Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

01/06/2009 (11:38 am)

Trouble at the Hub of the Axis of Evil

Michael Ledeen, long-standing expert on terrorism and Middle East affairs and leading proponent of American interventionism, published a meaningful analysis of Iran’s regime on Sunday, describing the tyrannical regime as panicky and alarmed. What’s got them worried? According to Ledeen, they’re strapped for cash, their strategy of jihad-by-proxy is not going so well, and their own people are restless. Read (emphases mine):

First of all, the dramatic drop in oil prices is devastating to the mullahs, who had planned to be able to fund terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Suddenly their bottom line is tinged with red, and this carries over onto their domestic balance sheets, which were already demonstrably shaky (they were forced to cancel proposed new taxes when the merchant class staged nation-wide protests). No wonder they seize on any international event to call for petroleum export reductions. Just today they called for a drastic reduction of oil shipments to all countries that supported the Israeli military incursion into Gaza.

No doubt, the Iranians believe the fall in oil prices is the result of satanic will, rather than the shock to demand produced by the runup to $140/barrel. Not for them the subtleties of the free market; given the way they view the world, they must be convinced that the same strategy that beggared the Soviet Union–Saudi cooperation with America to hold down prices–is now deployed against them. This belief was no doubt reinforced when the recent official cut in petroleum production did not lead to markedly higher prices.

Second, their terror strategy has not been working as well as they wished and expected. Most American and European analysts have not appreciated the effect of the defeat of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, but you can be sure that the high and mighty in Arab capitals have taken full notice. The Iranians not only lost a considerable number of skilled and experienced terror leaders–Imad Mughnieh, the long-time operational chieftain of Hezbollah is the most important, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi was close behind, having created al Qaeda in Iraq alongside a network throughout Europe–but also several of their own Revolutionary Guards officers. Some of these were captured, others have defected, and most all have provided details of the Iranian network. This sort of thing is bad for operations, bad for recruiting, and weakens the Iranians’ efforts to bully their neighbors into appeasement or more active cooperation.

Third, despite all their efforts to crush any sign of internal rebellion, many Iranians continue to publicly oppose the mullahs. A few weeks ago, students at universities all over the country demonstrated in significant numbers, and as one Iranian now living in Europe put it to me, “they were surprised that the regime was unable to stop the protests, even though everyone knew they were planned.” This is the background for the new wave of repression, accompanied by an intensification of jamming on the Internet, and an ongoing reshuffle of the instruments of repression; Khamanei and Ahmadinejad have no confidence in the efficacy or blind loyalty of the army or of large segments of the Revolutionary Guards. Most public actions are carried out by the Basij, who are judged more reliable, and repression is less in the hands of the traditional ministries than in new groups freshly minted in the Supreme Leader’s office.

In short, we are dealing with a regime that is very concerned about its future, and is not very comfortable with its friends, allies, and proxies.

It’s become widely recognized that much of the violence in the Middle East, particularly the organized resistance to international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continual harassment of Israel, is planned, financed, and controlled from Tehran, a fact that is not lost on other leaders in the Middle East. Capitols around the Middle East may sound the horn of Muslim solidarity, but these mostly-Arabic leaders are looking fearfully and suspiciously at the pugnacious Persians and their disruptive influence. Arabic support for anti-Israeli aggression has been a lot less fervent in the 21st century than it was in the 20th, and whatever the goal was when the Arab states surrounding Israel refused to let Palestinians become citizens, what motivates them now is simply that they neither like nor trust them — the more so since they’re financed and controlled by the Iranians. If the Iranians get their teeth pulled, objections from the rest of the Middle East will be pro forma, while they quietly applaud with the doors closed.

Iran may be grateful for the current hostilities in Gaza, in that oil futures are headed upward as a result of them. Along with the problems Ledeen observes, this may also explain Tehran’s tepid response to the crisis. They threatened to send shiploads of humanitarian aid, and possibly to ship an army of martyrs, but there don’t seem to be many volunteers for either venture.

