Iraqi paper quotes source as saying alleged Israeli strike caused heavy casualties among Iranian Guards stationed at Syrian facility.
Iraqi daily Azzaman quoted a Western diplomatic source as saying Thursday that the alleged Israeli attack on Syria reported on Wednesday caused heavy casualties among special Iranian Guards stationed at the Syrian facility. The source also said that the attack took place more than 48 hours before it was reported, eventually being leaked by Israel.
The source for the story, who was interviewed by the paper in London, said that the report about a strike on a convoy to Lebanon was probably meant to divert attention away from the main objective of the operation, which used F-16 aircraft to fire at least eight guided missiles at the facility.
The source also said that the base was heavily fortified and contained experts from Russia and at least three thousand Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have been guarding the site for years. Many of these Iranian Guards suffered casualties.
Israel most likely got its intelligence, said the source, from penetrating deep inside Iran and from other operations meant to penetrate Hezbollah.
The report came as outgoing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that there are signs that Iran is sending growing numbers of people and increasingly sophisticated weaponry to support Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"It appears that they may be increasing that involvement and that is a matter of great concern to us," she told reporters as she prepares to step down on Friday. "I think the numbers (of people) have increased ... There is a lot of concern that they are increasing the quality of the weapons, because Assad is using up his weaponry. So it's numbers and it's materiel."
Tehran and Damascus on Thursday threatened an unspecified, “surprise” retaliation against Israel in response to the reported Israeli air strike on a Syrian weapons center the day before.
The Iranian regime’s English-language mouthpiece, Press TV, quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as saying that the “strike on Syria will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv.”
Syria issued its threat to retaliate through the country’s ambassador to Lebanon.
Ali Abdul Karim Ali told a Hezbollah-run news website on Thursday that Damascus had the option of a “surprise decision” to respond to what it said was an Israeli air strike on a research center on the outskirts of the Syrian capital on Wednesday.
“Syria is engaged in defending its sovereignty and its land,” he added, without spelling out what the response might entail.
According to foreign sources, in 2007 Israeli jets bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site, and no retaliation was forthcoming despite Syrian threats.
Last week, the Associated Press quoted a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader as saying that any attack on Syria would be seen by Tehran as an attack on itself.
The official, Ali Akbar Velayati, said the regime of Syrian President Assad was a central component of the “resistance front.”
Also on Thursday, the Saudi-based Al-Watan newspaper reported that the Syrian regime had transferred nonconventional weapons to Hezbollah.
Al-Watan, quoting unnamed sources from the Syrian opposition, reported that Assad had been transferring weapons to Hezbollah since the beginning of 2012, including 2 tons of mustard gas and long-range missiles, capable of carrying chemical warheads and traveling 300 kilometers.
Syrian opposition sources also claimed that the transfers to Hezbollah took place over 40 days, from mid-February to March 2012, the Saudi daily reported.
The chemical weapons transfer to Hezbollah was carried out under the supervision of Syrian Brig.-Gen. Ghassan Abbas. The Syrian source said that it observed these transfers since the beginning of last year.
The tankers drove through Damascus and Zabadani, and then through Sirghaya on the Lebanese border, carrying the chemical weapons in blue barrels labeled “Chlorine Acid.”
They took the material to “Hezbollah warehouses and delivered it to a person nicknamed ‘Abu Talal,’ who was subordinate to the party leadership.”
The report also said that some of the chemical weapons were stored in a warehouse at the Mezze military airport, as well as at other locations around Syria.
The Syrian SANA news agency released a statement by the General Command of the Armed Forces, which sought to link the supposed strike to Israel’s support – and that of other countries – for the Syrian rebels.
“Warplanes violated Syrian airspace on Wednesday at dawn and bombarded a scientific research center responsible for raising our levels of resistance and self-defense. This attack came after Israel and other countries that oppose the Syrian people utilized their pawns in Syria to attack vital military locations,” the statement said.
General Command also said that the attack “martyred” two workers and wounded five others.
The “research center” building was also destroyed. It went on to deny claims that the attack targeted a convoy headed for Lebanon.
In addition, it stated, “The General Command said that it has become clear to everyone that Israel is the motivator, beneficiary and sometimes executor of the terrorist acts which target Syria and its resistant people, with some countries that support terrorism being accomplices in this, primarily Turkey and Qatar.”
An article in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily claimed that Syria would probably have to respond against Israel this time around.
Wednesday’s attack on Syria “is very different from all previous raids at every level, and a non-response this time around would mean the acceptance of a new equation that Israel is trying to impose, in the form of shackles on the regime’s freedom of action. It is likely that the regime will be unable to accept these constraints without risking its very survival. Based on this, the more logical question has to do with the manner, nature, and scale of the Syrian response,” the paper said.
Hezbollah called it “a savage attack that carries out the Zionist entity’s policy, which aims at preventing any Arab and Muslim state from developing its technological and military capabilities,” according to its Al-Manar website.
