel, in the days leading up to the war, passed word to Jordan, via the UN and United States, urging Amman to stay out of any pending conflict. Jordan's King Hussein ignored the Israeli plea and tied his fate to Egypt and Syria. His forces were defeated by Israel, and he lost control of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

Seventh, Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser demanded that UN peacekeeping forces in the area, in place for the previous decade to prevent conflict, be removed.
Shamefully, the UN complied. That left no buffer between Arab armies being mobilized and deployed and Israeli forces in a country one-fiftieth the size of Egypt -- and just nine miles wide at its narrowest point.

Eighth, Egypt blocked Israeli shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Israel's only maritime access to trading routes with Asia and Africa. This step was regarded as an act of war by Jerusalem.
The United States spoke about joining with other countries to break the blockade, but did not act.

Ninth, France, which had been Israel's principal arms supplier, announced a ban on the sale of weapons on the eve of the June war.
That left Israel in potentially grave danger if a war were to drag on and require the resupply of arms. It was not until the next year that the U.S. stepped into the breach and sold vital weapons systems to Israel.

And finally, after winning the war of self-defense, Israel hoped that its newly-acquired territories, seized from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, would be the basis of a land-for-peace accord. Feelers were sent out. The formal response came on September 1, 1967, when the Arab Summit Conference famously declared in Khartoum "No peace, no recognition, no negotiations" with Israel.

Today, there are those who wish to rewrite history.

They want the world to believe there was once a Palestinian state. There was not.

They want the world to believe there were fixed borders between that state and Israel. There was only an armistice line between Israel and the Jordanian-controlled West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.

They want the world to believe the 1967 war was a bellicose act by Israel. It was an act of self-defense in the face of blood-curdling threats to vanquish the Jewish state, not to mention the maritime blockade of the Straits of Tiran, the abrupt withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces, and the redeployment of Egyptian and Syrian troops. All wars have consequences; this one was no exception. But the Arab aggressors have failed to take responsibility for the actions they instigated.

They want the world to believe post-1967 Israeli settlement-building is the key to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Six-Day War is proof positive that the core issue is, and always has been, whether the Arab world accepts the Jewish people's right to a state of their own. If so, all other contentious issues, however difficult, have possible solutions.

And they want the world to believe the Arab world had nothing against Jews per se, only Israel, yet trampled with abandon on sites of sacred meaning to the Jewish people.

In other words, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, dismissing the past as if it were a minor irritant at best, irrelevant at worst, won't work.

Can history move forward? Absolutely. Israel's peace treaties with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 prove the point. At the same time, though, the lessons of the Six-Day War illustrate just how tough and tortuous the path can be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tribute to Al Schwimmer, founder of Israel's airforce and Israel Aircraft Industries

Al Schwimmer, who died on Saturday at 94 and whose funeral was held on Monday, was branded a “legend” by President Shimon Peres for his vital life’s work in Israeli aviation. This extract from the book Start- Up Nation, the best-seller on Israel’s “economic miracle” by Dan Senor and former Jerusalem Post staffer Saul Singer, is posted as a tribute to Al Schwimmer and an inspiration to Jewish ingenuity and support for Israel:
...Al Schwimmer was a raconteur, who’d been captivated by the airline business in its earliest days, when flying machines were an exotic novelty.

He was working for TWA when the United States entered World War II and the entire airline was drafted into the war effort. Though not officially in the US Air Force, Schwimmer and his fellow fliers were given military ranks and uniforms and spent the war ferrying troops, equipment, and the occasional movie star all over the world.

During the war, Schwimmer’s identity as a Jew meant little to him and had almost no influence on his thinking or way of life. But seeing a liberated concentration camp and the newsreel footage of countless bodies and speaking with Jewish refugees in Europe trying to reach Palestine transformed him.

Almost overnight, Schwimmer became a committed Zionist.

When he heard that the British in Palestine were turning back ships full of European Jewish refugees, Schwimmer came up with what he was convinced was a better way: fly over the British Navy patrols and smuggle the Jews in by landing them at hidden air-fields. He tracked down Ben-Gurion’s secret emissary in New York and pitched him the idea. For months, the representative of the Haganah, the main underground Jewish army in Palestine, sat on the idea. But when it became clear that the British would soon withdraw and a fullscale Arab-Jewish war over Israel’s independence would ensue, the Haganah contacted Schwimmer.

