“Obama Lacks the Credibility to Sell Used Cars, Much Less Lead an ‘Anti-Terror’ Coalition”

COMMENT

“Barack Obama has spent the last six years throwing America’s allies under the bus and weaseling out of “red lines”. It is no surprise that governments in the Middle East are reluctant to join an “anti-terror” coalition lead by a man they wouldn’t buy a used car from.”

by Aboud Dandachi

Aboud DandachiBarack Obama is a man who desperately wishes that foreign-policy wasn’t part of the job description that comes with being President of the United States. After six years of trying to “pivot” away from the Middle East, Obama is discovering that just because one doesn’t have an interest in the Middle East, is no immunity from the Middle East biting one in the ass.

With the terror group ISIS rampaging over much of the Levant and executing Western hostages, Obama has found himself forced to commit America to going to war again in the region. A broad regional coalition of (mainly) Sunni states is, according to Obama’s thinking, an essential ingredient to legitimizing America’s latest military foray in a region Obama would dearly love to be rid of.

Alas, Obama’s efforts at coalition-building have so far proven a dismal failure, with no country yet willing to openly commit to joining the USA in any military action against ISIS. But the reluctance of Middle Eastern governments to join an “anti-ISIS” coalition is not due to any imagined sympathies towards the group.

Simply put, countries in the region are understandably reluctant to commit themselves to a man who has himself not kept a single commitment to any of America’s allies. From Ukraine, to Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Turkey and the Gulf, America’s friends and opponents have noted what little value the Obama administration’s “commitments” are actually worth.

After six years of weaselling out of “red lines”, throwing Lebanese and Ukrainian allies under the bus, treating Turkey and Israel with open disdain, and going behind the Gulf’s back to sign an appeasement with the Iranian Ayatollocracy, the scale of which outdid even Chamberlain’s Munich agreement with Adolph Hitler, Obama comes as a supplicant to the Middle East; a supplicant with not even the credibility of a used-car salesman.

Join an Obama-led “anti-terror” coalition? Speaking as a Syrian refugee, I tend to regard Barack Obama as one would regard a neighbor who never lent much more than a glass of water while my house burned, but now expects me to join his vigilante neighborhood gang because someone broke his windows.

Six years into his administration, Obama is learning that there is a price to be paid for screwing over America’s allies and breaking commitments. And it doesn’t help matters when Obama confides to the American press that he foresees the ISIS problem as being one “for the next president, and probably the one after that.”

The “next president”. Obama may very well prefer to coast through the rest of his presidency, and eventually enjoy the post-presidential bounties of big fat speaking fees and appearances. But those of us who actually live in the region aren’t so lucky, and Obama is going to have to display an unprecedented level of commitment if he wants his “anti-ISIS” coalition to amount to more than himself and some Iranian Shia proxy militias, most of whom have proven to be as bad as ISIS.

No American boots on the ground? That may sound good politically, but it’s a policy that flies in the face of any serious military strategy that has a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating ISIS.

ISIS will not be defeated by airstrikes alone, someone’s boots are going to have to go toe to toe with the Jihadis. What kind of an imbecile telegraphs their own pain-thresholds to an adversary well before a battle. All it does is raise doubts about one’s resolve in the minds of both one’s opponents, and potential allies (good luck Obama, on getting any Turkish or Arab “boots on the ground” after displaying your reluctance to put your “boots” where your mouth is).

Obama’s dismal failure in putting together a reliable “anti-terror” coalition stands in marked contrast to the success of George Bush Senior, who prior to Desert Storm managed to create an impressive regional and international alliance to expel Saddam from Kuwait. In 1990, America’s allies knew what they were signing up for when they got behind a US-led coalition.

Obama is no George Bush Senior. In 1990, Bush managed to build an impressive regional and international coalition against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Before a single bullet was fired in Desert Storm, Saddam was completely isolated politically. While the military contributions of many countries in Desert Storm would eventually prove peripheral, the political legitimacy they afforded to the campaign was invaluable.

So why did George Bush Senior succeed where Barack Obama has so far failed? By any measure, Obama’s task should have proven the easier of the two. While Saddam initially had some international support, ISIS has none. The Iraqi military at the time was the world’s largest, a far tougher nut to crack than ISIS could ever dream of becoming.

No, in the end, the success or failure of coalition building depends as much on the attributes and perceived reliability of those who would lead such a coalition, as it does on the potential target or goals of said coalition. In 1990, America’s resolve, objectives and commitment were unquestioned. American boots were the first to go into battle. America’s allies knew what they were signing up for when they got behind the USA. America’s allies trusted America’s president.

A stark contrast to the fuzzy, muddled approach of America’s current president. It is difficult to have confidence in a man whose own self-confidence is so lacking, his best hope of fixing the greatest threat of this decade is to leave it to be solved by “the next president, and probably the one after that.”