Meanwhile, the Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, is trying to stir Iraq’s President Maliki against the occupying Americans, with very little success. The wisdom of Bush’s Iraq venture is becoming clearer as the years wear on. Removing Iraq as a source of terrorism support and disturbance in the Middle East has clarified the situation considerably. Iraq stands as a possibly reliable force for moderation in the region, and a foil to the expansiveness of the Iranians. Moreover, defeating Iran’s proxies in Iraq has severely damaged their credibility. The war against international Wahabi violence is far from over, but so far, the West is making good progress.

Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is illustrating a fact of international politics that we must always keep in mind: every tyranny carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. God so constructed humankind that no collaborative evil enterprise can sustain itself indefinitely; evil eventually collapses of its own weight. The tyranny controlling Iran is hollow, and must eventually fall. As Ledeen titles his article, “Faster, please.”

Hat tip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who wisely emphasizes the low oil prices.

(Map of the Middle East from a site I refuse to link to, oilempire.us, a cave haunted by conspiracy bats. Nice map, though.)

12/29/2008 (3:55 pm)

Gaza Provides a Reminder

Amid the noise and predictable posturing following Israel’s weekend of air strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, training centers, and weapons caches in Gaza, today’s New York Times slips in a quiet reminder of one of the primary causes of the conflict that hardly anybody mentions: the unwillingness of countries surrounding Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to become citizens of their countries.

From 13 paragraphs into the Times story:

Much of the anger was also directed at Egypt, seen by Hamas and some nearby governments as having acceded to Israel’s military action by sealing its border with Gaza and forcing back many Palestinians at gunpoint who were trying to escape the destruction.

And from page 2:

In Beirut, protesters were bused to a rally outside the United Nations building, holding up Palestinian flags and Hamas banners. Muhammad Mazen Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Palestinian who lives in one of the refugee camps here, choked up when asked about the assault on Gaza.

“There’s an agreement between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel against Hamas,” he said. “They want to end them; all the countries are in league against Hamas, but God willing, we will win.”

That sentiment is widespread here. Many see Ms. Livni’s (Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs) visit to Cairo last week as evidence that Egypt, eager to be rid of Hamas, had consented to the airstrikes.

Following the 1948 war in which Israel won its statehood, streams of refugees crossed the borders in two directions: Arabic residents of Palestine fled the area, and Jewish residents of the surrounding nations fled their homes and poured into Israel. The Jews left their homes because of sometimes-official persecution, and in many cases were ordered to leave. The reasons for the Palestinian exodus are less well understood, being mired in controversy; conventional wisdom at the time said they were encouraged to leave by their leaders, but some modern historians have added that there were some deliberate acts of violence on the part of Israelis that motivated them as well.

Regardless of the reasons, the two streams of refugees were treated very differently. Israel, eager for manpower and already possessing an attitude of welcome for refugees, readily absorbed the Sefardim (Jews of Arabic descent); today, Sefardic Jews in Israel number about 3 million and account for more than half of the Israeli population.

The nations surrounding Israel, however, refused citizenship for the roughly 800,000 refugees, and instead built fence-enclosed camps in which they must live. The camps remain to this day, and house about 4 million Palestinians, some of whom are 4 or 5 generations removed from ever having lived in Palestine.

The refusal of the Egyptians to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt reminds us that this policy refusing emigration continues. Of all the nations surrounding Israel, only Jordan has permitted Palestinians to become citizens, and Jordan stopped permitting West Bank residents to become citizens in 1991. Lebanon actually refuses to allow Palestinians to own land or hold certain professional jobs.

It has been argued, with some support, that the purpose of the camps was to foster hatred against Israel and create a permanent source of militants to attack Israel. The goal of Muslims in the Middle East remains to remove Israel completely; Israel represents a reminder that Islam, which they believe to be destined to rule the entire world politically, cannot even rule entirely in their own corner of the world. Allow me to recommend a review of this monologue by Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Director of the Jerusalem Post, that I posted on my blog about a year ago.