"You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there." — President Barack Obama, "60 Minutes," January 27, 2013
With President Mohamed Mursi's proclamation of a "new republic" on December 26, after the passage of a Constitution that turns Egypt into an Islamist-ruled, pseudo-democratic state, the "January 25th Revolution" came to a predictably disastrous (if still unstable) terminus. As momentous for world history as the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran (should it hold), it represents the formal—if not the final—victory for the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in its 84-year struggle for power in the land of its birth. Indeed, 2012 will likely be remembered as the year that Islamists made the greatest gains in their quest for a new caliphate in the region. And without a drastic change of course by Washington, 2013 might surpass it by far in progress toward the same, seemingly inexorable end.
Egypt, the largest Arab state, the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid, and our second most important ally in the Middle East, is now in the hands of a hostile regime—an elected one at that—which we continue to treat as a friendly one. Even if the sudden outburst of uncontrolled violence along the Suez Canal since January 26—coupled with escalating political and economic tumult in Cairo and elsewhere—leads to a new military coup, it would likely be managed by the MB from behind the scenes. The irony and the implications are equally devastating. This new reality threatens not only traditional U.S. foreign policy goals of stability in the oil-rich Middle East and security for Israel, but also America's declared support for democracy in the Arab world. Moreover, the fruits of Islamist "democracy," should it survive, are catastrophic to the people of Egypt, the region and beyond.
How did all this happen? And what role did the U.S. play?
AMERICA: A BEAST OF BURDEN?
In an earlier E-Note I wrote that Egyptians compare a farsighted leader to the camel—a creature that gazes serenely at the horizon as it plods patiently towards its goal. Conversely, they think of a poor leader like the donkey--a timid but obstinate animal that stares at the ground as it blunders along. Though popular jokes often cast President Hosni Mubarak as a donkey, when it came to seeing what and who would follow him if Obama hastily pushed him from power, he was actually like the camel. In a February 3, 2011 televised interview with Christiane Amanpour, Mubarak said that he had personally warned Obama there would be chaos and Muslim Brotherhood rule if he was forced to step down at that time. Soon he proposed instead turning over some of his powers to a vice-president until the presidential elections, then set for that September, in which neither he nor his son Gamal, who had seemed set to succeed him, would take part. (As his V.P., Mubarak named General Omar Suleiman, the head of Military Intelligence, who had extensive experience both repressing and negotiating with the MB, and was seen by the West as a safe pair of hands.) Though a great many demonstrators seemed to accept this compromise, many others--and the White House would not. On the evening of December 10, Obama issued a statement that the Egyptian people thought the transition to democracy was not happening fast enough. By the next evening in Cairo, Mubarak had stepped down.
Mubarak's prediction turned out to be right. When he resigned, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which had always been subservient to the president, took over state power, which it promised to relinquish after elections for parliament and president, and the approval of a new Constitution. Throughout the demonstrations against Mubarak, the SCAF had been negotiating with a coalition of opposition groups, represented by the MB, and with the U.S. as well. For the next year and a half the SCAF cooperated closely with the MB in running the country, while the secular liberals and some Salafi groups waged an almost uninterrupted campaign of often-violent protests (that were met with crushing force) to demand a speedier turnover of power to "civilian rule." They should have realized that could only mean a handover to the MB and its own Salafi allies—even those who did understand this innocently thought the Islamists would keep faith with their promises to honor democracy in the end. Amid constant bloody demonstrations, incessant, widespread strikes, intensified persecution of Christians and skyrocketing crime, the Brotherhood rode confidently to state power in large part on the back of the Obama administration. The load was shared by the willing Egyptian armed forces that were filled with Islamist sympathizers (leavened with Mubarak loyalists at the top), not to mention the demonstrators in Tahrir Square and around the country. But the American role was crucial.
Few observers knew the MB itself had actually mobilized the protesters in much larger numbers than had the secular liberals on Facebook and Twitter who got the credit for starting the revolution. Indeed, by the second day of demonstrations (on Friday, January 28, 2011), the MB's ability to bring protesters onto the streets dwarfed that of their secular liberal allies, key figures among whom had their own, little-known links to the Brotherhood that the media, government and experts missed entirely. Chief among these was Wael Ghonim, the charismatic young, Dubai-based Google executive, who (as documented in my earlier E-Note) few people knew then knew had been a member of the MB in his late teens. Another— whom a leading MB figure, Essam El-Erian, has described as owing his political loyalty to the Brotherhood—was Alexandrian activist Abdel-Rahman Mansour. Along with Ghonim, Mansour ran a Facebook page, "Kullana Khaled Said" ("We are All Khaled Said") that played a key role in launching the January 25 protests.