By this time, they had an even more urgent need than smuggling refugees: building an air force. The Haganah did not have a single aircraft and would be completely exposed to the Egyptian air force. Could Schwimmer buy and repair fighter planes and smuggle them into Israel? Schwimmer told Ben-Gurion’s agents that he’d start immediately...

Within days, Schwimmer had tracked down a handful of Jewish pilots and mechanics from the United States and the United Kingdom, for what he told them would be the first civilian Jewish air-line. He was obsessed with secrecy, and did not even want to bring them into the fold about the idea of building fighter planes. Few were even informed that the planes were destined for Israel.

When outsiders inquired, the cover story was that they were building a national airline for Panama and would ferry cattle to Europe.

Though the FBI impounded the largest aircraft he bought – three Constellations – Schwimmer and his gang succeeded in smuggling out other aircraft, some by literally flying over the heads of the FBI agents who’d demanded that the planes be grounded. At the last minute, the Haganah cut a separate deal to buy German Messerschmitts from Czechoslovakia, which Schwimmer was also drafted to fly to Israel.

WHEN THE 1948 War of Independence came, Schwimmer’s aircraft fought off Egyptian planes that were bombing Tel Aviv. In certain battles, the barely trained Israeli pilots were instrumental in ensuring that the Negev desert – a relatively large triangular swath of land starting a few miles south of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, between the Egyptian Sinai and Jordan – became part of Israel.

After Israel prevailed in the War of Independence, Schwimmer returned to the United States...

...By 1950, Schwimmer had joined forces with Shimon Peres, then a young Ben-Gurion protégé working for the new Israeli Defense Ministry. Peres had tried to buy thirty surplus Mustang aircraft for the Israeli Air Force, but the United States had decided to destroy the planes instead. Their wings were sliced off and their fuselages cut in two.

So Schwimmer’s team bought the cutup planes at cost from a Texas junk dealer, reconstructed them, and made sure they had all their parts and were operational.

Then the team disassembled the planes again, packed them in crates marked “Irrigation Equipment,” and shipped them to Israel.

But because of the urgency with which they had to get the aircraft to Israel, a few of the planes were left assembled, and Schwimmer and Peres flew these to Tel Aviv. And that is how they found themselves in 1951 talking about a future Israeli aviation industry.

Peres became captivated by Schwimmer’s ideas for creating an aircraft industry in Israel that would serve a purpose beyond a short-term military strategy...

Schwimmer insisted that in a world flooded with surplus aircraft from the war, there was no reason why Israel could not buy planes cheaply, repair and improve them, and sell them to militaries and airlines in many countries, while building Israel’s own commercial industry.

...Unbeknownst to Schwimmer, Ben- Gurion had recently instructed the Technion to build an aeronautical engineering department. In giving the order, he’d said, “a high standard of living; a rich culture; spiritual, political and economic independence...are not possible without aerial control.”

... Within five years, Bedek, the airplane maintenance company [Schwimmer ] founded with two Israelis, became the largest private employer in the country.

By 1960 Bedek was producing a modified version of the French Fouga fighter plane. At an official unveiling and test flight of the plane, dubbed Tzukit (“swallow” in Hebrew), Ben- Gurion told Schwimmer, “This place isn’t just Bedek anymore. You’ve gone beyond repairs. You guys have built a jet. The new name should be Israel Aircraft Industries.” Peres, who by now was deputy defense minister, translated the new company name.

Peres and Ben-Gurion had managed to recruit an American Jew to provide one of the biggest long-term jolts to Israel’s economy, all without asking anyone for one investment dollar.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gingrich blasts Obama over Israel

From CNN, 13 June 2011:

Republican Newt Gingrich ...Appearing before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Beverly Hills... focused almost the entirety of his speech on Israel and the Middle East.

"Both Israel and America are at a dangerous crossroads at which the survival of Israel and the safety of the United States both hang in the balance," Gingrich said.

Gingrich told the audience that peace with the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas is an impossible goal.

... he vowed, if elected, to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

And blasted as "dangerous" recent speeches by President Barack Obama calling for Israel and the Palestinians to restart peace talks with the 1967 borders as a starting point.

"President Obama... wants Israel to accept the indefensible lines of 1967 as the starting point of negotiations. Accepting such a proposal would be a suicidal step for Israel," Gingrich said....