Arguably, though, governments wanting a stable environment within their own nations might prefer to keep organizations like Hamas at arm’s length. Whatever the goal may have been 60 years ago, Egypt probably is not so keen on inviting militants within their borders.

This is one of the reasons I personally oppose a two-state solution in Israel. It’s not just that Israeli concessions of land always become launching points for military assaults against the state of Israel, though that would be reason enough. It’s that the real solution is to allow the refugees to start lives elsewhere. The violence against the state of Israel would probably dwindle to tiny proportions if the camps were emptied and the residents permitted to take root in their homes.

11/16/2008 (9:19 pm)

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The election passed less than two weeks ago, but already we’re seeing the pro-Palestinian slant of the Obama Administration producing immanent war in the Middle East.

The Obama campaign went to great lengths to lie to the American public about its intentions for Israel and Jerusalem, and to distance itself from the impression that the sightings of pro-Palestinian advisors Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski meant Obama would favor the Palestinians. I wrote, and others wrote, that Obama was lying about his position, and that he was strongly pro-Palestinian. The press covered for him.

This afternoon, Gateway Pundit posted a succinct summary of news reports claiming that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared publicly that Israel must withdraw to its pre-1949 borders, as proposed by the Saudi peace plan, or face war.

Why are they doing this now? Do we really have to ask?

It’s not just that Barack Obama, who insists there is only one President, reportedly told Abbas the Israelis “would be crazy” to reject the Saudi plan. Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post and coordinator of negotiations with the PLO for the Israeli government, reported at length on the signals from within the Obama transition team indicating a strong pro-Palestinian position, in stark opposition to his pre-election moderation.

…[Obama's] aides and advisers are signaling that he intends to move US foreign policy in a sharply different direction from its current trajectory once he assumes office.

And they are signaling that this new direction will be applied most immediately and directly to US policy toward the Middle East.

Early in the Democratic Party’s primary season, the Obama campaign released a list of the now-president-elect’s foreign policy advisers to The Washington Post. The list raised a great deal of concern in policy circles, particularly among supporters of the US-Israel alliance. It included outspoken critics of Israel such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser under president Jimmy Carter, and Robert Malley, who served as a junior Middle East aide to president Bill Clinton. Both men are deeply hostile to Israel and both have called repeatedly for the US to end its strategic alliance with Israel.

In the months that followed the list’s publication, the Obama campaign sought to distance itself from both men as the president-elect’s advisers worked to position Obama as a centrist candidate…

Due in large part to media credulousness, Obama’s new image as a centrist was widely accepted by the public. And it is likely that he owes a significant portion of his support in the American Jewish community to the campaign’s success in distancing Obama from men like Brzezinski and Malley.

BUT NOW that the campaign is over, it appears that as his critics warned, Obama’s moves toward the center on issues relating to the Middle East were little more than campaign tactics to obscure his true policy preferences.

Two days after his election, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius gave a sense of the direction in which Obama will likely take US foreign policy. And, apparently directed by Obama’s campaign staff, Ignatius based much of his column on his belief that Obama’s foreign policy views have been shaped by his “informal” adviser, Brzezinski.

Based on what Brzezinski and Obama’s “official” campaign told him, Ignatius wrote that the two major issues where Obama’s foreign policy is likely to diverge from Bush’s right off the bat are Israel and Iran. Obama, he claimed, will want to push hard to force Israel to come to an agreement with the Palestinians as soon as he comes into office. As for Iran, Obama plans to move immediately to improve US relations with the nuclear-weapons-building ayatollahs.

As for Malley, an aide of his told Frontpage magazine this week that acting on Obama’s instructions, Malley traveled to Cairo and Damascus after Obama’s electoral victory to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Assad that “the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.”