America's role as the MB's primary beast of burden didn't begin even with the January 25th Revolution. Or rather, the revolution did not start on that date. Arguably, it really began on June 4, 2009. On that day, Obama gave his famous "speech to the Islamic world" from Cairo University (Egypt's first secular university, founded in 1908), but also sponsored by al-Azhar University (Sunni Islam's most prestigious center of learning, established by the Shi'ite Fatimid dynasty in the 10th century). Not only was the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood's leadership invited to attend, but to sit in the front row—thus excluding Obama's official host (according to protocol)—President Mubarak.
Essentially, this meant that the president of the United States invited the heads of an illegal revolutionary organization to be not only present, but front and center, when he delivered a historic speech of global reach in the capital of a key ally. Thus, the president of that key allied country, whom Obama called a "friend," could not possibly attend. By this dramatic act, he essentially elevated these criminal elements to the level of a shadow government. Thus, in effect, he was saying to the MB, "You are the future." At the same time, he was telling our long-time, largely reliable ally Mubarak that he was already virtual history. And this message was not lost upon any of them, even if it was missed entirely by nearly everyone else--especially those who should have seen it easily.
Just as importantly, Obama's speech was not addressed to a recognized diplomatic entity. The Muslim world is a religious and cultural concept, one that spans dozens of countries around the world, all quite different from each other: it has no broad geo-political unity. Thus--in another first for an American president—he asked Muslims everywhere to define themselves not by national or even ethnic identity, but by their religion. This idea resonates very closely with his flattering (and equally unprecedented) recognition of the globally-subversive Muslim Brotherhood. This too was noted by only a few back home—but it was obvious to those he intended to reach, and to those it most adversely affected, too.
THE NEW, IMPROVED (DEMOCRATIC) DESPOT
To America's mainstream media (The New York Times above all), policy makers and many specialists on the Middle East, President Mursi is the new, improved (because popularly-elected) Hosni Mubarak. On August 26, a front-page NYT assessment of Mursi's diplomacy by Cairo correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick implicitly cast him as a brilliant new player on the world stage, who despite his lack of experience, has shown his independence of Washington (seen as a positive quality) by going for more diversified international support. Not only had he asked for more aid from Europe, Kirkpatrick enthused, but has also from China and, has even reached out to Mubarak's (and America's) bête noire, Iran (both of which he was to visit in late August). Kirkpatrick's real message can be seen in his approving quotation of an expert's opinion: "Egypt has credibility as 'an emerging player in the Arab world and a somewhat successful model of a democratic transition in the Arab Spring,' said Mr. [Peter] Harling of the International Crisis Group."
But the climax of Mursi's international cachet came in November, when Mursi posed as the honest broker—a traditional American role that Obama outsourced to Islamist Egypt—in the search for a ceasefire in a fierce flare-up between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Hailed as a peacemaker for hammering out a deal that shook dangerous concessions out of Israel (relaxing restrictions on Gaza that may allow more dangerous weapons inside, and an end to targeted killing of terrorists), Mursi is now touted as a pragmatic preserver of Arab-Israeli peace—while America overlooks his dictatorial excesses. That is what critics said about American relations with Mubarak (who tolerated or even encouraged anti-Semitic sentiment in Egypt's media as a safety valve that allowed him to keep the peace on the ground, rather than openly espousing it himself.) Yet the irony is lost on both the U.S. administration and most of the media as well.
In reality, since joining the Muslim Brotherhood during his days as an engineering student at the University of Southern California in the 1980s, Mursi has been part of an organization dedicated to destroying Israel--and the United States too, and to killing all the Jews in the world as the fulfillment of God's will. For decades before he became Egypt's president, he was one of the key leaders in the MB, the hard-line ideological enforcer who purged many more liberal members from the group. He has often spoken of his devotion to jihad, and cheered fellow militants as they spoke of liberating Jerusalem and Gaza and threatened fearsome retribution to the Jews. That is hardly apt to change now that he is head of state—and when a leading member of the MB recently told a local television interviewer that Mursi is still completely under the orders of the group's murshid, or Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie. In October 2010, Badie declared the MB's open support for the global jihad against Israel and America. At least twice since Mursi's election as president, he has called for jihad against Israel and the Jews.
In January, The New York Times reported remarks that Mursi had made in 2010—two years before he became his country's president—referring to Jews as "apes and pigs," first brought to light by the Washington-based translation service, MEMRI, which monitors statements made in numerous languages by figures via mass media in the Muslim world. Shortly afterward, another MEMRI report revealed that, also in 2010, Mursi had exhorted a crowd in his hometown of Zagazig in the Delta, "Dear brothers, we must not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred toward those Zionists and Jews, and all those who support them." He went on to call Obama a liar, based on his failure to live up to the grand promises of good will toward the Muslims in his Cairo speech. These comments reflect essential elements of the MB's ideology that it has preached since its founding, as well as Mursi's personal worldview. The White House spokesman, Jay Carney, expressed dismay at them—then went on to imply that since assuming office, Mursi had shown that he didn't really mean them. (Predictably, the NYT took a similar tack.)