Gulf Monarchies Confront the “Arab Spring"

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 144, June 12, 2011, by Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The events of the “Arab Spring” are still unfolding, but for the monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), this “spring” offers little promise.

The threat emanating from Iran as well as the lack of confidence in US support gives the Gulf states much to fear and has imbued the GCC with newfound unity and purpose.

Recent bids by Morocco and Jordan for membership in what has been, until now, a Persian Gulf organization signifies that the conservative monarchies of the Middle East are determined to protect the status quo in the face of shifting alliances brought about by regional developments.

The GCC, an alliance of Sunni Arab Gulf monarchies, was formed in May 1981 in response to the 1979 Shiite Iranian Islamic Revolution. While attempts at economic integration among these states failed – despite their shared cultural characteristics and oil wealth – the recent revolutions in the Arab world have breathed new life into the organization. For instance, the GCC military force, known as Peninsula Shield, has been revived and, in mid-March, it helped crush a Shiite revolt in Bahrain that was widely believed to be supported by Iran.

The US is generally perceived in the Gulf to have become inadequate in defending it against Iranian influence and to have abandoned its regional allies. Saudi analyst Nawaf Obaid wrote in the Washington Post on May 16:

As Riyadh fights a cold war with Tehran, Washington has shown itself in recent months to be an unwilling and unreliable partner against this threat. The emerging political reality is a Saudi-led Arab world facing off against the aggression of Iran and its non-state proxies.... Saudi Arabia will not allow the political unrest in the region to destabilize the Arab monarchies — the Gulf states, Jordan and Morocco.
Monarchies, Unite!
Recent bids by Jordan and Morocco to join the GCC – despite not being situated in the Persian Gulf – have been welcomed by the Council. Saudi Arabia, which controls the GCC, and ally Bahrain showed great support for this move. But the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas reported that Oman, Kuwait and Qatar had some hesitations, preferring a membership status limited to culture and sport.

Yet the public announcement of the bids by GCC Secretary General Abdul Latif al-Zayani on May 10, 2011, was more an important statement of intent than a plan of action. Yemen, after all, had applied for GCC membership years ago and its accession was not very likely. The GCC states were conveying to the Arabs and to the world that monarchies are a stable form of government in the region. And, since they face similar threats that challenge the status quo, they must band together.

These kinds of alliances, or blocs, are not new to the Middle East. The Baghdad Pact of 1955 united Britain, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan against Egyptian-led Nasserism and Soviet infiltration. Similarly, in March 1991, after Kuwait had been liberated from Iraq by a US-led coalition that included Egyptian and Syrian forces, the GCC states joined Cairo and Damascus in signing the Damascus Declaration. The declaration embodied a GCC promise of financial help for Egypt and Syria, and Egyptian and Syrian armed forces stationed in the Gulf were referred to as a “nucleus for an Arab peace force to be prepared to guarantee the security and safety of the Arab states in the Gulf region.”

While the Baghdad Pact and Damascus Declaration were short-lived arrangements – reflecting both the reality of the times and the precariousness of such fleeting alliances – the proposed GCC expansion seems to reflect more than just shared sentiment.

In Jordan’s case, its professional, tribe-based, Sunni military force could provide serious backing in the case of an Iranian-inspired Shiite uprising in the Gulf states. King Abdullah II was in fact one of the first to sound the alarm about Iran’s growing influence, stressing, in December 2004, that a “Shiite crescent” was threatening the Sunni world. And, economically strapped Jordan could certainly use some Gulf lucre. Morocco could also benefit from GCC financial support. Its royal family is linked by marriage to the Saudi royals, several of which maintain homes there, adding an additional level of monarchical solidarity.

There seems to be a closing of ranks and a newfound unity of purpose to the GCC. The embracing of Jordan and Morocco certainly reflects serious concerns over the threat of Iran and indicates a revolution against the status quo and a lack of confidence in US support.

Keeping Iran at Bay
Iranian leaders have been fanning the flames of hostility already deeply felt by the Arab Gulf states. In early May, General Hasan Firouzabadi, head of Iran’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, lashed out at the Saudi presence in Bahrain, stating that “unfair and un-Islamic moves will hurt the honor of Muslims in Saudi Arabia, and it will threaten the security of Saudi Arabia.” Senior Revolutionary Guards member Mustafa Mlkotien further called for the training of Shiite cells in Bahrain to carry out sabotage missions in Saudi Arabia.

