Friday, April 29, 2011

PA capitulates to Hamas

From JPost, 29 April 2011, by KHALED ABU TOAMEH:

No matter how one looks at it, the Palestinian reconciliation deal is a victory for Hamas.

...Moreover, the timing could not have been better for Hamas.

The Egyptian-sponsored deal came amid signs that Hamas was beginning to lose its grip on the Gaza Strip, as a result of the continued blockade and boycott by the international community.

Last month, thousands of Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Hamas security forces for the first time since the movement seized control over the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

Many Palestinians, including Fatah, said that the confrontations reflected increased resentment of Hamas.

But the unity deal with Fatah will now help Hamas reassert its authority over the Gaza Strip. It will also help Hamas emerge from political isolation by turning it into a legitimate and key player in the international arena.

One of the biggest achievements for Hamas is the fact that the unity deal does not require it to relinquish control over the Gaza Strip. In fact, Hamas would be permitted to keep its security forces in the Gaza Strip, further tightening its grip on the area.

Nor does the deal require Hamas to accept the Middle East peace process or accept the two-state solution.

Hamas will be brought into the unity government as an equal partner.

Until a few days ago, Hamas and Fatah were detaining and torturing each other’s supporters.

For the past three-and-a-half years, security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad worked round the clock to eliminate Hamas’s presence in the West Bank.

Under the terms of the reconciliation accord, Fatah will have to release all “political detainees” belonging to Hamas. This will only help Hamas regain its strength in the West Bank.

The deal also allows Hamas to run again unconditionally in elections, as was the case in the 2006 parliamentary vote. There’s no guarantee that Hamas would not win again in the next elections, which are expected to take place within a year.

Hamas has been recognized as a legitimate partner and player not only by Fatah, but also by the most populous Arab country, Egypt.

The popular uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of office earlier this year has been nothing but a blessing for Hamas. The new Egyptian regime has since been working to improve its ties with Hamas through a series of goodwill gestures that include the reopening of the Rafah border crossing and permitting the movement to have its own “representative office” in Cairo.

Although some Palestinians remained skeptical about the prospects of the unity deal holding for a long period of time, many agreed that Hamas stood to benefit the most from the agreement.

See this TIP Timeline of Terror Attacks by Hamas Since Israel’s 2005 Gaza Withdrawal.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

USA got Lost on the Road to Damascus

From Yahoo News, Wed Apr 27, by Anthony Ventre:

...It was 2007 when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit the road for Damascus, overriding Bush state department criticism of her attempted rogue diplomacy. What wish-fulfillment fantasies compelled Pelosi to visit a country officially listed as a "state sponsor of terror?

"The road to Damascus is the road to peace!" Pelosi enthused.

Pelosi's judgment was that Syria's dictator would succumb to the American left-liberal vision of peace with Israel so long as Israel returned the Golan Heights. It didn't matter to Pelosi that Syria's Bashar Assad was a client state of Iran and a chief sponsor of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Nor did it matter that Syria was funneling fighters into Iraq to oppose U.S. troops. It didn't matter, either, that the Israelis had not consented to any peace process initiated by Pelosi, and were blind-sided by her proclamation.

The Israelis often point out that there could be no peace process without a reliable "peace partner." Terror groups like Hamas could never be peace partners, for example, because they would simply lie to obtain what they wanted. And they did lie. When the Israelis pulled out of Gaza, Hamas amped up its efforts at firing rockets into Israel.

Syria has unmasked itself as an imaginary "peace partner" by murdering an estimated 400 protestors in the current crisis. Assad's regime terrorizes political opponents with tanks and snipers hired from Iran to pick off protest leaders. Such was the fate of Neda Soltan during the 2009 pro-democracy uprising—shot dead by an Iranian police sniper.

Just because Arabs and Persians have been telling us for years that the postage stamp sized state of Israel is the main reason for a Middle Eastern failure doesn't mean it is so. This is particularly obvious now that the Middle Eastern winds have shifted. Clearly, Israel has had nothing to do with the uprisings which have now dwarfed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in scope and consequences for the U.S.