An almost amusing postscript occurred when a group of U.S. senators—including John McCain and Lindsay Graham, among others—queried Mursi about those remarks during a recent visit to Cairo. Mursi tried to explain that the American media, which are "controlled by certain forces," were to blame for blowing them out of proportion. The senators reportedly "recoiled" at this suggestion, and pressed him repeatedly if by "certain forces" he had meant the Jews. He kept dodging their questions until they finally gave up, but the bad taste remained. But the senators present have yet to demand that aid to Egypt be stopped or even changed. McCain reportedly even requested that the U.S. funnel another $480 million dollars to Mursi's government after that testy—and presumably eye-opening—encounter.
As Barry Rubin has noted, many in Washington are treating these routine statements of basic beliefs by Mursi as isolated incidents that can be dismissed as aberrations. But a prominent Egyptian columnist, Abdel Latif El-Menawy, in a January 21 column on alarabiya.net, has documented numerous instances in which Mursi personally has said similar things earlier.
Moreover, just a few months prior to the "apes and pigs" flap, MEMRI had posted a current video clip of Mursi (as president) sitting in a mosque in Mansoura in the Delta, in which an imam preaches from the minbar (the Muslim equivalent of the pulpit) for the destruction of all Jews, and of Israel and the United States. As he speaks, Mursi's gestures and facial expression clearly signal assent to what is being said as he prays in the front row of the squatting congregation.
Nonetheless, Mursi is content to let us delude ourselves about who he really is and what he wants to do--until he feels secure enough to finally drop his mask (one he has only worn when facing West). Until then, he will continue soaking up all the money and military technology that our government will throw at him, gathering the strength that could set him free at last. Meanwhile, he's expecting $4.8 billion from the IMF (delayed until he can implement his economic reform program), $5 billion in emergency aid from the European Union, plus several billions more each from Saudi Arabia and Qatar (which has also pledged to invest $18.5 billion in Egypt's economy in the next several years, adding that $2.5 billion would be transferred immediately). In addition, Mursi has asked for $3 billion from China just for his soon-to-be-expanded nuclear program (with an offer of technical and perhaps other assistance from Iran). If he is able to stabilize these arrangements (which are more important to his strategic view than the problem of stabilizing Egypt's economy), he really won't need our $1.6 billion aid tied to the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel (except for the elements of new military technology and maintenance). He may well reach that point soon: the IMF deal may open further lines of credit—and its failure will not prevent others from trying to save the people of Egypt by propping up Mursi.
That Mursi is demonstrably more dictatorial than Mubarak doesn't seem to faze his donors, real or potential. On November 22, he granted himself powers more immense than those enjoyed by Egypt's rulers in all of the nation's five thousand years of Pharaonic-style rule. Yet just as he did during the 2009 democracy demonstrations in Iran, our president said little: on December 6, he phoned Mursi to express his "concern" and to urge him to engage the opposition in dialogue. There were no reported threats of consequences if Mursi did not comply. He might at least have noted that he had asked Congress for $1 billion dollars in debt relief for the country, to help her weather the worst financial crisis in that country's modern history--the economic price of overthrowing Mubarak. Meanwhile, Mursi awaits delivery of two Class 209 diesel-electric submarines from Germany—which Israel fears (quite reasonably) will be used to menace her developing gas and oil fields in the Mediterranean—for a price of $1 billion.
Clearly it was not Obama, but the massive protests that his decree--and the blatantly Islamist draft Constitution it was meant to help see through the referendum—that led Mursi on December 9 to cancel most of the powers he gave himself in the declaration. The opposition had demanded that he cancel both. As such it was a meaningless compromise, meant to suck the oxygen out of the opposition, while preserving the most important goal of that decree: the Constitution's ratification. Meanwhile the army retains its pose as a neutral guardian of the nation, though in effect it has really been protecting Mursi and his goals. Thus it is beyond the reach of U.S. persuasion—should it ever be seriously tried. As the demonstrations against the Constitution reached their peak in mid-December, the SCAF called for dialogue with the opposition—and in so doing was merely echoing Mursi's own, obviously hollow appeals. (In other words, the army, which the U.S. hoped would be a check on any of Mursi's excesses, simply is no longer willing or able to play that role—if it ever really was.)
Contrast this with Obama's fateful statement that hastened Mubarak's fall from power. But since Mursi's August 12 purge of Mubarak-era leaders in the military (ironically facilitated by Washington, in the interest of further speeding that "transition to democracy"), and with his diversification of foreign aid—radically reducing his dependence on the U.S.—it is doubtful that Obama has any ability to do that again. Nor would he want to replace Mursi, the elected president (who has shown a complete lack of democratic scruples and whom at least half of Egypt feels has lost his legitimacy) anyway.