The GCC denounced statements such as those by Firouzabadi as being “aggressive and reflecting [Iran’s] expansionist intentions.” When Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi subsequently visited the Gulf countries, the Saudi government refused to meet with him. Saudi sources said that in order to agree to a meeting with Salehi, Iran would first have to apologize for the vandalism to its consulate in Mashhad and the attack on its embassy in Tehran.

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz had told his cabinet in mid-March that the GCC would remain united against any outside country which threatened a member state. To emphasize this point, it was announced that Saudi forces would remain in Bahrain even after the lifting of emergency rule in June. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Shaykh Khalid Al Khalifa, told PBS NewsHour that the Gulf countries were looking for ways to expand the GCC forces in order “to have multiple bases everywhere in the GCC.”

Meanwhile, on May 16, a Saudi diplomat was gunned down in Karachi, Pakistan, just four days after a grenade attack on the city’s Saudi consulate. While the Pakistani Taliban claimed credit, the Saudi press blamed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

GCC vs. US Interests
The Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, have signaled strongly to the Obama administration that they will be following a more assertive policy towards Iran, “at times conflicting with American interests,” according to Saudi analyst Nawaf Obaid.

Indeed, the GCC states have been diversifying their defense contacts, with Saudi Arabia approaching various Central Asian states, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan to assess potential military assistance. The possibility of integrating Pakistani forces with Saudi forces already in Bahrain was examined. Furthermore, Malaysia demonstrated its willingness to send troops to Bahrain during a visit to Riyadh by Prime Minister Najib Razak. “Malaysia fully backs all sovereign decisions taken by Saudi Arabia and GCC states to safeguard the stability and security of the region in these trying times," he said.

But it is not so clear that the US opposes a more aggressive Gulf stance towards Iran. While Obaid talked petulantly about “recalibrating” the partnership with the US, Saudi defense cooperation with America has been proceeding apace. Beyond the $60 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia announced by the US in October 2010, the US Navy disclosed in early April 2011 that Riyadh had requested from Washington a proposal for the supply of warships with integrated air and Aegis missile defense systems, as well as helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure. The US, as well, was apparently continuing to train a new Facilities Security Force (FSF) designed to protect sensitive Saudi oil installations. Overseen by Central Command through the Office of the Program Manager-Facilities Securities Force (OPM-FSF), the unit was expected, over time, to reach 35,000 strong.

As far as the US commitment to Saudi security is concerned, it is business as usual, and the Saudis know that. In mid-May the US Defense Department announced to Congress that the Saudis were looking to buy another $330 million worth of military equipment. This time the purchase was to include thermal gun sights, night vision goggles and aiming lasers. During May, as well, over 20 US defense and security companies joined in a trade mission to Saudi Arabia headed by former American Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

In his May 19 speech, President Obama stated: “There will be times when our short-term interests do not align perfectly with our long-term vision of the region.” It is clear that the US and the Saudis will not always see eye-to-eye and at times may conceive of security interests differently. But in the grand scheme of things, the US shares with the Saudis and the other GCC countries a desire for stability and the free flow of oil. Iran is a threat to this strategic goal.

It seems that for the time being the US will let the Saudis have their way. Despite Saudi talk of recalibration, both Washington and Riyadh know that when push comes to shove, the United States has Saudi Arabia’s back.

*Dr. Joshua Teitelbaum is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, principal research associate at the IDC’s GLORIA Center, and a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University. He is also a visiting fellow and contributor to the Task Force on Islamism and the International Order at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. His latest book is Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape (Stanford: Hoover Press).

What Islamists plan for our wives and daughters

From Translating Jihad, 31 May 2011:

...Egyptian Salafi Shaykh Abi-Ishaq al-Huwayni:

We are in the era of jihad.

The era of jihad has come over us, and jihad in the path of Allah is a pleasure. It is a real pleasure.

... The poverty that we’re in—is it not due to our abandonment of jihad? But if we could conduct one, two, or three jihadist operations every year, many people throughout the earth would become Muslims. And whoever rejected this da’wa, or stood in our way, we would fight against him and take him prisoner, and confiscate his wealth, his children, and his women—all of this means money.