The above article originally appeared on Mr. Dandachi’s website.

Aboud Dandachi is an activist from the Syrian city of Homs, currently residing in Istanbul. He has been cited on issues relating to the Syrian conflict in the BBC, NPR, LA Times, the Guardian, Al-Arabiya and Turkiye Gazetesi. Aboud’s articles have been republished on numerous media outlets including Daily Sabah, Elder of Ziyon, EA Worldview, Frontpage Mag, and jewishinfoNews.  Aboud can be followed on Twitter @AboudDandachi

Photo Credit: President Barack Obama visits Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, Sept. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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Latest International News for May 13, 2014

What Others Are Saying

Never the twain shall meet?

Hürriyet Daily News, Turkey reports: Iranians, Israelis rush to Antalya. The first four months of the year saw a rise in Iranian and Israeli tourists to Turkey’s southern holiday mecca of Antalya. According to a report released in May by the Antalya Touristic Hotels and Businesses Union, the number of Iranian tourists who visited Antalya skyrocketed by 464 percent between January and April, while visitors from Israel soared by 146 percent. The number of Iranian visitors surpassed 53,000, whereas the number of Israelis visiting Antalya was more than 39,000. The rise in Iranian and Israeli visitors outstripped some of the top Antalya-loving countries during the period, in which the overall number of foreign visitors rose 5.1 percent to 1.32 million… Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last year over the Mavi Marmara incident gave a boost to Turkey’s allure for Israeli holiday markets.

“Judenfrei” sign posted on the gates of nursery school in Latvia

Riga Latvia bLatvian news site Vesti Segodniya reports the Pucite School, owned by Imants Paradnieks, [who has in the past made anti-Semitic statements] posted a sign reading “Judenfrei” (free of Jews) on the gate at the front entrance of the school. The school was in the news two years ago for bringing in men dressed in Waffen SS uniforms to show the kindergarten class what they called a patriotic lesson. In a video taken of that lesson, children are shown World War II era weapons such as grenades, pistols, rifles and machine guns.

‘We feel the Nazi frost in the air’: Sweden

The Local, Sweden reports: Two of Sweden’s most prominent politicians have asked their European counterparts “to wake up”. Cecilia Malmström and Birgitta Ohlsson argue that it is time to fight “Hitler’s ideological heirs, who are marching towards our legislative assemblies”.  On May 9th, 1945 there were celebrations across Europe as the Third Reich capitulated and the second world war finally ended. Last week, some 200 Nazis from the Party of the Swedes demonstrated in Jönköping. They protested against the EU and brandished the slogan “Sweden for the Swedes”. Through the duration of the demonstration, church bells rang out across the southern Swedish town.  It was the first time since 1939 that the churches rang their bells to warn of danger.  School students across our country have this spring been met by Nazi hate propaganda. Some dismiss the scrawled swastiskas and hateful words as pranks. But we feel the frost in the air. 

BBC’s Addis Ababa correspondent decides who is Jewish

BBC Watch, UK reports: Here’s a heart-breaking story which was broadcast on BBC World News television and promoted on the Middle East and Africa pages of the BBC News website… Presenter Emmanuel Igunza reports: Shouts of praise for the holy scrolls but make no mistake; this is not Israel. Welcome to Gondar – an ancient historic city in northern Ethiopia and home to the Falash Mura: the last Jews of Ethiopia. They spend their days living according to Jewish tradition, passed onto them over hundreds of years. The tranquility here betrays the emotional turmoil that many feel, not able to join their families in Israel. Stories of siblings separated, children allowed to settle in the Jewish homeland while their parents remain behind. Under the Israeli government criteria, only those Falash Mura who can show evidence of Jewish ancestry on their mother’s side are allowed into Israel and granted citizenship… The problem with Emmanuel Igunza’s story is that he has left out some very critical details, the most obvious one being that the Falash Mura are Christians whose Jewish ancestors were converted by Western missionaries from around the end of the nineteenth century.

Peres barred from entering Swedish airspace

The Jewish Chronicle, UK reports: Israeli President Peres was held up in mid-air on Sunday after Swedish authorities refused to permit the plane he was travelling in from entering their airspace. The president had been en route to Norway in a private jet, owned by the company Kishrev Teufa, when he hit problems over the Baltic Sea.
According to Haaretz, his flight was 15 minutes away from Swedish airspace when the pilot was told that the country’s air traffic authorities had no prior knowledge of clearance being given. After circling the area, the plane was finally re-routed through Danish airspace, making Mr Peres 50 minutes late for his arrival in Oslo. Although the Foreign Ministry blamed the problem on the fact that a private company had been transporting Mr Peres, his office has criticised the Swedish authorities. A spokesperson at the President’s Office said: “It was a technical problem. The Swedes immediately gave approval, but later revoked it for reasons unknown to us.”