In a September 24 interview for PBS, Mursi—then in New York for the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly—was asked by Charlie Rose if Egypt really was (still) an ally. "The U.S. president says otherwise," he shot back (referring to his American counterpart's remark that Egypt was no longer an ally, uttered a few days earlier in exasperation with Mursi's slow response to the incident at our embassy on September 11). He then explained that, "This depends on how you define an ally." He clarified that while Egypt may still be an economic or political partner of the U.S., "the understanding of an ally as part of a military alliance--that does not exist right now." Given that the vast majority of American aid to Egypt is military, this is an extraordinary declaration that should have led to an immediate review of the bi-lateral relationship. He added that it is better to be friends than allies (although "friend" is a diplomatically insubstantial term).
In the same, almost completely unremarked (and shockingly fawning) interview during Mursi's visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York spoke of his compatriots' widespread "hatred" of the U.S. And he defended their right to express that hatred by demonstrating at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, where a mob—in a pre-planned, not spontaneous, protest organized by the MB and al-Gama'a al-Islamiya (the Islamic Group)—went over an outer wall, burned an American flag flying there, and replaced it with the black jihadi banner used by al-Qa'ida and its affiliates.(Falsely, he claimed in the interview to have protected the embassy, but such an outrage could not have happened under Mubarak. Mursi also tweeted messages in Arabic that incited the protesters: one said, "The noble Prophet Muhammad—may God bless him and grant him salvation—is a red line: whoever transgresses against him, we shall treat as an enemy.") Rose asked him about a reportedly "heated" call that Obama had made to declare his concern about Mursi's slowness to denounce the incident. (Speaking of that event, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Senate Intelligence Committees on January 23: "With Cairo, we had to call them and tell them, 'Get your people out there.'" Mursi hastened to say that their conversation was "warm, it was not hot." When Rose wondered if Obama had threatened to cut off U.S. aid, Mursi said, "There was no threat of any kind.")
Left unsaid in that interview—or almost anywhere else—is that protest against alleged defamation of the Prophet in the "Innocents of Muslims" movie trailer was only one of two reasons for the several days of demonstrations that besieged our embassy in Egypt last September. The other was to demand the release of the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel-Rahman, head of al-Gama'a al-Islamiya and mastermind of the 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar al-Sadat; of the Islamist insurgency in Egypt in the 1990s that claimed a thousand lives (including scores of foreign tourists), of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and whose fatwas provided the justification for the 1992 killing of Egyptian anti-Islamist activist Farag Foda, the 1994 attempted murder of Egyptian Nobel laureate in literature Naguib Mahfouz, and for the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the U.S.
Osama bin Laden is believed to have funded al-Gama'a al-Islamiya, beginning in the 1990s. A major figure in the protests against our embassy was Mohammed al-Zawahiri, brother of current al-Qa'ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, released from prison in Egypt in March 2012. Mursi has personally pardoned dozens of other jihadis convicted of terrorist murders in Egypt. Among them was Mustafa Hamza, who directed al-Gama'a al-Islamiya's attempt to assassinate Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1996, and the cell that killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians at Hatshepsut's Temple in Luxor in 1997 from Afghanistan. (His family is said to have been given safe haven in Mashhad, Iran.) Is it any surprise, then, that Mursi has denounced the current French military operations aimed at reversing the jihadi conquest of Mali?
THE MAJORITY OF A MINORITY RULES
The referendum on Egypt's draft Constitution was held in two stages—on December 15 and 22, divided according to region--passed officially with 63.8 percent of the votes. Though the first round included both Cairo and Alexandria, where the majority of secularists live, the Islamist document won 56.5 percent that day. The second round, on December 22, held mainly in areas where Islamist support is strongest, resulted in a total "Yes" vote of 63.8%. Even as the balloting began, opponents of the charter were still fecklessly debating whether to vote against it or boycott the referendum. That, of course, means the votes themselves are not an accurate reflection of sentiment against it. Turnout for both rounds was low—a total of only 33 percent—down from 43.4 percent in the presidential elections last spring. (That itself was much less than the 54 percent who took part in the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections before them.) Many Egyptians, it seemed, would rather fight than vote. Moreover, with illiteracy said to be at 45 percent (and probably much higher), roughly half the public could not read the long, rambling text (49 pages, 234 articles)—nor anything else for that matter.
Though pundits have cautioned that "turmoil" will continue, many assumed that, with the referendum, Egypt has finally completed its nearly two-year transition to "democracy." Yet the result will actually bear little resemblance to the sort of democracy deliriously expected by so many around the world when Mubarak fell. Among those Egyptians so far vainly battling the Islamist tide, more than a few now rue the revolution as a mistake—and a fatal one at that. Again, that should have been obvious too (as it was to a widely-excoriated few).