Putting Israel at the center of Middle Eastern conflicts is a facile copout ....

... The Obama administration has not withdrawn its ambassador, frozen Syrian assets, or threatened war crimes trials as it has with Gadhafi in Libya. Yet, those things can be done now and easily.

It's time for the myth of the "good dictator" in Syria to be put to rest.

Assad under pressure as hundreds of Baathists quit

From AFP, Wed Apr 27:

DAMASCUS (AFP) – Foreign pressure mounted on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and hundreds of members resigned from his party, as troops kept their grip on the flashpoint town of Daraa.

...233 members of Syria's ruling Baath party announced their resignation in protest at the deadly crackdown on protesters, according to lists seen by AFP.

...Baath party signatories from the Banias region, which covers Daraa, condemned "the house raids and the indiscriminate use of live fire against people, homes, mosques and churches."

...The Security Council, however, failed to agree on a statement condemning the killing of Syrian protesters  ...talks ended in deadlock ...France called for "strong measures"  ...The United States said Assad must "change course now" ...

Russia and China blocked the statement proposed by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal that would have condemned the violence and backed calls for an independent investigation.

The European Union, meanwhile, is mulling sanctions and the UN human rights body has called for a special session in the wake of the Syrian regime's bloody crackdown ...
...the military assault on Daraa, 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Damascus, has left more than 30 people dead since Monday, with at least 453 civilians killed across Syria since protests first erupted in mid-March...

The Obama Catastrophy

From "Word from Jerusalem", April 28, 2011, by Isi Leibler:

At every conceivable level, the Obama administration's Middle East policies are spiraling into a disastrous free-fall.
Even Obama's friend, PA president Mahmoud Abbas, has explicitly accused the US President of having totally misled him. In an interview with Newsweek, he said that
"it was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said okay, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down the ladder and he removed the ladder, and said to me jump. Three times he did it."

But it is Obama's obtuse and utterly inconsistent approach to the upheavals in the Arab world that have plunged the US into a bottomless pit and possibly irrevocably terminated whatever support for the US remained among some of the more moderate Arab autocracies.

From the outset, Obama surprised the world by his naïve efforts to "engage" with the fervently hostile Iranian extremists seeking to become a nuclear power. When the Iranian people revolted peacefully against the ayatollahs during the "Green Revolution", the American president remained mute even as the regime brutally suppressed the opposition.

Yet when Egyptian president Mubarak, the most loyal US ally in the Arab world, faced a domestic revolt, Obama turned his back on him, demanding his resignation and did not even enable him to retire graciously.

The Saudis and other "moderate" pro-US Arab states were shocked at the manner in which the Americans had responded to their most faithful ally. They undoubtedly now no longer harbor illusions about the reliability of American support under the Obama administration. In fact. the most pessimistic predictions of the outcome of these "democratic" revolts are regrettably now being realized.

The Muslim Brotherhood - which a number of ignorant members of the Obama administration had described as being democratic, more open-minded and even "mostly secular", has emerged as the most powerful force in Egypt. According to a recently released PEW Research Center poll, 75 percent of Egyptians regard the Brotherhood favorably. The US is despised - only 15% favoring a better relationship. More than 50% support the scrapping of the peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian military council has already initiated moves to renew diplomatic relations with Iran and enabled Iranian ships to traverse the Suez Canal.

The candidate most likely to become president is Amr Moussa, who is favored by 89% of those polled. He is the secretary-general of the Arab League whose hatred for Israel was so intense that Mubarak was obliged to sack him as foreign minister. Only last week he declared that the Camp David accords were no longer relevant.

The other candidate Mohammed ElBaradei declared that if Israel became engaged in a war with Hamas, Egypt would be obliged to respond militarily.