Jewish boat making waves ahead of Amsterdam gay parade

JTA reports: Its maiden voyage is months away and will only take a couple of hours, but the Jewish boat of Amsterdam’s annual gay parade-on-the-canals is already making international waves. On Monday, the Jewish boat got the thumbs up from the British actor Stephen Fry, who described it on Twitter as an “Ace event for LGBT Jews worldwide,” adding: “As one of each I wish I could be there!”  The Jewish boat for the Amsterdam Pride Canal Parade 2014 is scheduled to hit the murky waters of Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal on August 2. It was one of approximately 80 boats to win a March lottery ensuring its participation in the world-famous event, believed to be the world’s only aquatic pride parade. Other winners included the first boat for Moroccan gays. The 18-year-old annual event draws hundreds of thousands of spectators who huddle along the canal to watch the decorated, themed vessels chart a west-east course through one of the Dutch capital’s main waterways. The Jewish boat, and an international Jewish LGBT conference that immediately precedes it, are being organized by a group called Exodays, whose board is made up of several young Jewish activists.

Israel says to normalize relations with Turkey

Kuwait News Agency reports:  Israel announced on Monday that it will begin normalizing relations with Turkey in a matter of days after the return of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from his visit to Japan. The normalization comes after four years of tension between the two countries caused by the Israeli attack on the Turkish (Mavi Marmara) flotilla carrying Turkish activists supporting Gaza in May 2010, killing and injuring dozens of those on board. Turkey withdrew its Ambassador to Israel after the incident, and demanded the same from the Hebrew state. Israel has agreed to pay compensation of USD 21 million to the victims’ families, according to Radio Israel. The two sides will reach a final agreement regarding compensations once Netanyahu has returned, the radio added. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has previously said that Israel must pay the compensation and end the siege on Gaza, if it really wanted to normalize relations with his country. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu meanwhile said in a press conference that the Turkish-Israeli negotiations are coming out with positive results and have solved big issues between the two countries.

Israel’s creation is “the greatest crime known to humanity” writes official PA daily op-ed

Palestinian Media Watch reports: To coincide with Israel’s Independence Day last week, the official Palestinian Authority daily published an op-ed describing Israel’s creation – “the occupation of Palestine” – as “the greatest crime known to humanity.” Other terms of demonization used to refer to Israel’s creation were “a monstrosity was born” and “an despicable mission.” Jewish fighting forces in the War of Independence were referred to as “the Zionist gangs.”

Syria jihadists ban mannequins in shops

Gulf News, UAE reports: Militants in Raqa also ban men and women shopping together unless he is her husband, father or brotherSyria’s most extreme jihadist faction issued a ban Monday on mannequins in shop displays and the sale of women’s underwear to male customers, a monitoring group said. The decision by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) in their northern stronghold of Raqa also bans men and women shopping together unless he is her husband, father or brother, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Observatory also said ISIL has decided that traditional garments on sale must be neither “tight, transparent or ornate”. Raqa is the only provincial capital in Syria to have fallen from the hands of President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, and it is now completely under Isil control. Isil is believed to be holding some 1,000 hostages in Raqa, rights groups say, many of them peaceful activists, rival rebels or civilians caught committing “crimes” such as heresy or smoking. The group also carries out frequent public executions, with some victims reportedly crucified in Raqa.

West ‘stupid’ to expect Iran missile curb: Khamenei

Gulf Times, Qatar reports: Iran’s supreme leader described as “stupid and idiotic” Western expectations for his country to curb its missile development, striking a defiant tone ahead of a fresh round of nuclear talks. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to mass produce missiles and said the nuclear negotiations were not the place to discuss Tehran’s defence programme or to solve the problem of sanctions damaging the Iranian economy. “They expect us to limit our missile programme while they constantly threaten Iran with military action,” Khamenei was quoted as telling the Irna news agency while on a visit to an aeronautics fair held by the Revolutionary Guards. “So this is a stupid, idiotic expectation … The revolutionary guards should definitely carry out their programme and not be satisfied with the present level. They should mass produce. This is a main duty of all military officials.”

We thought Rouhani was supposed to be moderate? Iran censors, shuts down two newspapers

AlBawaba, Jordan reports: Iranians expecting to buy Thursday’s edition of reformist newspaper Ghanoon were disappointed not to find it on news stands as the publication has been forced to close by the Iranian Ministry of Culture. The latest closures bring the total number of Iranian media outlets shut down by the Ministry of Culture to at least five since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in August. Ghanoon, the Persian word for “law,” was shut down for its coverage of the arrest of Mohammad Rouyanian, the former chair of the Persepolis soccer club and member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. Rouyanian, who was arrested on fraud charges in March, was head of Iran’s powerful Management Transportation and Fuel Center under controversial former Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad. “The newspaper published false reports aimed at disturbing public opinion, and (articles) against the Islamic values,” read the Ministry of Culture’s statement. The statement is posted on Ghanoon’s still-operational website. Ghanoon’s article was just a reprint of a report published by Iranian news agency Dana, which the Ministry of Culture also shutdown when that fact became apparent.

