Following up once more on Andrew’s latest post, here are a few links to posts responding with “reason, ridicule, argument and analysis” to the Walt and Mearsheimer “study.”

Here are David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy), Dan Drezner, Haaretz’s Shmuel Rosner, and, perhaps most effectively, Martin Kramer.

Needless to say, for every thinking person there’s the inevitable ridiculous twit or two.

Tony Badran.

In effect

Thanks to Tony for drawing our attention to the Erlanger article on Hamas and the end of the peace process. One could argue that Arafat knocked the peace process on the head in 2000. One could also observe that what Erlanger meant to write was that “[T]he “peace process” is in effect dead”, not that “[T]he “peace process” is effectively dead.”

Andrew Apostolou (birthday suit copy editor).

Open door for fascists

In the wake of the defeat of fascism in Europe, one of the bodies founded to prevent future wars and to promote democratic values was the Council of Europe. Sadly, the Council of Europe has developed a habit of betraying its core values. Despite the crimes of Russian forces in Chechnya, Russia was admitted to the Council of Europe. Despite its patent lack of democracy, Azerbaijan was also allowed to enter the body. By contrast, Greece under the colonels’ junta was pressured into withdrawing from the Council of Europe in 1969.

Now the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has gone one better and has invited the elected fascists of Hamas to its April 10-13, 2006 session in Strasbourg. Hamas openly advocates terrorism, glorifies murder and advocates genocide (for example, one Hamas deputy is Mariam Farahat who told her son not to come back alive from a terrorist mission). None of that can be bleached out by Hamas’ election victory, nor will embracing Hamas lead to the two-state settlement that is the best future for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Hamas shows no signs of strategic flexibility in its desire to wipe Israel off of the map.

To make matters even more grotesque, Israeli army officers and Israeli who have fought fascism and terrorism are increasingly finding it difficult to travel to EU countries because of the threat of frivolous law suits.

Let’s see how many writs will be served on the Hamas fascists.

Andrew Apostolou (pyjama free).

Parallel Unilateralisms

To follow up on the Hamas reference in Andrew’s last post (gia sou re Andrea me tis pitzames sou!) — even though I never comment on Israeli-Palestinian matters — Steven Erlanger had an actually sober piece on Hamas and the repercussions of its electoral victory:

The “peace process” is effectively dead.

The diplomatic assumptions of recent years – a peace treaty after a negotiated territorial compromise between Israel and Palestine, or “land for peace” – are blown apart. Ariel Sharon tried to redefine the bargain as “a state for security” – in other words, an independent Palestinian state in return for dismantling all armed “terrorist” groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades. That was a commitment undertaken in the “road map” by Yasser Arafat and reconfirmed by Mahmoud Abbas.

But it seems unlikely Hamas will dismantle itself. Nor, its leaders say, will it abandon “the right of resistance to occupation.” Its religious conviction is that all of Palestine, including the current state of Israel, is Islamic “waqf” land – land belonging to the world’s Muslims that no Muslim can sell or cede.

Hamas talks of a long-term hudna, or armistice, with Israel – so long as Israel returns to its 1967 boundaries (the armistice lines of the unfinished 1948-49 war), unannexes East Jerusalem and lets all refugees and their descendants return to their pre-1948 homes. The state of Israel itself, Hamas insists, has no right to exist on Islamic waqf land.

So with Hamas, the argument has moved from nationalism and territorial compromise, which can be negotiated, to religious conviction and a temporary Israeli lease on its sovereignty.

A long, hostile quiet may be possible. Israelis and Palestinians may pursue parallel unilateralisms. But serious negotiations on a peace settlement? Very unlikely. Abbas calls for talks. But after Hamas, Israel now considers him unable to deliver the mail, let alone a realistic, permanent two-state solution.

The whole thing, I think, is pretty much on target, especially the parts about Hamas itself.

A friend of mine put it bluntly: “the US is out of the peace process.” And if further musing were in order, one may speculate that the Russians seem to think they may be able to get back in through the Syrian track, and hit several birds with one stone. But that too, if it were indeed true, is quite the shaky proposal on all levels. So I guess Erlanger’s declaration that the process is dead and that what we’ll most likely be seeing are “parallel unilateralisms,” is largely correct.

Having said that, I now return to my normal policy of not commenting on Israeli-Palestinian issues! Erin go bragh!

Tony Badran.

Not so soft bigotry

Anne Applebaum had a slightly sarcastic column in yesterday’s Washington Post about the hysterical reaction to Dubai Ports World’s attempt to invest, through acquiring a British firm, in U.S. ports. She observes that:

Britain, also like Dubai, has harbored terrorists: the London bombers, the shoe bomber, the IRA.