Over 62% support the transformation of Egypt into a sharia state. Obama's betrayal of Mubarak has thus directly led to the installation of a more extremist anti-Western regime.

But the regional situation is even worse. In Libya, Obama's support of the overthrow of the deranged but recently pro-Western Colonel Gaddafi has resulted in a civil war. If Gaddafi wins, he will undoubtedly revert to his former evil terrorist activities which he had voluntarily relinquished. If the rebels are victorious, we are likely to find al-Qaida elements occupying a significant role in the country. The same applies to Yemen, which following the defeat of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has every likelihood of being transformed into a fully-fledged terrorist state dominated by al-Qaida.

But even more incomprehensible was Obama's extraordinary tepid response to Syria's dictator Bashar Assad, whose brutal crackdown against peaceful demonstrators made Mubarak's repression appear positively mild.

Besides, Assad is an avowed enemy of the US and closely allied with the Iranian regime and enabled al-Qaida forces to traverse Syria in order to fight against American troops in Iraq. He is a major sponsor of Hezbollah and has acted as their conduit for the transfer of arms. He hosts Hamas in Damascus, orchestrated the murder of the Lebanese prime minister, sought to obtain nuclear weapons and bitterly opposed Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.

It is therefore inexplicable that even after hundreds of demonstrators were brutally killed and Assad has made it clear that he will not hesitate killing more citizens to quell any opposition, Obama has still neither called on him to step down nor initiated meaningful sanctions as he did with Libya.

We are left with a feeling of bewilderment. Is the administration so isolated from reality that it truly believes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she refers to the tyrannical Assad as a reformer? Or is there a hidden agenda of which we are unaware?

My gut feeling is that there is no conspiracy and it is all a question of absolute and utter incompetence and dysfunctionality. Obama is proving, on a daily basis, to be a complete novice in foreign relations and his liberal ideologue advisers are just as confused.

It is truly mind-boggling. We have a US president who condemns the only genuine democratic partner the US has in the Middle East for building apartments in the suburbs of their capital. He betrays the Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, who loyally supported America for four decades and paves the way for a new more hostile Egyptian regime. And yet he hesitates in responding to one of the most committed enemies of the US in the Arab world.

We should therefore be under no illusions that Obama will initiate any meaningful action to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In summary: The Obama administration has undermined Israel, abandoned its Arab allies and appeased America's worst enemies.

We can only hope and pray that the Republicans will get their act together and designate a credible candidate before the next presidential elections. It is chilling to contemplate the damage Obama could inflict on America's international standing should he be reelected for a second term, free from any electoral constraints. The damage that ongoing American decline and weakness could inflict on Western civilization is positively alarming.
In other words, it was Obama's initiative which motivated Abbas to make the unprecedented demand that Israel freeze all construction in settlements, including the Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem. Abbas now finds it extremely convenient to use Obama's impulsive action as a pretext to refuse to negotiate with Israel and stand by as global pressures are exerted on the Jewish state to make more unilateral concessions.

Dangerous liaisons (particularly for the West) between Egypt and Iran

From Il Giornale, April 23, 2011, by Fiamma Nirenstein*:

...after thirty hostile years, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Egypt are preparing to exchange ambassadors. The passage of two Iranian ships into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal some weeks ago foreshadowed this new reality.

(Also see our previous posting on this subject: "Egypt Minister Proposes Opening ‘New Page’ With Iran")

Nabil el Arabi, just appointed Egypt’s Foreign Minister by the new post-revolutionary government, immediately stated he intended to restore relations with Teheran. Then he met with an Iranian official, Mugtabi Amani, in the first institutional visit since Mubarak was deposed. El Arabi then negotiated the opening of the respective embassies in Teheran and Cairo with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akhbar Salehi. It seems that Ali Ahbar Sbuyeh, an Iranian career diplomat, will serve as Iranian ambassador to Egypt. Egypt has said that it is too early to announce his Egyptian counterpart. The delay in selecting the new Egyptian ambassador to Iran is probably the result of Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s very recent meeting with the Saudi King, who has made clear his dislike of this new reality.