However, a glimmer of hope has arisen from a spontaneous uprising that began in Port Said on January 26, launched by people furious at death sentences unexpectedly handed down that day to relatives of theirs for involvement in a riot that left 72 dead at a soccer game there last year. The current melee soon engulfed two other cities along the Canal—Suez and Ismailia. All three are now under curfew in a month-long state of emergency: perhaps a hundred persons have since died in clashes with the police. (In Egyptian society, nothing—not even revolutionary politics—inflames passions so much as either football or family honor and revenge.) In Port Said itself, for the first time, there are reliable reports of gunfire coming from anti-government rioters. However, much of the anti-Mursi opposition has distanced itself from these events, and it is unclear if a united political front will spring up to capitalize on the chaos. Perhaps ominously, a masked group of alleged anarchists, the Black Bloc, which appeared as a new force in the mix of organizations standing up to the chief executive's followers, the "Mursistas," over the past few months—is blamed for much of the bloodshed in latest crisis. And on January 30, the U.S. embassy in Cairo suspended all services after the looting of the luxury Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel next door the day before. As all this unfolds, the combination of the threat to Egypt's all-important Suez Canal revenues with the ongoing protests across Egypt has prompted the Mursi-appointed Army Chief of Staff, General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, to warn on January 29 that unless some sort of political consensus is reached in the country, "the state could collapse."
Yet, while certainly more intense and widespread, the uproar is not new. In the weeks running up to the referendum, mass demonstrations tore traditionally calm Egypt apart, violent clashes leaving dead on both sides. Throughout this period the Islamists once again proved themselves to be more organized, ruthless and determined. Though both Mursi's backers and foes have their own shock troops formed mainly out of football hooligans called Ultras, the Islamists apparently have been the only side to have used firearms (excluding, evidently, what has since happened in Port Said) and reportedly even roving bands of thugs and rapists on their enemies. They have assaulted Christians and women particularly, including acid attacks on unveiled women in Alexandria. This accompanied an alleged drive to block all unveiled women (who are presumed to be Christians, or else lax Muslims) from voting in that city. Most of the nation's jurists refused to oversee the balloting, with just enough cooperating to give it a veneer of legitimacy, and to make up the core of the new, Islamist judiciary that will likely follow Mursi's victory.
The catalog of the Islamist government's tyrannies has been increasingly impressive. In December, the state prosecutor began to investigate the three top opposition leaders, the heads of the National Salvation Front: Mohammed ElBaradei (ex-Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency), Amr Moussa (former head of the Arab League) and Hamdeen Sabahy (a hard-left activist with Islamist connections who came in third in the first-round presidential vote last year) on suspicion of plotting to kill Mursi. And now he is looking at comedian BassemYousef (often called "Egypt's Jon Stewart") on a possible charge of insulting Mursi: to defame any leading public figure is a crime under the new Constitution.
Nonetheless, despite the openly Islamist and dictatorial character of the MB regime, both America and Europe remain uncritically supportive. The IMF is concerned only about Egypt's economic policies as justification for its loan; the European Union seems to have no pre-conditions at all for its aid. Shockingly, neither does the United States, which—unlike these other institutions—provides Egypt with military aid. Heedless of the dangers of continuing such a relationship with an Islamist regime, the U.S. has not simply failed to cut off its funding. At time of writing, the first four of sixteen F-16s promised to Mubarak at time of writing are en route with an understanding that the rest of the order will be filled. (We are also giving him two hundred Abrams tanks in the same package.) On January 26, Mursi called the F-16s a sign of support for his rule—as it most surely is.
MASSACRE OF THE BENEFACTORS
Obama's dramatic and persistent outreach to the MB, that began at the latest in June 2009, continuing throughout the 2011 revolt and transition and beyond, makes him at the very least a co-author of the Egyptian revolution, and even of the Arab Spring. Indeed, the entire phenomenon arguably could not have happened and unfolded as it did without him. (And in a different sense, it would not have taken off without the previous democracy drive in the region under his predecessor, George W. Bush.) Obama, interviewed (very softly, a la Charlie Rose) with Secretary Clinton on the CBS program "Sixty Minutes" on January 27, bragged to Steve Kroft, "You know, when it comes to Egypt, I think, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there."
Mursi certainly ought to thank Obama for empowering him and the MB. But Mursi's offer of "friendship" (not alliance) as per his interview with Charlie Rose, is similar to an invitation to the Americans to a dinner in which they and their allies will be on the menu.
Arab history is full of tales of massacres of whole dynasties at meetings of friendship. Among the most famous occurred on June 25, 750, when the victorious Abbasid commander Abu al-Abbas Abdullah invited some eighty surviving members of the Umayyad family they had overthrown in Damascus to a banquet of reconciliation at Abu Futrus near Jaffa. Soon after the meal began, assassins struck down the unsuspecting princes in a serial slaughter. As many of them lay still groaning, leather covers were thrown over them, and the dinner continued as before.