In a related story, Hamas terror operative Ahmad Youssef told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that in the months leading up to his election, Obama’s advisers held steady contacts with the leaders of the terror group in Gaza, and had asked that Hamas keep the meetings secret in order not to harm Obama’s chances of being elected.

Check that last comment again: the Obama campaign was sending unofficial envoys to Hamas, Egypt, and Syria even while he was lying to the American press. This is just what we said he was doing; none of us who watched Obama with objective eyes are the least bit surprised by the duplicity, which seems to be a signature mark of his character. Obama is, as far as we can tell, an habitual liar.

Be that as it may, Obama is also a pro-Palestinian radical, and the terrorists surrounding Israel know it, having heard it from his own campaign. And now that they know the United States will be pressuring Israel to accede to their demands in the interests of “peace,” their demands are escalating already.

America, we warned you, and you elected him. Welcome to the Age of Obama.

02/21/2008 (10:26 am)

Understanding the Middle East, II

Today I’m drawing attention to two short video presentations — slide shows, actually. They were produced by the Terrorism Awareness Project, an offshoot of David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine. Horowitz is a bit of a bomb-thrower (figuratively, not literally), but he’s usually both factual and rigorously logical. Raised by out-and-out Marxist activists (not the watered-down, sanitized, American liberal variety, but the real thing) and personally familiar with the leaders in that movement, their histories, and their tactics, Horowitz is full of solid information about the true roots of modern American liberalism, who’s steering the movement and what they’re thinking.

These slide shows, however, are not about that, but rather about the Middle East. The first, entitled What Really Happened in the Middle East, contains basic, historical information presented in fairly clear terms that explain why a Palestinian state is never going to solve the Middle East crisis. This should be coupled with the presentation I presented in my previous post entitled Understanding the Middle East, because together, they completely explain why Islam cannot tolerate an Israel in the Middle East, and why the utter extermination of Israel remains the unchanging and unchangeable goal of radical Islam.

The second, entitled What Every American Needs to Know About Jihad, I include because of a revealing graphic at the beginning of the presentation. It shows the locations on a world map of international terrorist attacks in groups by date, and continues progressively to add incidents until the present day. The spreading, progressive pattern of violence, thus presented in graphic form, is unmistakable. The rest of the presentation is useful as well, but I particularly liked the visual history of the spread of violence.

These are about 5 minutes each. There are pause/rewind buttons at the lower right of the screen in each case, in case the image pace is too quick, which it is in a few cases. The What Really Happened video explains these at the beginning.

Clicking on each graphic will take you to that video on Front Page Magazine’s site. Enjoy, and be fully informed.

01/25/2008 (5:04 pm)

Fautography, Lest We Forget

Solomonia reminds us how Palestinian activists love to manipulate the complicit American press, with evidence of staged photographic events surrounding the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza. Photographers and reporters entered sessions of parliament on Gaza where the only light was candlelight, emphasizing the Israeli decision to cut off fuel supplies to those attacking them. Only, the sessions were being held during daylight hours, and the rooms were full of windows. They drew the curtains for photographs.

Never forget; it’s a war of the mind, our enemies know how to fight, and the American press serves our enemies willingly.

01/24/2008 (5:31 pm)

Understanding the Middle East

Want to spend about 18 minutes and learn why defending Israel is important to the US?

The woman in this interview is Caroline Glick, former Coordinator of Negotiations with the PLO in the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza for the Israeli military, and currently Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post. Credit a comment from “Vince” in a discussion on Betsy’s Page.

Preview: it’s not about a Palestinian state. It’s about an unbroken Muslim Caliphate throughout the Middle East, the pursuit of which is foiled by the presence of one, tiny liberal republic that happens to be predominantly Jewish. And it’s about jihad, the ongoing struggle, for Islam to cover the world.

Two parts to the interview:

It’s actually pretty clear. We don’t have to kill all Muslims; that would be barbaric and unnecessary. We simply have to make sure that wherever they try to spread militarily, they lose — like Charlemagne did. Like Charles Martel did. Like Ferdinand of Spain did. And then, they’ll live peacefully with us.