Every mujahid who returned from jihad, his pockets would be full. He would return with 3 or 4 slaves, 3 or 4 women, and 3 or 4 children. Multiply each head by 300 dirhams, or 300 dinar, and you have a good amount of profit. If he were to go to the West and work on a commercial deal, he would not make that much money.

Whenever things became difficult (financially), he could take the head (i.e. the prisoner) and sell it, and ease his (financial) crisis. He would sell it like groceries....

From Jihad Watch, 12 June 2011:

Egyptian imam: "When I want a sex slave, I just go to the market and choose the woman I like and purchase her"

This is the second Islamic spokesman to speak out in favor of sex slavery in recent days [see above, from Translating Jihad].

...After Egyptian Shaykh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni's controversial comments about jihad and slavery (see here) were published on YouTube, Facebook, and also in Egyptian press, he was given the opportunity to respond in a telephone interview aired on the Islamic satellite television station al-Hikma on 22 May 2011. In his approximately 20-minute response, he contended that ...he was talking ...of offensive jihad.

... he explained the meaning of offensive jihad, and established through sources in the Qur'an and sayings of Muhammad that both offensive jihad and the taking of spoils of war, namely slaves and "sex-slaves," are legitimate under Islam.

Jihad Watch condensed the 20-minute interview down to about 8 and a half minutes. Follow this link to their site to see the subtitled video and the transcript.

Turkey's Islamist Revolution

From Rubin Reports, 13 June 2011, by Barry Rubin:
...By the end of 2011 more than 250 million people in the Middle East may well be living under what are in reality anti-American Islamist governments, mainly in Iran, Turkey, and Egypt, plus the Gaza Strip and an allied (but not Islamist) Syrian regime...
The elections in Turkey mark a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth Islamist operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what has been going on.

Now we are at a turning point, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and now in Egypt. Of course, it will take time but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and of Islamism at home has been launched.

Here are the numbers from the parliamentary election:

The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system this will give it 325 members of parliament, or about 60 percent of the seats.

On the opposition side the social democratic Republican People's Party (CHP) got about 26 percent of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13 percent giving it 54 seats. There are also 36 independents, all of them Kurdish communalists. Eleven parties didn't make the minimum ten percent barrier (they received only about 1 percent or less each).

... On paper, then, while the AKP stays in power, it is very slightly weaker than before.

But the outcome is nonetheless overwhelmingly bad. ...The only point on which the AKP fell short is that it didn't get the two-thirds of the seats, 357, that would let it pretty much write Turkey's new constitution any way it wanted. It is, however, close to the 330 needed to take a constitution that it produced to a referendum.

...In short, the AKP is entrenched in power and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguised as a "center-right" reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support--Turkey has demonstrated this--it becomes more ambitious, daring, and extreme.

This would include:

--A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist state and society.

--A more presidential style of government empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become the chief executive.

--The government can now infiltrate, take over, and transform the remaining hold out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.

--A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hizballah, and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

--A government against U.S. and Western interests.

--A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel and many of whose members hate Jews.

--For Israel, any dreams of restoring the alliance with Turkey, or even a friendly relationship or normal diplomatic relations are finished. This is the regime that sponsored the first Gaza flotilla and is now behind the second one. From an Israeli interests’ perspective, Turkey’s government is now on the other side, the side of its enemies.

...This is a disastrous day for the United States and for Europe...And it isn't great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either.

It is the end of the republic as established by Kamal Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s....

BE PATIENT. "The window is closing" on radicalism, not on peace.

From The Asia Times Online, 7 June 2011, by Spengler [David P Goldman]:
Sometimes, the best thing to do is nothing at all.
A generation from now, the Palestinians will make peace with Israel, for a simple reason: they will grow up - literally. Palestinian Arabs comprise one of the fastest-aging populations in the word.

United States President Barack Obama was misinformed when he told the America-Israel Political Action Committee May 22 that "the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories".

In fact, Palestinian fertility on the West Bank has already converged on the Israeli fertility rate of three children per woman, if we believe the Palestine Ministry of Health rather than the Palestine Authority's Statistics Bureau.