Discussions are also underway regarding other consequences of the new reality: Egypt’s stance toward Hamas, Iran’s God-child, has changed, and weapons smuggling to Gaza through tunnels from Egyptian territory is no longer stopped by Egyptian security forces. Iran might want more explicit support for Hamas, and might also request protection for Iranian convoys carrying weapons through Sudan.

Egypt and Iran are the two historical pillars, the two great and well-armed forces, of the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam. They counter-balanced each other.

While the Sunni branch is ambiguous toward the Muslim Brothers and al Qaeda, it has much better relations with the West and has resisted extremism in its territory.

The stronghold of the Shiite branch, on the other hand, is the Islamic Ayatollah regime, which explicitly champions the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic caliphate. It supports terrorist groups whether Sunni or Shiite, including Hamas and Hezbollah. A few days ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran again made unbridled anti-Western threats running along these lines:
“The United States and other Western nations foment the Middle Eastern revolutions to save the Zionist regime. They want to overturn Syria because it is our friend… the revolt of the Arab world will in any case lead to the collapse of the Zionist regime...the USA is disloyal to the Arabs and will be kicked out of the Middle East ”.
The current Egyptian government probably questions the fidelity of the USA and Obama. After all, it was no coincidence that Obama flew to Cairo on his first presidential trip where he gave his first speech to the Arab world. Egypt, which for decades was loyal to its friendship with the USA, is certainly wondering why President Obama abandoned Mubarak without thinking twice. Mubarak was the most pro-American of all the leaders of the Arab world and would have never broken the peace with Israel.

The new Egypt, now in search of allies, is under pressure from its population which moves in a much more Islamic direction. If it is true, and it is, that the Muslim Brotherhood accounts for thirty percent, it will therefore dominate the Egyptian parliament. Two days ago, the secretary and deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood announced that sharia, with its hand cutting, stoning and terrible abuses of women, will soon be imposed.

Furthermore, after the Tahrir Square revolution, only 35% of the Egyptian population is in favour of keeping the peace treaty with Israel. Demonstrators assaulted the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

Even Egyptian cabinet ministers can no longer restrain themselves: Samir Radwan, Minister of Finance, referring to new Israeli investments in Egypt, declared:
“We do not need investments from the enemy”.
Relations between Iran and Egypt broke off after Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat’s peace treaty with Israel; it matters that this renewed friendship rests upon anti-Israeli hatred. The Iranian government dedicated a monument to Khaled al Istambuli, who murdered Sadat in the name of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Members of the commando, such as Abboud al Zumar, are now released. Al Zumar has said he was disappointed that his revolution resulted in Mubarak. He should wait a moment: he still has to see the results of this one.

*Vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism, Italian Chamber of Deputies

PM Netanyahu responds to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas agreement

From the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 April 2011 (Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser):

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this evening (Wednesday), 27 April 2011, referred to the anticipated agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas:
"The Palestinian Authority needs to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas. Peace with both is impossible because Hamas aspires to destroy the State of Israel and says so openly. It fires missiles at our cities; it fires anti-tank rockets at our children.

I think that the very idea of this reconciliation shows the weakness of the Palestinian Authority and causes one to wonder if Hamas will seize control of Judea and Samaria like it seized control of the Gaza Strip.

I hope that the Palestinian Authority chooses correctly, i.e. that it chooses peace with Israel. The choice is in its hands."

Hamas and Fatah try reconciliation (again)

From Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 2011, by Kristen Chick, Correspondent:
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah say they've agreed to end a four-year rift. If the agreement holds, it could pave the way for the first Palestinian elections since 2006 and end a period of simmering hostilities...
In a deal brokered by Egypt, the two sides agreed in principle to form an interim government made up of “independents” and to hold elections in a year, officials said at a press conference. Officials said they would formally ink the deal within weeks.

... Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have watched regional revolutions and held small protests against their own leaders, whom they see as unaccountable and corrupt. They've also urged the factions to put aside their differences for the sake of creating a Palestinian state. That has dragged Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas's Khaled Mashaal back to the negotiating table.

Yet many observers are skeptical that the deal will hold, particularly when its comes to implementation.

“Looking at the past four years, at the lack of trust, the lack of confidence, the incitement on both sides, it makes every reasonable person question whether this will be implemented on the ground,” says Mkhaimer Abusada, political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza...

Schism developed in 2007
The schism between Hamas and Fatah opened in 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah in a bloody conflict. Since then, Fatah has controlled the West Bank and Hamas has ruled Gaza. The divide has complicated efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Egypt, under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, tried unsuccessfully for years to bring the two Palestinian factions together. Some Hamas officials were skeptical he was an honest broker however, since Mubarak detested their movement, an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood...

The quick success of the new government in brokering a deal will be a source of pride for Egypt, whose regional influence has declined....

Israel and the US, however...have said in the past they will not recognize a Palestinian government that includes the Islamist organization unless Hamas first renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the agreement. “The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. Peace with both is not possible,” he said.

Officials in Cairo tried to head off a confrontation with Israel, implying the interim government would be made up of technocrats and not factional figures. They also said they had agreed on security cooperation, a key area in the ongoing dispute, but did not go into detail. Mr. Abusada said the agreement stipulated that Hamas would remain in control of security in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank until new elections are held and the government restructures the security apparatus. Hamas’s armed wing, the Al Qassam Brigades, has rejected laying down arms or giving control of security to the very forces they fought fiercely in 2007.

...Hamas ...with a more neutral arbiter in the new Egyptian government, essentially ran out of excuses not to agree, says Emad Gad, an analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.

Gad says the upheaval currently under way in Syria, which hosts Hamas’s politburo, was likely a factor pushing the organization to the table. And it also couldn’t ignore the impatience of Gazans, who were tired of living under the blockade Israel imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza. As the wave of protests swept the region, Gazans organized protests of their own against Hamas, which were swiftly put down by Hamas security forces.

But the initial signs on the ground in Gaza were not positive, says Abusada. When Gazans went to a central Gaza City square to celebrate the announcement, they were dispersed by baton-wielding Hamas policemen. “That makes me wonder whether Hamas on the ground and Al Qassam is going to accept this and is ready to implement it,” he says.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

US: Assad is no peace partner but Gaddafi is worse

Top US State Department official says it's difficult to pursue other diplomatic missions while Syrian regime violently puts down protests.

WASHINGTON – After two years of pushing Israel to reach a peace agreement with Syria, a top US State Department official indicated Tuesday the Obama administration is no longer looking at the current regime as a partner for such a deal.

... Sullivan said the US is also looking at the possibility of imposing sanctions on Syrian leaders and is consulting with international partners on this and other potential steps to halt the bloody crackdown Assad has ordered on opposition protesters.

“President Assad is on the wrong track,” Sullivan said, condemning the civilian deaths. He added, though, that the US is focused on “diplomatic and financial” initiatives aimed at the Syrian regime rather than military intervention as has taken place in Libya.

He also repeatedly declined to label Assad an illegitimate ruler or call for him to go, as the US did in Libya with Muammar Gaddafi once the Libyan leader began to shoot at protesters rather than accede to their demands for reform.

“Ultimately, the future of Syria is up to the people of Syria,” Sullivan said.
“It’s hard for us to stand by and see [President Bashar] Assad and his government engage in the kind of things they’re doing against their own people and to then think easily about how to pursue other diplomatic missions,” Jacob Sullivan, director of policy planning at the State Department, told reporters.

'Annexation for declaration' idea advancing in Knesset

From JPost, 26 Apriil 2011, by

MK Danon preparing bills to annex West Bank, repeal Oslo Accords...