One could add the United States to such a list. As Britons and Irish know all too well, the United States for many years did remarkably little to prevent the financing and supply of Irish Republican terrorism, terrorism that cost many innocent British and Irish lives. Few question American investment in either Ireland or the United Kingdom, indeed in both countries the United States is one of the largest investors.

Applebaum’s sarcasm is more than justified and the column was all the more effective because of her restraint and because of the credibility she has gained from her principled opposition to torture.

The ports controversy has involved a display of not terribly soft bigotry by supposedly moderate American politicians, the sort of posturing pols who often tell us that the Bush Administration has needlessly offended foreigners and burned bridges with the rest of the world. The United States, the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment and the world’s largest foreign direct investor, has a self-evident interest in not sending out the message that globalization is a one-way street–or at least self-evident if you are neither Lou Dobbs nor a cut-price demagogue.

Andrew Apostolou (yes, we have no pyjamas).

The Brammertz Report

The new head of the UN probe into the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri, Serge Brammertz, has submitted his first report to the UN Security Council. The report itself can be read here (PDF).

Michael Young comments on the report in his latest op-ed in The Daily Star. Young finds the report to be quite ominous as far as the Syrians are concerned, and that it points to the fact that Brammertz won’t be distracted by scapegoats who may be offered to protect the Syrian ruling elite:

The most significant passage summing up Brammertz’s current thinking about Hariri’s murder came in paragraph 36. The commission stated its belief “that there is a layer of perpetrators between those who initially commissioned the crime and the actual perpetrators on the day of the crime, namely those who enabled the crime to occur.” This was an intriguing formulation, intimating at least three layers of involvement: those who carried out the crime itself, those who ordered it, and an intermediate layer of accomplices who oversaw implementation. This entailed far more than, let’s say, an Islamist plot, where the assassins would not require that intermediate layer, which mainly offers deniability.

If one acts on the hypothesis that Syria was behind Hariri’s elimination, then the passage does two things: it underlines that Brammertz will not be misled by efforts to find scapegoats in the intermediate layer of perpetrators (apparently the middle levels of the intelligence services), to better protect those above who may have masterminded the crime; and it means the Belgian prosecutor is wise as to what took place, and that his silence is considerably more ominous than Syria and its allies would care to admit.

Syrian officials are giddy that the latest report is more discrete, unlike the previous ones by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

But Druze leader Walid Jumblatt seems to share (scroll down) Young’s reading, and is quite pleased with the report, and finds that it constitutes a clear indictment of the Syrian regime:

Although Brammertz said Syria has been cooperating, Jumblatt said the fact that the report decided there is a link between all explosions that took place before and after the assassination of Hariri was an explicit indictment of the Syrian regime.

“This is very important, as it forms a clear political indictment of the Syrian regime that ruled Lebanon at the time of the assassination,” Jumblatt said.

He also said that what the report mentioned about highly professional terrorist work in Hariri’s murder was further tacit “condemnation for the Syrian regime”.

“This is a work on the level of a state, and Syria had strong hegemony over Lebanon then,” Jumblatt said.

“Brammertz is following the work of Mehlis, and if he keeps this pace up the truth will be revealed soon,” Jumblatt said, describing the report as “very positive and promising.”

Meanwhile, the French reaction was relayed by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei, who said: “We have received with interest the declaration by Damascus of its willingness to cooperate fully with the Commission, according to the conditions laid out by the Commission,” adding, “this proves that the firm stand that the international community has adopted in this matter from the start of the investigation has yielded results.” He continued, “We now expect Syria to translate this position to tangible steps by responding quickly to the commission’s demands according to international resolutions.”

Tony Badran.

Aaronovitch and Hitchens on the Balkans

Marcus at the essential Harry’s Place links to this excellent piece by David Aaronovitch on the Balkans. To accompany this piece, one can savour Hitchens who kicked off his Slob departure article with:

During the siege of Sarajevo or the mass deportations from Kosovo, the news of a sudden stoppage of the heart of Slobodan Milosevic would have occasioned a joyous holiday in many other hearts.

Andrew Apostolou (does my bandwidth look big in these pyjamas?).

Filling in for Totten

Michael Totten, like Johnny Carson, can’t be here tonight.

In the last few days, we have had some interesting departures. First, there was Milan Babic, the dentist who became an irredentist, the leader of the Croatian Serbs who topped himself. Then, there was the big Slob himself, the banker who became a butcher, who appears to have mixed his meds and departed as per his family tradition. Both were criminals. Both were apprehended and were mouldering in the Hague because one country, and one country alone, was willing to intervene to end Serb-led butchery in the Balkans. No clues as to which country this was. Ok, one clue, it wasn’t Belgium.