01/09/2008 (9:57 pm)

Nostalgia For Tonkin Gulf

The Pentagon released a tape of last weekend’s incident between 3 US Navy vessels and 5 Iranian speedboats in the Hormuz Straits to document the incident in public. And in the latest of the non-stop “let’s recreate Vietnam” efforts from the left, Huffington Post published their rebuttal today. Their expert witness, an Island Records VP who was born in Iran, gives his reasons why he believes the Pentagon tapes are faked. He thinks this is a PR move to raise public fear of Iran.

Discussion from Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard, and a rebuttal from a former Naval officer at Environmental Republican. Neither is decisive; we simply don’t have the expertise to interpret the data. You can watch the video for yourself here, courtesy of the BBC, or here, courtesy of Hot Air.

My only question is this: why would the Pentagon report an international incident, and then fake a tape of an incident in which they took no action? And if they wanted to create an international incident, why didn’t their “fake” include some suspicious-looking white boxes, like the ones they reported? As usual, the Huffies don’t pass the laugh test; if the Pentagon wanted to manufacture an international incident, they’d have done better than this.

Being that Huffington and their friends have been manufacturing scandals out of nothing for the past 7 years, I suppose we can expect them to suspect others of doing the same. But I hate to tell them: nobody’s manufacturing scandals but them.

01/07/2008 (4:41 pm)

The Strait of Hormuz — Why We Care

Five Iranian gunboats played Chicken with the US Navy on Saturday, turning aside literally seconds before the US ships opened fire.

From the AP release:

Iranian boats harassed and provoked three American Navy ships in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, threatening to explode the vessels, U.S. officials said Monday, calling it the most serious such incident in years…

Five small boats began charging the U.S. ships, dropping box-like objects in the water in front of one of the ships and forcing the U.S. ships to take evasive maneuvers, said Cosgriff, commander of the 5th Fleet and of naval forces in the U.S. Central Command region.

The Iranian boats came to less than 500 yards from the U.S. formation and at one point broke into two groups, one group going to one side and the other to the others side of the Americans. Officials said there were no injuries.

“At one point during this encounter … the ships received a radio call that was threatening in nature, to the effect that they were closing (in on) our ships and that the ships would explode — the U.S. ships would explode,” Cosgriff said.

Reuters also covered the incident.

Obviously, we should be concerned because a war with Iran would be costly and dangerous, and could further destabilize the Middle East. Of course, we’ve been engaged in a war-by-proxy with Iran for at least four years, in Iraq. Still, we’ve chosen not to formalize hostilities with Iran. This weekend’s events came close to changing that.

There are six important choke points through which a large portion of the world’s oil passes. The Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, is the one that passes the most oil to the world. From the DOE’s explanation:

In 2007, total world oil production amounted to approximately 85 million barrels per day (bbl/d), and around one-half, or over 43 million bbl/d of oil was moved by tankers on fixed maritime routes. The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities and shipping accidents which can lead to disastrous oil spills.

Of that 85 million barrels per day, 16.5 million barrels, or just under 20%, passed through the Strait of Hormuz in 2006. If the US were to go to war with Iran, they could stop that much oil from reaching the world markets until US troops captured the northern shore of the Strait. Worse, they could mine the Strait, as they did during the Iran-Iraq war back in the 1980s. Either way, war with Iran means sharply higher oil prices, at a time when oil is at its highest historical price.

The brief showdown in the Strait caused crude oil futures prices to jump $.49 on the world markets for a few hours over the weekend, before sliding back down.

This is why the Iranian Navy started performing war games maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz early last year. Iran understands that the power to destroy a resource constitutes control of that resource. Iran does not need the oil that passes through the Strait nearly as badly as the rest of the world does.

Photo by Reuters.