Also famous, on March 1, 1811, Muhammad Ali Pasha, later the founder of Egypt's last royal dynasty, invited four hundred and seventy members of the former ruling caste, the renowned fighting Mamluks—who persisted as his rivals—to the Citadel of Salah al-Din in Cairo. After taking coffee with them, the pasha saw off his guests as they rode out of the fortress through a narrow defile toward al-Azab Gate. Abruptly the gate closed before them, as marksmen fired down on them from the walls on either side. The noble Mamluks, Islam's most storied cavalry, galloped their horses back and forth frantically in search of a means of escape—but there was none.
We are now being asked to a banquet by enemies posing as friends, offering a meal that we have paid for with our own treasure. This is not a banquet of food, however, but a feast of phony democracy that we have called the Arab Spring. We shall be seated at a table that we have provided, and butchered with our own arms as we imbibe the wine of false accomplishment. Meanwhile our hosts—our erstwhile protégés—will carry on the party over our corpses.
And once more as in my earlier E-Note—written as Mursi was on the eve of winning his battle with old Mubarak appointees in the military for control last August—we again have a choice: we can either succumb to the charms of the "moderate Islamists," or wisely begin to refuse them at last. All of the aid and recognition we give to these crafty zealots only whets their appetite for more. Their entire history points to this: nothing they say or do, in order to fool those suspicious of them, should ever make us forget who they really are, and what they have always stood for.
If we do, then we shall have forgotten what we stand for too.
Tomorrow marks our 7 year anniversary. Our first issue was published in February 2006 and featured the first installment of Theodore Dalrymple’s “Diary of a Journey through Europe” which appears in his first essay collection with New English Review Press, Anything Goes. We’ve published many great articles, essays and poetry by many wonderful writers since then and it is through their efforts that New English Review is a success.
Our traffic totals for last year (less one day) are: 2,394,274 visits, 18,258,904 page views, 53,207,147 files, 56,168,152 hits and 3.58 T-Bytes. And New English Review Press, which began in February 2011, is getting ready to publish its ninth book.
This seems like a good time to thank our readers, our many donors and our special sponsors without whose goodwill this enterprise would never have gotten off its feet.
Serendipity - the American Chapel at St Mary the Virgin, Little Easton
by Esmerelda Weatherwax (February 2013)
I had a choice earlier this week.
Stay at home doing housework and trying to write an article for February’s edition of the New English Review. Maybe: Whither the EDL in 2013? Muslim Patrol – Whose streets, Our Streets! Grooming trials – still more arrests…
As it was neither raining nor snowing and a strange yellow ball glowed in the sky I could join my husband on an outing, following our noses with a pub lunch at the end of it.
I chose option B. of course, and this is one of the things we stumbled across. more>>>
As Sisyphus had again succeeded in shoving the massive boulder to the peak of his mountain, and was pausing for breath, he cast his eyes to the distance and saw the gods gathering on Olympus. Zeus sat regally in his throne of gleaming gold, and greeted each deity personally: Apollo, Hera, Ares, Hestia, Hermes, Hephaestus, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Athena, Eros, Demeter, and the others. And all could see the countenance of mighty Zeus was dark and vexed. more>>>
Na, Nach, N'chma, Nachman M'Uman. Someone sang in the empty street, dancing alone in divine embrace, twirling hands above his white kippa-covered head like tiny wings to carry him away. A song for Rebbe Nachman. Pleasing, Restfulness, Comfort, Nachman from Uman, echoing between stone buildings and the first sounds of birds in the trees, the fresh smell of dew, a new day birthing. more>>>
Why Do "Liberals" Hate The National Rifle Association?
by Richard Kostelanetz (February 2013)
It's not for the reason commonly heard.
By courting Republicans to support its advocacies the NRA forced knee-jerk liberals to oppose Founding Fathers' protections against tyranny and the empowering of American citizens, thus implicitly exposing an embarrassing failure in the purported sympathies of American liberalism. Why do they fear empowering those disadvantaged? Isn't it odd to see "liberals" believing that, by default, only the police and the military should legally possess guns or, worse, that they should be disarmed as well to allow malicious gunmen free havoc? more>>>
Hollywood’s Intentional Ignorance of the Crimes of Communist and Muslim Regimes
by Norman Berdichevsky (February 2013)
Two of the most honestly gruesome films of barbaric atrocities in modern times ever made are the Russian film The Chekist and the Polish film Katyn.
