Archive for May 9th, 2011
Straight from the Debka File: “Israelis celebrate the 63rd anniversary of their independence this week in good cheer. Neither by word nor hint have its leaders referred to the challenge facing the country in the year to come: Barack Obama, President of Israel’s best friend and ally, has picked the Muslim Brotherhood movement of the Middle East as his chosen partner for promoting American interests in the Arab world in place of its ousted rulers. His courtship of this organization, which he regards as moderate, was the rationale, say debkafile’s Washington and counter-terror sources, behind his bold decision to get rid of Osama bin Laden, a step which his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, held back from although they knew where he was.
Many people forgot the vow Obama made in Cairo on June 4 to mend America’s fences with the Muslim world, but he meant every word. His White House has made forging a pact between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood their ultimate policy objective, although they do not expect to achieve it in one fell swoop.
Bin Laden’s death was part of the US president’s unfolding game plan:
1. He needed to demonstrate unswerving resolve to eradicate the terrorist threat posed by Islamic extremists;
2. The Muslim Brotherhood and its national chapters needed to be held back from falling into the arms of Islamic radicalism if it were to qualify as the centerpiece of America’s new beginning with the Arab world.
Another part of the Obama game plan was the “Arab Spring” for paving the way to that beginning by making decades’-old autocratic rulers redundant.
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak had to go first – and he was therefore the only Arab ruler whom the US president told bluntly to leave, unlike Muammar Qaddafi or even Bashar Assad – very simply because Egypt is the center of the many-branched Muslim Brotherhood’s and its Shura Council.
More than any other Middle East party or organization, the Brotherhood holds powerful levers of influence in Libya, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian arena and even in Saudi Arabia through its presence in national religious institutions and broad membership. It is therefore suppressed by all those regimes as it was in Egypt.
Mubarak’s fellow Arab rulers watched and noted how quickly and ruthlessly Obama disposed of him and mustered all their resources to defeat the US-backed revolts against their regimes before they too were tossed on the rubbish heap.
Saudi King Abdullah fought back with a divorce from Washington. He is bitterly hostile to the Obama administration – not just over Mubarak’s humiliating downfall, but because he believes that a US-Muslim Brotherhood pact would threaten the royal House of Saud by engulfing the clerical institutions which give the throne its legitimacy.
Libya’s Qaddafi tried to save himself by pointing to his common cause with the US against a rebellion penetrated by Al Qaeda and other Muslim extremists. When he realized that Washington did not share his view and favored the Muslim elements, he decided to fight back against the rebellion and defy their NATO backers.
Syria’s Bashar Assad, who represents a secular regime and creed, has resorted to tanks, artillery and live bullets for a ferocious crackdown to end what he regards as the continuation of the Muslim Brotherhood-led challenge to the Alawite Assad family rule launched first against his father 19 years ago.
Another piece of the Obama game plan was put in place in Cairo Wednesday, May 4, with the inking of the Palestinian unity pact by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas for Fatah and Khaled Meshaal for Hamas.
After Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned Abbas that the Palestinians must choose between peace and Hamas, Abbas is reported by debkafile’s Cairo sources as privately asking why the Israelis complained to him. They should complain to Obama, he said. Hamas is an offshoot of the Egyptian and Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood branches. “I am only acting out his guidelines by helping the Brotherhood’s integration in Middle East government.”
The US president has taken certain steps to get his plan in motion. It will be far from plain sailing. In Israel and in some Western capitals, the military junta which has succeeded Hosni Mubarak in Cairo is not expected to tamely open the door to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian generals have meanwhile taken the lead in steering Palestinian moves in the hope of focusing the Muslim Brotherhood’s attention on the Palestinian issue rather than its drive for power. This device worked for Gemal Abdul Nasser in the 60s and 70s. But sooner or later, the Brotherhood and Washington will realize that the military rulers fully intend to hold onto power. Instead of standing aside for a Brotherhood presidential candidate, they will run one of their own. President Obama will then be confronted with a hard decision.
Sensing the supportive winds blowing in from Washington, Muslim activists attacked a Coptic Christian church in Cairo Saturday, May 7, sparking a violent sectarian clash that raged through Sunday night leaving more than 20 dead and raising fears of a Muslim power grab. With the White House busy juggling the balls of its primary Middle East policy, there is not much Israel can do. Therefore, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama on May 21and his speech to the joint Houses of Congress during his Washington visit are not expected to yield momentous changes.
There is not much point in his unveiling any new peace proposal as long as the Palestinians are stuck betwixt and between their next moves, or trying to warn Obama against a US-Muslim Brotherhood rapprochement. While a Brotherhood takeover in neighboring Arab countries, however gradual, would pose a direct threat to Israeli security, Obama in the full flush of success of his initial steps will not be receptive to Israel’s arguments.
Straight from Astronomy Picture of the Day: “Explanation: What’s that bright orange dot above the large telescope on the right? Even seasoned sky enthusiasts might ponder the origin of the orange orb seen by scrolling across this panoramic image, taken last December. Perhaps identifying known objects will help. To start, on the far left is a diagonal band of light known as zodiacal light, sunlight reflected off of dust orbiting in the inner Solar System. The bright white spot on the left, just above the horizon, is Venus, which also glows by reflected sunlight. Rising diagonally from the ground to the right of Venus is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy. In the image, the band, which usually stretches dramatically overhead, appears to arch above the elevated Chilean landscape. Under the Milky Way arch, toward the left, lie both the Large and Small Magellanic Cloud galaxies, while toward the right lies the constellation of Orion surrounded by the red ring of Barnard’s Loop. On the ground, each of the four Very Large Telescopes is busy keeping an eye on the distant universe. The orange spot — it’s the Moon. The image was taken during a total lunar eclipse when the normally bright full moon turned into a faint orb tinted orange by the intervening Earth’s atmosphere.”
Straight from Fox News: “Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan-and its Chinese ally-for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.
The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting. Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan’s bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan’s future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war’s endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America’s prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.
With the bulk of U.S.-led coalition troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country’s neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, are beginning to jockey for influence, positioning themselves for Afghanistan’s post-American era.
Pakistan enjoys particular leverage in Afghanistan because of its historic role in fostering the Taliban movement and its continuing support for the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Washington’s relations with Pakistan, ostensibly an ally, have reached their lowest point in years following a series of missteps on both sides.
Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. “Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest,” said a senior Pakistani official. “We’re not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they’re leaving, they’re leaving and they should go.”
Mr. Karzai is wavering on Pakistan’s overtures, according to Afghans familiar with his thinking, with pro- and anti-American factions at the presidential palace trying to sway him to their sides.”