Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

U.S. at War: Airstrikes have begun in Syria

September 25, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005) Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s September 25, 2014 blog post.

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Fighting between tribal and religious factions is not new. Rulers and dictators have come and gone through history. In the 12th century Sultan Saladin’s Muslim forces defeated the Crusaders, and created a caliphate in the Middle East and North Africa. The mantle was passed on to the Ottoman Empire rulers who controlled much of the Middle East and Eastern Europe until 1915. Islamists today want to establish another caliphate in the same region. In the early 1700’s the Muslim preacher Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab formed a political pact with Muhammad bin Saud to engage in armed jihad against the other tribes in the region. The al-Saud dynasty by 1932 had become the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, controlling a vast region in the Middle East. The Wahhabi sect has since spread throughout the Middle East, Africa and Southern Asia, and adopted armed jihad as part of the Islamic doctrine. (more…)

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Can Gaza Ever Be Pacified?

August 8, 2014

Marc Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 7, 2014 special to the Huffington Post.

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The Gaza Strip will never fit neatly into a future Palestinian state jigsaw puzzle. Even in a utopian final two-state settlement it will always be separated from the West Bank across 30 Israeli desert miles. The best minds have tried to figure this one out… an elevated highway linking Gaza and the West Bank, a highway tunnel gouged under Israel, even a light rail system. Yet Gaza’s ill-fated geography is what it is no matter what Hamas may seek (and will always fail) to change.

The simplistic narratives spinning around the war about Gaza only make things worse for its victimized citizenry. For Israelis and for those truly interested in a positive future for Gaza, it is essential to understand that Hamas and the Palestinians who live there are not one and the same.

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What Did the Arab Spring Accomplish?

August 1, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s July 30, 2014 blog post.

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The root of discontent stemmed from unjust governance, poverty, food insecurity and unemployment issues. Regime change did not build democratic institutions. The political instability opened the door to Islamists bent on creating Islamic states.

The Arab Spring in North Africa began in Tunisia in December 2010, with the self-immolation of a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi who had his fruit and vegetable cart confiscated by local authorities. Massive protests forced President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. President Moncef Marzouki his successor failed to unify the country, and under political pressure agreed to hold new elections– which he postponed twice. Islamists have carried out attacks against members of parliament and political leaders, recently killing two moderate candidates. In May 2014 the electoral laws were changed to allow former officials in Ben Ali’s administration to run for office. Twenty former government leaders were recently released from prison, which sparked public outcry. Adding to the chaos last week fourteen soldiers were killed while pursuing AQIM Islamists embedded in the Chaambi Mountain region near the western border with Algeria.

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Global War on Terror has become more dangerous

June 6, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s June 6, 2014 blog post.

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The Obama Administration has increased the risk of Islamist attacks against Americans with the release of five–most dangerous and seasoned–jihadists from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp (GITMO). They are as brutal as Osama bin Laden, and capable of planning major terrorist attacks. They have had over twelve years in isolation to think about targets. GITMO still holds over 150 battle hardened enemy combatants. Sending the five to Qatar, the headquarters for the Taliban, will be like a homecoming—a brief period of rest and recuperation.

Qatar is one of the main financial supporters of Islamist groups throughout the Middle East and Africa. Returning the Islamists to war-torn Afghanistan will not be necessary to carry out their evil deeds. It was while Osama bin Laden was in Sudan from 1991 to 1996 that he planned numerous strikes against to United States, including the attacks on U.S. and UN soldiers in Somalia in 1993, the World Trade Center garage bombing in 1993, the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the two U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; later while in Afghanistan the USS Cole bombing in the Port of Aden in 2000, and the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001.

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Al-Qaeda’s Presence Has Not Been Diminished

February 5, 2014

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s February 4, 2014 blog post.

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In the 1980’s the U.S. supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviets. Our ally was Osama bin Laden who organized his Arab fighters to help defeat the Soviets. When the dictator, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 Osama bin Laden offered to bring his Afghan-Arab fighters, known as al-Qaeda (the base), to help drive the Iraqis from Kuwait. Bin Laden’s offer was rejected by the Saudi Arabian government, who instead invited the U.S. to use their military bases as a staging area. Bin Laden considered our troops “infidels”, occupying the land of Islam’s two holiest sites–Mecca and Medina. Soon thereafter bin Laden issued his fatwa–declaring war on the United States.

In previous articles I noted that killing Osama bin Laden, in May 2011, would not change al-Qaeda’s quest to destroy Western interests. “The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it” was a second fatwa Osama bin Laden issued in February 1998, seven months before the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed. The U.S. should have increased security everywhere, yet we were unprepared to avoid the disastrous attacks by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001.

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Partitioning May Be a Peaceful Solution

November 21, 2013

John Price (Ambassador to Mauritius, Seychelles and Comoros, 2002-2005)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Price’s November 20, 2013 blog post.

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The goal of building democratic institutions in North Africa and the Middle East could prove to be futile. The Arab Spring uprisings that brought about regime change in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen did not bring peace to the region. The U.S. push for regime change in Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war and tribal and ethnic clashes, may not bring peace either.

Building democratic institutions and unifying Syria may not be possible, with the pent-up demand for a homeland by the differing ethnic factions. The overthrow of Bashar al-Assad may become the catalyst for the partitioning of Syria. This may also be true for other Middle East and North African countries, where uprisings and demonstrations occur almost daily.

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Ambassador Stephenson on his Trip to Israel

October 22, 2013

Thomas Stephenson (Ambassador to Portugal, 2007-2009)

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As I write, I am flying back from four days in Israel during which time I participated in a series of meetings with current, and several former, senior military, intelligence, and government leaders. None of the meetings were for attribution, but I thought it would be interesting to address the questions posed (How does the government shutdown impact US foreign policy and US credibility abroad? How significant is the recent shift in US-Iran relations? What do you expect will result from the recent agreement between Secretary Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the Assad regime regarding the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons?) in the context of Israel’s precarious position with regard to most of the issues raised, and the gist of what we heard and observed regarding these issues while there.

There was concern expressed about the impact on Israel and our other trading partners of our government shutdown and potential debt default (fortunately, an agreement to kick the can down the road a few months was reached the day after our meetings concluded). Several of the people with whom we met expressed concern about the potential impact of shutdown and sequestration on our military capabilities, the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and the extent to which world financial markets and international trade have been roiled by our failure to find a solution. There is no doubt relief in many corners of the world that we have at least an interim solution.

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Embassy (In)Security — A Diplomatic SOS

August 9, 2013

Marc C. Ginsberg (Ambassador to Morocco, 1994-1998)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Ginsberg’s August 8, 2013 post on The Huffington Post.

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Calling Seal Team 7. al Qaeda’s too-long leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is thought to be still hiding out in another Abbottabad in Pakistan, is up to deadly mischief by issuing three communications last week: two public and the third — a highly lethal secret correspondence directing an attack on U.S. embassies in the Middle East and South Asia.

The leaked intercept from al Qaeda’s chief to his al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Yemeni lieutenant — Nasser al-Wuhayshi — is a grim wake-up call that al-Zawahiri is exerting a modicum of stewardship over al Qaeda’s far flung franchises despite being on the lamb longer than Bin Laden.

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