Warsaw’s Jewish Heritage on Show

The Warsaw Voice reports: A new exhibition at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews offers a glimpse of Warsaw as it was before World War II, when the city was home to the world’s second-largest Jewish community after New York City. Entitled Warszawa, Warsze, the exhibition comprises archival documents, paintings and photographs. Arranged in chronological order, the exhibition begins with items from the late 18th century. The primary focus of Warszawa, Warsze are Warsaw’s distinctly Jewish neighborhoods, such as Muranów and Nalewki Street, where Yiddish was spoken and the streets bustled with sidewalk stalls, stores and craftsmen’s workshops. Visitors to the museum can see how the elegant Senatorska Street and the Tłomackie Street area, a favorite meeting place for progressive intellectuals, once looked. The exhibition also delves into the shady atmosphere of Gnojna Street and Iron Gate Square, and brings to life the Jewish microcosm of Warsaw’s Praga district, whose local horse fair attracted many Jews in the 18th century. The exhibition also takes in the Vistula River, which used to be a popular bathing spot and which simultaneously served as a trade route for Jewish merchants dealing in grain and other products.

Quilliam releases new report on online extremism

A new report by Quilliam entitled ‘Jihad Trending: A Comprehensive Analysis of Online Extremism and How to Counter it’ is released today. The report maps Islamist extremist usage of the Internet and explores the role extremist materials online play in the radicalisation process. It also focuses on how online extremism can be countered, offering a comprehensive range of counter-measures.

Key findings of the report include:

• The vast majority of radicalised individuals come into contact with extremist ideology through offline socialisation prior to being indoctrinated online. This challenges popular discourse about ‘lone wolf’ actors radicalised solely through the Internet.

• Although governments are increasingly relying on censorship and filtering methods to counter online extremism, this report found that negative measures, or censorship in general, was not only ineffective and costly but also potentially counter-productive.

(Photo credit Vesti Segodniya)


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King Mahmoud Abbas of the West Bank strikes again!

COMMENT

by Alan Simons

ALSI’ve always been fascinated, well perhaps I’m exaggerating somewhat, by the words purportedly coming out of the pathetic mouth of King Mahmoud Abbas of the West Bank.  This week was no exception.  I quote: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli — civilian or soldier — on our lands,” Abbas said following a meeting with interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour in Cairo.

My response, as one can imagine, was one of dismay and shock. I was heartbroken. Where will all the thousands of Israelis go for hospital treatment? What will happen to Israeli IT start-ups that rely heavily on West Bank financial support? What will happen to all of Israel’s unemployed, who, every day, seek work permits in the West Bank? With Israel dependent on West Bank supplies and export opportunities, will this affect Israel’s GDP of US$252.8 billion? (The West Bank comes in at US$8.0 billion.) And then there’s the tourism industry. Where will all the Israelis go for the weekend?

Will King Abbas, as Lebanon did to the Palestinians in 2001, “strip Israelis living in the West Bank of the right to own property, or to pass on the property that they already owned to their children – and ban Israelis from working as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists or in 20 other professions?”

Will Abbas chase out all the Israelis living in the West Bank in the same manner as Kuwait and other Gulf States did to the Palestinians, some years ago?

And then there’s Jordan, who we hear currently segregate the Palestinians fleeing Syria by putting them into separate refugee camps, under stricter conditions and are banned from entering Jordanian cities.

Forget about Israel’s 1,617,000 Arab citizens – Christian, Muslim, Bedouin and Druze-  many of whom have family ties in the West Bank. King Abbas has obviously lumped them in with the rest of us poor sods!

But, take heart, as Gill Hoffman wrote yesterday in The Jerusalem Post.

An Israeli flag will soon fly in Ramallah for the first time in many years when the Knesset’s Caucus on Ending the Israeli-Arab Conflict visits the Palestinian parliament, a representative of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.

Muhammad Madani, a former Palestinian parliament member whom Abbas appointed to head a new Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, made the promise at a meeting the caucus held with 30 MKs at the Knesset, during which the Palestinian and Israeli flags stood side by side.

“It is logical that since you put up a Palestinian flag when we came here that when you come to our parliament, there will be an Israeli flag,” Madani told the MKs in response to a question from The Jerusalem Post during the meeting.

How utterly reassuring.

Mahmoud Abbas, I quote Benjamin Franklin. “Don’t throw stones at your neighbours, if your own windows are glass[es].”

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(Photo credit: Mahmoud Abbas – Israellycool.com)

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