There is endless debate about the Palestinian population numbers.
Israel's peace party has advanced the "demographic argument" for years, and has been consistently wrong. The decisive data point is that Palestinian Arab fertility has plunged and, in consequence, the Arab population will age rapidly. That augurs well for peace, a generation from now. After three-quarters of a century of warfare, starting with the 1937 Arab uprising against British rule in Palestine, it's not a hardship to wait one more generation.
In this regard,the Northern Ireland peace agreement of 1998 is worth revisiting....Leave aside the obvious differences (for example, every Catholic cleric of standing denounced Irish Republican Army terrorism, while plenty of prominent Muslim clerics endorse suicide bombing). Time heals some wounds. Northern Ireland's guerilla war between the Protestant majority and the Catholic minority ended in 1998 for a number of reasons.

Prominent among them was the simple fact that the hell-raising youngsters of the 1970s had become middle-aged fellows with jobs and families. Former Senator Mitchell negotiated the "Good Friday" agreement that effectively ended the conflict. But he resigned in frustration last month as President Obama's negotiator in the Middle East.

...By the time George Mitchell came around to mediate in 1998, the hell-raisers of 1970, or what was left of them, had families and gave some thought to how to pay a mortgage. Prison and bullets had winnowed the ranks of the hard core.

Distribution of Irish population by age group, 1970 vs 2010

Source: United Nations Population Division

Ireland's population was front-loaded into the teens and twenties back in 1970, when the troubles were at their worst. By 1998, the bulge in the population distribution had moved into the thirty-to-forty-year bracket.
The Irish got older, and got tired of killing. Something like this well may occur in the Palestinian territories over the next generation.

The data shown above for Ireland are quite accurate; Palestinian demographic data are notoriously unreliable, for the Palestine Authority records more phantom aid recipients than ever the Cook County Democratic Party recorded phantom voters.
According to an authoritative [Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 65] study by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies [Bar-Ilan University], the West Bank and Gaza population in 2004 was only 2.5 million, rather than the 3.8 million claimed by the Palestinian authorities. The numbers are inflated to increase foreign aid and exaggerate the importance of the Palestinian population.

The Begin-Sadat Center observes:
[The Palestine Central Bureau of Statistics] projected that the number of births in the Territories would total almost 908,000 for the seven-year period from 1997 to 2003. Yet, the actual number of births documented by the PA Ministry of Health for the same period was significantly lower at 699,000, or 238,000 fewer births than had been forecast by the PCBS... The size of the discrepancy accelerated over time. Whereas the PCBS predicted there would be over 143,000 births in 2003, the PA Ministry of Health reported only 102,000 births, which pointed to a PCBS forecast 40% beyond actual results.
The United Nations data are adopted without revision from the Palestinian statistics bureau, which inflates birth data by 25% to 40%, and also counts hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living abroad as if they were still residents. It is clear that the overall population estimates are much too high - perhaps by 1 million of the supposed 3.5 million total - but less clear how much of the overestimate is assigned to each age bracket.

Palestinian fertility, report by Statistics Bureau vs Palestine Ministry of Health
Sources: UN Population Division, Begin-Sadat Center
Bearing in mind that the data are unreliable, the age distribution chart below is nonetheless indicative.
Distribution of population in Palestinian Territories by age group, 2010 vs 2040 (projected)
Source: United Nations Population Division

Around 80,000 Palestinian men are employed by one or another of the "security forces" in Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestine Authority's grossly inflated numbers claim that there were 587,000 men aged 20 to 40 in the territories; the actual number is probably around 400,000, which means that one in five has a job carrying a gun. Taking unemployment into account, that implies that one in three Palestinian men with a full-time job is a gunman.

That may change over time. 5,800 Palestinians are working at technology companies on the West Bank, and the booming Israeli software sector is outsourcing to the West Bank, with a third of Palestinian software companies filling orders for Israeli firms, Bloomberg News reported March 15.

And the top school for Palestinian computer science students is Ariel University in Samaria, in the midst of a settlement near Nablus. "Administrators at the Ariel University Center are proud to have the Arab students, saying their enrollment is an example of loyalty and equality among Israeli citizens. For their part, the Arab students seem not to feel uncomfortable attending the college despite its reputation and location," wrote the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"On campus the fact that we are in occupied territory is irrelevant - it doesn't affect us at all. We leave all the politics outside," the Chronicle quoted Manar Dewany, a 20-year-old student in math and computer science who commutes each day from the Israeli Arab town of Taybeh. "I never even considered it a reason for not coming here," Ms Dewany added. "I have no problem with it. Why not come here? This place is full of Arabs."