Ideas about annexing parts of the West Bank that until recently were considered extreme have been gaining traction in the Knesset in recent weeks as the Palestinian Authority continues threatening to declare a state unilaterally in September.

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau raised the idea at Israel Beiteinu’s convention in Jerusalem two weeks ago and then spoke about it at length in an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s web site last week.

“We’ll have to protect ourselves,” he said. “If [the Palestinians declare a state], I’m going to suggest to my government to extend our sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and over the highly populated blocs we have in Judea and Samaria, just to start with.”

...Landau and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein will be featured speakers at a rally in favor of annexing Judea and Samaria at the Knesset next month. Top right-wing academics and former foreign minister Moshe Arens are also expected to speak at the event, which is being organized by Likud MK Danny Danon.

Danon favors responding to a Palestinian declaration of statehood by annexing all of Area C, which includes all the West Bank’s Jewish settlements and empty land. He said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should follow the example of his predecessors Levi Eshkol, who annexed eastern Jerusalem, and Menachem Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights.

A source close to the prime minister said that Netanyahu has kept his cards close to his chest as to how he would respond to Palestinian unilateral action, but that he has said in the past that Israel has its own unilateral options.

Danon said he hoped the threat of annexation could help Netanyahu persuade European leaders to stop the United Nations from voting on Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September.

Danon is working on two bills: One in favor of annexing the West Bank and another that would repeal the Oslo Accords.

He said he believed that if annexation would be brought to a vote in the Likud it would pass.

Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Herschkowitz said he backed the initiative. An Israel Beiteinu spokesman said that beyond Landau, his faction is undecided, but it is possible that it would back the initiative as well.

“A Palestinian declaration of statehood would officially bury the Oslo Accords, which state that final borders will be decided via negotiations and that unilateral actions constitute violation of the accords,” Danon said. “The Palestinians declaring a state would free us of all the diplomatic, security, and economic commitments we made in the Oslo Accords.”

Syria Could Soon Join UN Human Rights Council

From Huffington Post, 24 April 2011, by David Harris:

No, this isn't a bad joke.
The very same Syria that today is mowing down its own people in the streets could well be elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council on May 20th.