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Making blasphemy pay

David T over at Harry’s Place has a great entry on Amr Khaled, an Egyptian preacher whose views are less than pleasant. Recently our embattled allies in Denmark engaged in some dialogue with Amr Khaled. According to The New York Times:

Mr. Khaled sought to emphasize that “we are here to build bridges for dialogue,” and suggested that a continuing boycott of Danish goods in Arab countries could stop if Danes and their government reached out with initiatives like help for small businesses, or health care.

That does rather sound like, give us some cash and we will lay off. What of the alleged offence to Islam and 1.3 billion Muslims? Or is it just a tradeable? Is using an alleged act of blasphemy as a means of levering some cash out of the embattled Danes perhaps not entirely respectful to the allegedly offended religion?

By contrast, you know where you stand with the Multan District Bar Association in Pakistan (thanks to Marcus at Harry’s Place who spotted this on Tim Blair).

Andrew Apostolou (about to slip into natty jim jams).

Time for some more protests

The Saudi ambassador and his cohorts will be up in arms about this one. This is guaranteed to inflame and insult. There will be talk of insensitivity and discrimination.

Sharon Stone not only visited the place that dare not appear on Iranian maps lest it be wiped off, she said:

“I’ve always been attracted to Jews,” she says. “I like dark men who are

drawn to study, to art.”

There will now be an auto da fé of “Basic Instinct” in Damascus (with the famous scene spliced out and saved for research purposes).

On a positive note, there’s hope for Tottenham fans yet.

Andrew Apostolou (gooner who needs to change his pyjamas).

As of now, I am in control here

The headline, for once, sums up the story:

Haig says U.S. repeating Vietnam mistake

Al “As of now, I am in control here, in the White House” Haig is right, but for the wrong reason. The key Vietnam era mistake not to make is to listen to Haig and the chap sitting to his right, politically and physically.


On the Road Again

I am traveling again and have two guest bloggers lined up until the end of the month. My historıan friend Andrew Apostolou and Tony Badran from Across the Bay will be fillıng in for me. Enjoy their posts, and don’t forget to be nice in the comments.

Cheers, all. And thanks Tony and Andrew.

And these are our allies?

One of the most interesting, important, and under studied changes in recent years has been the decline in U.S.-Turkish relations. To an extent it’s a shame, as Turkey needs U.S. support for its rightful quest to join the EU. The problem is that too many in the U.S., especially in that most supine department of government, the State Department, don’t seem to understand that relations have changed, while some in Turkey think that they can get away with the unpleasant techniques of the past.

Which allusive introduction brings us conveniently to Henri Barkey‘s splendidly angry denounciation of the Turkish government in this weekend’s Los Angeles Times. The Turkish government, Barkey points out, was happy to meet the leader of a fascist, terrorist movement, but did not want U.S. officials to officially receive a democratically elected mayor of one of Turkey’s largest cities, a man who opposes terrorism.

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

Intercommunal warfare in Iraq

There has been a gruesome and grotesque rise in the level of intercommunal violence between Sunni and Shi’a Arabs in Iraq since the attack on the Shi’a shrine in Samarra (a true act of blasphemy, by any standard, as opposed to some Dane’s scribblings).

Note, however, that contrary to what you may hear, intercommunal violence is not new in Iraq. In the past, a largely Sunni Arab led army committed genocide against Kurds and Marsh Arabs. The state was, under many regimes in Iraq, a vehicle for the ascendancy of one community (not the largest) over the others.

Nor can the “insurgency” be treated as a different phenomenon to intercommunal violence. Contrary to the myth that the “insurgents” are Iraqi patriots, the insurgency in western and northwestern Iraq is overwhelmingly composed of Sunni Arabs. Their victims have been Sunni Arabs who have decided to accommodate themselves to the new Iraq, Shi’a Arabs and Kurds. For the victims, particularly many Shi’a who are not being allowed to enjoy the fruits of voting, the “insurgency” feels like a form of sectarian, intercommunal violence.

All of which means that scuttling out of Iraq now and betraying the Iraqis again is not a viable option. Even the BBC seems to have worked that one out (the penny drops very slowly here).

Andrew Apostolou (in his pyjamas)

The Last Village in Iraq

TAWELA, IRAQ — The village of Biara sits right on top of the Iranian border. But you can keep going further up the road, still higher into the rugged Kurdistan mountains, to the village of Tawela where you can see the Iranian gate.

Road to Tawela.jpg

The Kurdish highlands feel so far away from the Mesopotamiam plains down below. Surely this is one of the reasons Iraqi Kurds and Arabs look at each across an enormous cultural divide. They share the same religion and they share the same passport. But they live in different worlds and they always have.