No one outsources computer technology to Egypt, where very few of each year's crop of 700,000 college graduates meets world standards. The education that young Arabs receive at the settlers' university on the West Bank is better than anything available among Israel's Arab neighbors. In a quiet way, the settlers of Samaria may do more for peace than the diplomats.

By 2040, the stone-throwing kids of the First Intifada will be close to retirement age, and the gun-toting young men who dominate today's Palestinian employment picture (or those who still are alive) will have families. If they missed out on high-tech jobs, the spillover from the West Bank's economic growth - driven in turn by Israel's economic miracle - will keep them employed in service industries. Absent additional violence, the West Bank will flourish while Egypt and Syria descend into penury and chaos.

There is no urgency to make peace, except in the minds of the Palestinians' present leaders. The world has allowed them to rule a little fiefdom as warlords of private armies, with little accounting for billions in foreign aid, and the opportunity to indulge in a grand ideological tantrum on the tab of Western donors.

The window is closing for radical Islam. That makes the present an exceptionally dangerous period, because the radicals know that it is closing.
Contrary to what Obama said on May 22, the radicals understand better than anyone else that time and demographics are against them. The Palestinians of the West Bank are better off than any other Arabs in the region by any tangible measure - health, literacy, higher education, per capital income.

They have the good luck to reside next to one of the world's most dynamic economies. In a generation the world may have moved beyond the likes of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That gives Abbas an incentive to gamble while he still has chips on the table.
If the radicals can be contained through the present generation, though, they can be extirpated in the next. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kiddush clubs declare boycott on Scotch whiskies.

From JPost, 12 June 2011, by Samuel Sokol:

Will Turkey choose dictatorship?

From The Washington Post, 11 June 2011, by Gul Tuysuz:

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s ruling party expected to easily win parliamentary elections on Sunday. [but read an alternative view, below - SL]

But the true test for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will come after the elections, when it hopes to start rewriting the country’s constitution. ... the lingering question of the party’s commitment to democracy weighs heavily on the electorate.

...According to recent polls, the AKP is expected to take 44 to 50 percent of the vote, with the leading opposition party, the secularist Republican People’s Party, getting 25 to 32 percent. The AKP needs 330 seats in the 550-seat parliament to take a new constitution to a public vote, much like the one it won last year. Whether they can get such a large number of seats depends on the ultranationalist party passing the election threshold and the performance of independent candidates put forth by the Kurdish party.

Erdogan has been urging voters to give AKP the votes necessary for it to get a parliamentary super-majority. With such a majority, it may be possible for Erdogan to establish a presidential system. He has said such a system is “what lies in my heart.”

Erdogan, with his fiery temper and defiant style, has not allayed fears that what he wants is perpetual power to rule Turkey. His opponents believe that the inclusive presidential systems characteristic of Western democracies are not the model the AKP has in mind. “From prime minister to president, and president to prime minister out of convenience: This, I’m afraid, is the AKP model,” said Ali Carkoglu, a professor of political science at Koc University, suggesting that Erdogan’s inspiration comes from Russia.

...The police’s rough treatment of protesters at Erdogan rallies set off a wave of other protests. Free-speech issues have come into question with a new Internet filtering system set to take effect in August, which would ban pornography as well as content deemed subversive to the unity of the state. Freedom of the press, critics say, has largely been curtailed due to overambitious court cases aimed at the military for plotting a coup. Some journalists have been detained for conspiring to overthrow the government and for belonging to terrorist organizations.

Even people optimistic that a constitution drafted by the ruling party will bring more freedom fear that Erdogan’s personality may make it difficult for Turkey to transition to a presidential system without sliding into authoritarianism....

From a(n anonymous) Turkish friend of Barry Rubin's, 11 June 2011:

On Sunday, June 12th, Turkish voters go to the ballot box to decide if they want to extend to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP another four years in charge of the nation. The international media - though more hesitant to get behind Erdogan this time after watching the already flawed Turkish democracy turn into an authoritarian state with tens of journalists and even more opposition figures jailed in increasing numbers in the last three years - anticipates another easy victory for the AKP.