Here's how it works:
The Council is comprised of 47 member states. Each is elected for a three-year term, with one-third of the seats becoming vacant each year. According to the UN General Assembly resolution creating the Council in 2006, Asia is assigned 13 of the 47 seats, with the other four regional blocs divvying up the remaining 34. Four of the 13 Asian seats become vacant now.
This year, there's what's called a "clean slate," meaning that four countries were chosen within the Asia group for the four seats. They are India, Indonesia, Philippines, and, yes, Syria. (Syria's candidacy has also been embraced by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.) Unless more Asian countries now opt to vie for the vacant seats, it could soon be a done deal.
Traditionally, when the general vote occurs, the candidate countries selected by their respective regional blocs are automatically endorsed, with perhaps a few dissenting votes, by the larger group.
To indicate its willingness to comply with the Council's mission, Syria has formally pledged "its commitment to respect and to support the inalienable nature of all human rights," adding it "would contribute to accomplish the objectives of the Council, and would support the national and international efforts for promotion and protection of human rights for all, without distinction and selectivity or politicization."
Don't laugh. The Syrian government expressed this with all due solemnity. Given the abysmal record of some others who've been chosen to serve on the Council, it could be enough to get it elected.
Of course, putting Syria on the UN Human Rights Council would make a mockery of the whole exercise.
One hardly knows where to begin in documenting Syria's utter and total disregard for human rights. And, incidentally, this long predates the current bloodshed.
For starters, the regime has no legitimacy. In 2000, Bashar Assad inherited power from his father, Hafez Assad, who himself was no Jeffersonian democrat nor was he, shall we say, the product of the free will of the people. The ruling elite come from the Alawite community, which comprises just 12 percent of the total population.
Open elections in Syria? No. Protection of civil liberties? No. Due process? No. Independent judiciary? No.
Emergency rule? Yes. Torture? Yes. Administrative detention? Yes. Censorship? Yes.
What's more, Syria not only flouts human rights protections at home, but beyond its borders as well.
Damascus houses terrorist groups like Hamas, whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel and the murder of Israelis wherever they may live.
Syria, a bosom buddy of Iran, is involved in the trans-shipment of weaponry to Hezbollah from Iran, in flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions and with the aim of strengthening a terrorist entity at the expense of the centralized government in Lebanon.
Until 2007, when Israel took action, Syria pursued a clandestine nuclear-weapons program in collaboration with North Korea. To what end? It's not hard to guess. Whether it has sought to restart that program remains an open question. What's not in question, however, is Syria's failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on inspections.
And it was clear to French President Jacques Chirac that Syria had a central hand in the murder of his friend, Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, and 21 others in Beirut in 2005.
But despite this deplorable record, Syria has gotten off quite easy.
Bashar Assad was mistakenly seen as a reformer from the get-go by many observers who presumably would rather not have their comments at the time recalled. Because he had spent time in England, was computer savvy, had an attractive wife, and represented a generational shift from his thuggish father, Assad was heralded as ushering in a new era.
Less than one year after he took office, Syria was elected to the UN Security Council as a candidate of the Asian group, with 160 out of 177 votes.
More recently, an unending procession of Western dignitaries have made their way to Damascus in the misplaced, if stubborn, belief they could draw Assad away from the Iranian orbit, laud internal progress, and encourage closer ties. The visitors have included several notable members of the U.S. Congress.
After President Sarkozy took office in 2007, France began to reverse course on the hostile stance towards Syria of President Chirac. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan embraced the Syrian leader and struck defense and other deals with him. Russia agreed to sell deadly missiles to the Syrian regime. And the U.S. returned its ambassador to Damascus in January, after downgrading bilateral ties in 2005 over the Hariri assassination.
Vogue, the fashion magazine, went so far as to feature the Syrian First Lady in its March issue. The spread could not have been more fawning -- or ill-timed.
And now, lest there have been any doubts all along, Syria has shown its true colors for the world to see.
While uttering empty words about reform, Assad has unleashed the vast power of the state to kill hundreds of his countrymen who dared to peacefully and courageously challenge his rule -- and the end is not in sight.
He's tried to keep the media out, but social media can't be stopped as easily, so we've heard loud and clear from opposition groups. The world knows what's happening there.
What next?
Well, in the case of Libya, after initial hesitation, the international community sprang into action to confront Gaddafi's crimes.
The UN Human Rights Council met in special session. It recommended the suspension of Libya's membership -- which itself had been a travesty when it occurred in 2010. The UN General Assembly endorsed the suspension. And, of course, the UN Security Council took important decisions.
With Syria, it's still unclear. It could go either way.
Within weeks, Syria could be elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council and, despite its own horrendous record, sit imperiously in judgment of others for the next three years.
Or, like Libya, it could instead become the target of a special session of the UN Human Rights Council -- and possibly other UN bodies -- for its systematic violations of human rights and possible crimes against humanity.
The world should be watching closely.
It will reveal a great deal about how the Council works, how regional blocs -- in this case, Asia -- either embrace or reject murderers in their midst, and how individual countries act. Remember that each country has one vote, and those votes will determine the outcome.
We can only hope that a clear majority of the Council will get "Syria-ous."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

US radicals participate in planning the next blockade-busting "flotilla"

From Canada Free Press, Sunday, April 24, 2011, by Jim Kouri:

The main organizers of last year’s so-called Gaza Flotilla ...and assorted radical-left leaders such as President Obama’s friends and colleagues William Ayers and Jodie Evans, are preparing a new blockade-busting voyage, the operation’s leader said Saturday.

Bulent Yildirim, leader of the planned flotilla, said his group and supporters are getting the flotilla ready and warned that there will be a ship from every country in Europe. He said the Turkish-registered ship “Mavi Marmara” will be part of it.