I didn’t go to Tawela for any particular reason. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. There was one more village to go on the road to Iran, so I went. Why did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there.

The 20 Peshmerga soldiers the PUK’s minister of the interior sent with me on my day trip to Biara in the footsteps of Zarqawi had no idea we would also visit Tawela. But we went there and we went there because I said I wanted to go there. It felt weird all but ordering around 20 of my own Peshmerga. But no one complained. We stopped our convoy at the side of the road looking down into Iran to take pictures. I took photographs of the mountains. My Peshmerga buddies took photographs of themselves in front of the mountains with the cameras built into their cell phones.

Peshmerga Near Tawela.jpg

Iranian Mountains Between Biara and Tawela.jpg

The villagers of Tawela are walnut farmers. You can buy giant bags bursting with wallnuts in the shops for almost no money. There aren’t a lot of trees, walnut of otherwise, left in the region. Environmentalism arrived rather belatedly in these parts, but cutting down trees is now considered heinous and vile.

The town isn’t particularly attractive or striking. It doesn’t stand out in any way except for its location right next to the border on the open road into Iran. It’s just an average Kurdistan village in Northern Iraq, conservative and male-dominated as almost all Muslim villages are everywhere in the world.


Villagers in Tawela.jpg

Rain started coming down in a torrent. Waves of lashing water swept across the streets. I ducked into a tea shop with my translator Alan, partly to get out of the rain and partly to squeeze in just a few more minutes of conversation with people before it was time to head back to the city.

I found a seat next to an old man and ordered a glass of (what else?) Iraqi style tea.

It’s hard to describe what happened next without sounding arrogant or full of myself. I don’t mean it that way. The same thing would likely have happened to you if we had switched places. Almost everyone in that tea shop – and it was a crowded place – gathered around me and wanted to shake my hand as though I were a rock star.

People in the cities are used to seeing foreigners. Hardly anyone ever stared at me on the streets or paid me much mind. But American civilians in black leather jackets aren’t a common sight in Tawela. It’s the kind of village where hardly anything ever happens, where hardly anything ever changes, so just the act of my showing up was (apparently) a huge deal.

I couldn’t talk to everyone. It would be dark soon and we needed to get down the wet mountain roads before nightfall. But I asked the old man sitting next to me a few questions through my translator Alan.

His name is Osman Sadeq Hakim and he told me he is 64 years old.

Old Man in Tawela.jpg

What was the hardest time this village has seen?

“When the Iran/Iraq war was here,” he said. “That was the worst time. Before the war there were 800 families. Most were displaced. Mine was one of them. The Iraqi army didn’t allow us to enter the village. We had to sneak in through the orchards.”

What are you most afraid of right now?

“Islamists,” he said bluntly without a moment’s hesitation.

Did Ansar Al Islam occupy this village?

“Yes,” he said. “We didn’t want them to stay but they forced themselves on us. They were not as strong here as they were in Biara, but they were still able to impose their rules on us.”

Who belonged to Ansar Al Islam? Were they from around here?

“Indians, Kurds, Arabs, and Persians. The Iranian government supported them against us.”

What do you think of the Iranian government?

“It is not a good regime. We do visit people from there, but we don’t do it officially.”

Were you affected by the Kurdish civil war? (The PUK and the KDP fought a stupid low-level conflict in the mid 1990s.)

“No,” he said. “We were like one family. We did not allow that war to come here.”

Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence from Baghdad?

“We are a different people. We have our own history and culture. We will join with the Iranian Kurds, Inshallah.”

A young man who spoke perfect English pushed his way through the crowd that had gathered around. He wanted to make sure he had a chance to speak to me. He crouched down so he could look me in the eye while I sat.

Young Man in Tawela.jpg

What do you think? I asked him. Should Iraqi Kurdistan declare independence?

“If the West stands with us, we want independence for all the Kurds in the world. We are one people. Kurds in Turkey, Syria, and Iran, are exactly like us.”

I wanted to know: What’s the one best thing the West can do for the Kurds? He told me the same old answer that has been bouncing around in this part of the world for decades:

“We want Kurdistan to be the 51st American state.”


Postscript: This concludes my series on Iraqi Kurdistan. Now it’s time for me to hit the road again. I can’t say where I’m going for security reasons, but you’ll find out as soon as I’m back. And this time when I’m “back” I’ll be back in the United States.

A couple of guest bloggers will be filling in for me in the meantime. I will introduce them shortly.

Thanks to everyone who donated money and helped make non-corporate writing financially viable. If you haven’t yet hit my tip jar, now would be a good time. Without reader donations, this kind of blogging wouldn’t be possible.


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