However, the Economist and several other publications have expressed their concern about Erdogan running haywire and turning into an unmanageable dictator if his party is able get a super-majority that would allow them to change the constitution without having any regard for others' perspectives on the issue. This will certainly be the case if the AKP indeed wins 367 seats (out of 550).
But not so fast. Facts in Turkey are not as they seem from the Cihangir cafes (all within 10 blocks or so) where the foreign journalists in Turkey hang out and think they then know everything about Turkey because they interview the same fifteen (approximately) people over and over again - nearly all of them pro-AKP. The same goes for the so-called experts at U.S. and European think-tanks who regard themselves as such because they have read the pieces by those international journalists in the trendy neighborhood of Cihangir in Istanbul.

I believe Sunday's elections are, though not guaranteed, ripe for a, not huge, but sufficiently significant upset that will change the political balance in Turkey. For many Turks, these elections represent the last exit before toll since, after seeing the uncontrollable behavior of Erdogan and the AKP in the last two years in particular, another Erdogan victory means real commotion on the horizon.

First, Erdogan appears afraid and thrown off balance all of sudden.His usual swagger is gone. Instead anger toward all segments of the society dominates his rally speeches. He is even flustered at times: He froze for almost a minute without any ad-libbing - not a single word - when his teleprompter stopped working in Antalya and then called the people in Bingol as citizens of Diyarbakir - not just once, but four times in a row. He has become overly aggressive, hence making him seem the aggressor and not the oppressed as he successfully claimed to be in the past.

Secondly, the sex tapes that were leaked against the MHP (nationalist opposition party) in May appear to have worked in favor of the MHP, which according to Metropoll - a pro-AKP polling firm, seems to have gone from 10% to 15% in May with the AKP, dropping five points to 35% prior to allocating the undecided votes. As the AKP was trying to attract the MHP votes via nationalistic and anti-PKK (Kurdish leftist nationalist group that fought a terror-laden war with Turkey) talk lately.

People appear to have held the AKP responsible for the dirty tricks pulled and also gained the impression that the Gulen (a separate Islamist movement with much power in the police force) movement is behind it, following the imprisonment of two writers apparently for writing books exposing the infiltration of the Gulenists into the government including the police force and the judiciary.

Third, the main opposition party, the CHP (social democrats), has gone through a serious makeover and has surprised everyone including me with the hard work they have been putting into their campaign. The CHP and its leader Kilicdaroglu has come up with numerous quality ideas and projects - 41 clearly defined projects in all, which if the media was not either controlled by pro-AKP outlets or intimidated by the ruling party (see the journalists in prison and taxes imposed upon an adversary, the Dogan Group) would normally dominate the headlines.

The CHP's executive team has appeared to be extremely deft, and Kilicdaroglu's command of his speeches has improved considerably. The CHP leader has had rallies in 81 cities and visited 200 smaller districts while Erdogan has had 72 rallies and the MHP's Bahceli 40. In comparison, in 2007, it was 59 for Erdogan, 19 for the then-CHP leader Baykal and 11 for Bahceli.

An experienced businessman, Inan Kirac, of the traditional business elite reportedly expects - and he says he will even bet on it - that the CHP will come up with an upset and emerge as the top party. Erdogan has confronted Kirac and warned him of risky consequences for his prediction.

...nothing is a foregone conclusion as people make it out to be. Anything can happen but an upset may also be in the making if the Turkish people happen to be on a good day with a clear mind and take the last exit before toll.

US Senators oppose Israel return to 1967 lines

From AFP, 10 June 2011:

WASHINGTON — US senators proposed a resolution Thursday opposing any Israeli withdrawal to 1967 lines, dealing a symbolic blow to President Barack Obama's efforts to renew peace talks.

"It is contrary to United States policy and national security to have the borders of Israel return to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967,"  read the text introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent.

The resolution, which enjoys the support of some 30 other senators, including Democrats, says US policy aims to "support and facilitate Israel in maintaining defensible borders."

Last month, President Barack Obama gave rare public voice to the long-standing US policy of supporting a Palestinian state based on the borders that preceded the Six Day War, with mutually agreed land swaps.

His statement provoked a public scolding from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a subsequent White House visit. The Israeli leader also stressed the "indefensible" nature of the 1967 lines.

"Boundaries that existed on June 4, 1967 placed Israel in a precarious military situation that threatened regional stability," Hatch said in a statement.

"This resolution reaffirms that it is the policy of the United States to support and facilitate Israel in maintaining secure, recognized and defensible borders."...