Category Archives: Israel

US must take responsibility for the mess in Egypt

SOME people say that the US is always blamed for what happens in the Middle East. And they argue that laying blame in such a manner is not really justified.

But in the case of Egypt, the US must take the blame. There are no ifs and buts about it. The 400-odd people who have died would still be alive if the Obama administration had indicated clearly that it did not approve of the people’s choice of leaders being ousted in a coup.

That never happened. From the time the military ousted Mohammed Mursi, Obama and his cohorts began to indulge in semantics. By not condemning the coup, and even refusing to class it as one, the US clearly gave the military its support. Aid was not cut off as would have been necessitated had the Obama administration labelled the toppling of Morsi as a coup.
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Back to the good old Mubarak days in Egypt

SO Egypt’s mild flirtation with democracy a la West is over. And it is unlikely to ever return. It’s happened on a good day too – the US celebrates its independence day and Egypt celebrates military rule. What a coincidence!!!

The problem is that the West wants its own systems imposed on other countries – in order to benefit economically. The idea that one cannot bring in a Westminster system and superimpose it on a different model does not really register with people at the US state department.

Mohammed Mursi is from the Muslim Brotherhood. He may be less extreme in his thinking than others in the same movement. But, obviously, he has never been a candidate of choice for the folk in Washington.
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Is Hersh right or wrong?

THE well-respected American investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, has come under a lot of fire from conservatives recently after he published an article in the New Yorker, saying that there was no conclusive evidence that Iran was making any moves towards building a nuclear bomb.

Hersh is a legendary figure in journalistic circles; he broke the story of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and, more recently, was responsible for exposing the abuse by American forces in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Some of the criticism came from the Wall Street Journal which was very careful to avoid citing Hersh’s credentials but, instead, concentrated on pointing out where he had gone wrong in the past. For an investigative report, getting it right 50 percent of the time is better than most and Hersh is far better than that.

The WSJ piece, written by a cantankerous gent named Bret Stephens (partial article here; the skinflints at WSJ charge for rubbish like this) dwells heavily on what Hersh has got wrong in the last four or five years. It does not give the reader any idea about the major triumphs that this intrepid man, one of the few newspapermen in the US with even a shred of integrity after the Iraq invasion of 2003, has recorded.

Other criticisms dwell on Hersh’s characterisation of the Iraq invasion as a “mistake”; this is correct as the march to control Saddam’s oil was a deliberately planned mission by Dubya and his cronies. The possibility that Sy indulging in sarcasm appears to have escaped people.Hersh, more than anyone else, knows the background of what led up to the Iraq invasion.

If Hersh is right in pointing out that Iran is nowhere near a nuclear weapon, then a huge amount of the fear factor that is being drummed up by Israel and its cohorts in the US dissipates immediately. Even Israelis, such as the former Mossad chief, Meir Dragan, have gone on the record, saying that Iran poses no danger at the moment.

But if the fear that hangs over the Middle East is lifted, then it becomes difficult for Israel to continue to get the support it does in the US. Support which translates into lobbying muscle, aid and diplomatic support. Hence anybody who writes an article like Hersh did will be targeted.

Obama angers Israel – and conveniently forgets that Saudi Arabia exists

SOON after he came to office in 2009, US President Barack Obama made a trip to Cairo and gave a stirring speech at Cairo University. Obama is probably the best speaker in world politics and can soar to heights of great rhetoric; the effect of his Cairo speech was probably magnified by the fact that he was a few months into his four-year term and hopes were high that he would live up to the promises he had made while campaigning for the presidency.

A little less than two years later, with a great deal of cynicism over what Obama has turned out to be, he gave a second address today, focused on the Middle East, this time from the White House. And in so doing, he may well have ensured that he loses the presidential election in 2012.

The speech was apparently meant to give an official American stance on the incidents that have taken place in the Middle East since last December – the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and the ongoing struggle for freedom in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and smaller agitations in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The killing of Osama bin Laden would have guaranteed Obama re-election had he not opened his big mouth about Israel’s borders. But he chose to do precisely this and, in so doing, may well have lost the backing of the powerful Israeli lobby that can decide who rises or falls in American politics.

George Bush Senior was the last US president to feel the power of this lobby after he withheld loan guarantees from Israel in order to force the country to attend peace talks in Madrid in 1991; he lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

Obama’s mistake was to backtrack on US policy; it is well-known that the US backs a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the ceasefire lines of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. This stance ensures that Israel retains control of the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip which it can then use as bargaining chips. Jerusalem is the main obstacle. (The so-called peace process over the last 20 years has given the Gaza Strip and about 20 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control.)