12/29/2007 (12:15 pm)

Pakistan Rumbles

News first:

Interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said rioting across the country had destroyed 176 banks, 72 train cars and 18 railway stations, while at least 100 prisoners had been sprung from jails.

Violence shakes the nation of Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. The military is attempting to crack down on rioters who are burning banks, trains, and jails.

Meanwhile, the nation prepares for Parliamentary elections due January 8. So far, no move has been made to postpone the elections, despite the fact that members of the PPP, Bhutto’s opposition party, distrust the government. Nine election offices have been burned in the riots.

Official reports blame al Qaeda for the attack that caused Bhutto’s death, and specifically name Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mehsud as having ordered the attack. Mehsud also allegedly ordered the bomb blast in Karachi that killed 140 people last October in another attempt on Bhutto’s life. Mehsud allegedly denied involvement, from his center of operations in Waziristan, on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The current unrest in Pakistan rides on the charge that the Musharraf government did not provide enough protection for Bhutto. Opponents claim the assailant got close enough to shoot her, while the government’s official report claims that Bhutto hit her head on a protruding sunroof handle when the bomb exploded, and died from head trauma. The government has offered to exhume Bhutto’s body for opposition leaders to examine.

That’s the news. Here are my thoughts:

Pakistan owns viable nuclear weapons. They’re safe for now, but should the nation fall into civil war and the government collapse, it is possible that Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of international wahabist terrorists. This concern, alone, could trigger US involvement to support the Pakistani government.

The good news is that Pakistan should now be firmly committed to finding and killing al Qaeda operatives in Waziristan, where Osama bin Laden is alleged to be hiding. If there was any doubt that the terrorists in the mountains were a danger to Pakistan, that should now be erased.

The Bush Doctrine on the middle east holds that stable, free republics don’t attack each other, and counts on a stable Pakistan. The terrorists seem to agree with this view, which is why they feel an unstable Pakistan favors them. And of course, if the Pakistani government is fighting for survival, it will not come after them in their mountain strongholds on the Afghan border.

By keeping terrorism in clear view, the situation is likely to benefit whichever Presidential candidate manages to convince voters that they’re able to manage foreign affairs. Conventional wisdom gives this edge to McCain and Thompson on the Republican side, and Clinton on the Democrat side, although to be frank, Sen. Clinton’s attempt to connect herself to Bhutto appears to be an exaggeration. (The mainstream press is dutifully ignoring this. You’ll find fuller treatment of Ms. Clinton’s “Al Gore moment” at Sweetness and Light.)

My Western-entertainment-addled brain wonders whether the murder could have been a covert government operation designed to remove Musharraf’s chief opposition in the coming election. The latest news implicating al Qaeda all comes from the Musharraf government (the original report came from an Italian newspaper). Al Qaeda leader Mehsud is reported to have denied involvement from his village in Waziristan. However, this possibility appears remote.

12/28/2007 (1:34 pm)

Haven't Quite Gotten the Hang Yet…

I guess Iran isn’t completely savvy about producing convincing web content for the West yet.

An Iranian web site, attempting to dismiss reports that Jews are escaping Iran en masse, published the following picture along with the article:

The only problem was, the image was originally posted as a satire, and was photoshopped for the purpose of lampooning western analysts who think terrorism would cease if we simply abandoned Israel. Here’s the original image, from The Peoples Cube:

The satire is actually very funny, and includes this lovely image of bin Laden along with the caption, “Israel was the only reason why we bombed New York, Paris, London, Bali, Riyadh, Thailand, Kashmir, Russia, Morocco, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines. But now all our operations will cease.”

Do you get the impression that perhaps our friends in Iran do not understand the Western concept of satire?

Credit goes to Gateway Pundit for presenting this fascinating flub, and to The Peoples Cube for spotting it.


12/29 update: Gateway Pundit located the original photo, which was apparently taken from a nuclear energy protest in 2005. The slogan on the placard is translated “Nuclear energy is our absolute right.”

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