The participants have warned that until the Israeli defense blockade is lifted on Gaza, the intifada will continue by land, by sea and by air. The blockade is a result of weapons, rockets, and other contraband being smuggled into the Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip and being used against the Israeli people.

...The organizer of [last year's] blockade-busting action was a known radical group called Free Gaza. The “Free Gaza” flotilla was far more than a collection of innocent “peace activists” trying to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, as they were portrayed by many news organizations.

Free Gaza sponsored the flotilla that engaged in deadly clashes with Israeli special forces troops. Among its members were Weather Underground founders William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn—who perpetrated a series of terrorist attacks—as well as Jodie Evans, the leader of the radical activist organization Code Pink. Besides the U.S. radicals, Islamic groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood contributed to the flotilla.

As is well-known in the United States, Ayers and Dohrn were close associates of President Obama for years in Chicago. Meanwhile, Jodie Evans was a fundraiser and financial bundler for Obama’s presidential campaign. In fact, one of Obama’s fundraisers was held in the home of Ayers and Dohrn.

Evans later worked on Attorney General Jerry Brown’s successful run for the governorship of California.

“Ayers’ and Dohrn’s continued activities appear to elude the attention of the people responsible for reporting the news without bias. They are terrorists, plain and simple, so why would anyone be surprised to discover their connection to an anti-Semitic organization that supports terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brother and even al-Qaeda?” asks former New York Police detective Michael Snopes.

The passengers reportedly included 100-plus members of various Muslim Brotherhood chapters, at least 20 of whom taped al Qaeda-style “martyr” videos before embarking on their anti-Israel mission, according to terrorist expert Steve Emerson, founder of The Investigative Project on Terrorism

According to Emerson’s IPT investigation, the chief organizers had more than “peaceful” intentions for the flotilla.

The respected Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported that a Gaza-based Hamas leader declared three days before the voyage started that the captain of the [Gaza Flotilla] ship had told him: “We will not allow the Zionists to come near us, and we will wage resistance against them.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) responded to ongoing criticism of Israel following the incident near Gaza where Israeli Defense Forces personnel engaged the flotilla of six ships attempting to overrun an Israeli naval blockade.

Rep. Franks cited reports indicating that individuals on board the ships were carrying weapons and attacked Israeli soldiers as they were trying to stop the advance of the flotilla. The blockade exists to keep the terrorist organization Hamas, which has routinely launched attacks against innocent Israeli citizens, from supplying its forces with weapons and other materials while allowing necessary humanitarian supplies to reach those living in Gaza, Franks stated.

“The conflict that took place aboard the Turkish flotilla was a completely unnecessary and deliberate attempt to provoke Israel to action. The Gaza blockade was put into place in an attempt to prevent Hamas from continuing to use the Gaza strip as a launching pad for literally thousands and thousands of rockets fired into innocent Israeli citizen populations. Humanitarian shipments into Gaza are routinely used to smuggle weapons and other dangerous materials into Gaza for Hamas,” said Congressman Franks.

“The United States must maintain a strong position of support for Israel as the U.N. once again tries to make them a punching bag for the rest of the world. The Obama Administration must also commit to vetoing any resolution from U.N. Organizations like the Security Council or the Human Rights Council that would condemn Israel and encourage the terrorist groups who provoked the raid,” said the Arizona lawmaker.

Obama supporters in the midst of discussion regarding the current Egyptian civil unrest are claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a terrorist organization and that its members are not major players in the Egyptian protests and uprising. They also claim there are no connections between the Obama administration and radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood, in spite of the activities of Ayers, Dohrn and Evans, who are known associates of the U.S. President.

“If the House Republicans, who are now the majority, wish to investigate the current administration and its abysmal performance on national security incidents, they should start with the President’s relationship with far-left radicals and Islamic fascists,” said Det. Snopes.