But in his speech today, Obama said a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians would be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 war. At that time, Jordan was occupying the West Bank and Egypt held the Gaza Strip. And Israel was not in control of Jerusalem.

Obama has a chance to fall on his knees and grovel and reverse his stance – he is due to speak to the biggest and most powerful Israeli lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, soon. But if he does repeat his comments there, then you can bid goodbye to the chances of a Democrat being in the White House for the next four years.

Predictably, Obama came down in support of Arab countries where the people have decided to fight for freedom. But his gestures to help these nations – involving the IMF and the World Bank – means that the process that was gone through in South America to make the nations of that continent servants of the US will be re-enacted all over again.

As expected, Obama did not dare to say a word about Saudi Arabia. There have been several low-key protests in the kingdom and women have threatened to drive en masse in protest against the ludicrous rule that prevents them from doing so. But Obama seemed unaware of this.

He mentioned the repression in Bahrain and even went to the extent of saying that Shia mosques should not be destroyed by the Sunni rulers but he did not chide Saudi Arabia for leading troops into Bahrain and playing a leading role in savagely quelling the popular protests.

The US treads carefully when it comes to Saudi Arabia. There is no better example to illustrate this than the events of 9/11; despite the fact that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked the US were Saudis, Washington did nothing to protest. Instead, it helped several members of the bin Laden family and royals from the Saudi clan to leave the US immediately after the attacks, at a time when air traffic was grounded.

The name of the game is oil. The Saudis are still the biggest producers and the country with the largest remaining reserves. If explorations in Iraq do turn up more reserves as some have predicted, then a future US president may criticise Saudi Arabia in public.

For the moment, Obama is as beholden to the Saudis as Dubya. He is conscious that the US still consumes 25 percent of the world’s petroleum and is up to its tits in debt.

Hamas official’s murder: things get murkier

ISRAEL has come under more pressure after additional revelations from Dubai about the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud Al Mabhouh – namely that the identities of another 15 people were stolen and used by those who carried out the killing.

The Mossad is suspected of carrying out the assassination; Israel, as it always does, has refused to either confirm or deny the allegations.

Six of the 15 had British passports and three had Australian passports. Some of those whose identities have been used have dual nationality and live in Israel, making it some kind of first.

Mossad has generally not used its own citizens’ identities to carry out operations abroad though in the past it has not been too bothered about violating the sovereignty of other countries where such operations are concerned.

There are Arabs said to be involved too, with two Palestinians being held in Dubai and Syria reported to be holding an associate of Mahbouh.

The murder took place in January and it took 10 days for the Dubai Police to conclude that it was not a natural death.

Both Britain and Australia have traditionally been extremely good allies of Israel and the fact that both countries appear to have been treated with contempt will obviously rankle.

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, did not mince his words, saying that if it was found that Israel was involved in stealing Australian travel documents, then it would not be the act of a friend.

The whole affair looked like settling down when these fresh allegations broke. Now it is likely to drag on for quite a while.

Another targeted assassination – Mossad at work?

EVER since the former Mossad operative, Victor Ostrovsky, wrote what was then, in 1990, a sensational account of life as a Mossad agent, people have known for a fact that Israel targets people for assassination. The list of those targeted has to be approved at the highest governmental level.

Mossad, which normally carries out these operations, generally does not leave many loose ends lying around. If the agency carried out a hit in Dubai last month on Hamas operative Mahmoud Al Mabhouh, it looks like it made some serious errors and left far too much evidence lying around.

Dubai keeps footage of all visitors, right from the time they arrive at the airport. Hotels also have plenty of surveillance cameras and the faces of the 11 people who took part in killing Mabhouh are now available worldwide after the Dubai Police found out the nationalities which the alleged killers had adopted.

If Israel was involved – and no other nation has an interest in seeing Mahbouh dead – it won’t be getting too much sympathy from the rest of the world over this killing, as the operatives used German, French, British and Irish passports to enter Dubai. These passports have now found to be fakes.

Details of the people who were allegedly involved have also been published. At least one does not exist.

Security camera footage from the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel shows the 11 operatives, 10 men and a woman, from the time they entered the hotel. It’s an interesting tale, no doubt about that.

The tale of the killing, as detailed by the Dubai authorities, reads like a high-grade mystery novel. But then most of the operations which Ostrovsky detailed in his book, By Way of Deception, read much the same.