The Chekist was directed by Aleksandr Rogozhkin (1992 Cannes Film Festival Award) but hardly rated mention anywhere in the United States. The unbelievable atrocities of torture and mass execution seen in the film were all confirmed by factual articles in Pravda itself in 1921-22. more>>>
“You cannot escape the responsibility for tomorrow by evading it today”
– Abraham Lincoln
For most people, life is not about truth. Truth is what we choose to believe; but, little of what we believe is true. And faculties like reason do not help much either. Logic, for the urbane, is mostly a school project; a theoretical exercise unleavened by experience. This alone might explain the hubris of politics, science, and the academy today. more>>>
“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
--J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Ever since Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of June 1967, the official policy of the U.S. government has been to support the so-called “two-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict, by which Israel would vacate the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip so that Palestinian Arabs could establish their own state there, co-existing peacefully beside the Jewish state. Support for this solution has become conventional wisdom in the American and European foreign policy establishments and at the U.N. more>>>
Prison time is a very severe punishment. JS Mill likened it to being consigned to a living tomb.* Any society that employs it should do so with care and restraint. Yet we do not. Partly because we think that prison is a humane punishment, it is drastically over-used in many countries, to the point of cruelty. Aside from failing in humanity, prison does not even perform well at the specific functions of a criminal justice system, namely, deterrence, retribution, security, and rehabilitation. We need to reconsider our over-reliance on prison, and reconsider whether other types of punishment, even capital and corporal punishment, may sometimes be more effective and more humane. more>>>
One may say almost anything one likes about history except that it is rational. The very word sticks in one’s throat.
— Joseph Conrad
Connoisseurs of Joseph Conrad’s grimly dystopian novels will be familiar with the vivid portrayals of the anarchist revolutionaries who stalked Europe at the tail end of the Belle Époque, bringing with them the Russian fad for political assassinations which was to rock its major capitals, and create something akin to a moral panic in bourgeoisie society. more>>>
There are some people whose imagination and emotions are stirred more by the past than by the future, and I am among them. We to whom time the past is more important than any time to come are not world builders, we improve nothing; on the other hand, we seldom destroy anything. We tend to pessimism rather than to optimism, or at any rate to expectations that are not extravagant; supposedly imminent solutions to life’s problems, after all, seem never to arrive, and disillusion is more common than fulfilment of promise. A disappointment anticipated is a disappointment halved; pessimists are therefore happy in the long run, or happier than optimists. more>>>
I was prompted to write on this subject by an excellent article written by Theodore Dalrymple and published in City Journal in which he discusses an openly exhibitionist display of forgiveness by a woman named Marian Partington who claimed in her book to forgive her sister’s torture and murder at the hands of a notorious serial-murdering couple, Frederick and Rosemary West. She details her struggle to forgive Rosemary West specifically, who had not sought her forgiveness and indeed returned her letters with a request that Partington cease all correspondence with her. Ms. Partington nevertheless proceeded to write a book about her inner quest to forgive Mrs. West, presented, and no doubt marketed, as climbing the Mt. Everest of forgiveness, for who could forgive a thing like that but the most forgiving person in the world? more>>>
When I reflect on the question of God after the death of God, I recall a crucial conversation with the late Swami Muktananda of Ganeshpuri which took place at a major turning point in my spiritual life. One of my academic colleagues, Dr. Gulshan Khaki, a disciple of the guru, invited Dr. Betty Rubenstein and me to spend a weekend at his American ashram when he was in attendance. At the time I met Swami Muktananda, I was experiencing something akin to the "dark night of the soul" concerning which mystics in all of the great traditions have testified. more>>>
For those of us – the great majority – who are not scholars singlemindedly pursuing a particular subject, what we read is largely a matter of chance. No doubt we select among the books we come across according to some guiding principle or other, but which we come across in the first place is in the lap of the gods. It is almost as if books sought us out as much as we seek them out. more>>>
Yesterday when we posted about an IAF attack on a convoy along the Syrian Lebanese border we did not known why that attack occurred. There were speculations that Syria may have been caught transferring to Hezbollah unconventional or advanced weapons which might have prompted immediate Israeli action. From both news reports and statements by Hezbollah that attack may have destroyed parts of a Russian made SA-17 “Buk” M2E Mobile anti-aircraft defense system. The deployment of the SA-17 in the hands of Hezbollah would have seriously dented the IAF’s capabilities to undertake sorties over Lebanon and Syria. Hence the raison d’etre for Israel undertaking the mission to interdict such game changing air defense systems from delivery to Hezbolleh. Hezbollah is now , the most powerful military force in Lebanon.
Overnight there appears to have been a second and more strategic strike by the IAF at a research facility near Damascus. This raises questions about Syria’s vast CW/BW programs and possible transfer to terrorist proxy Hezbollah. Further, Sunni supremacist rebels affiliated with Al-Qaeda have tried to seize the facility.
The Times of Israel reported on the second strike by the IAF inside Syria:
The Syrian Army issued a statement Wednesday accusing Israel of bombing a “scientific research center” in the Jamraya area just northwest of Damascus.
Two workers at the facility were killed and five were injured in the strike, the Syrian Army said, adding that considerable material damage was caused to the site, which was responsible for “raising the level of resistance and self-defense” of Syria’s military.
Unconfirmed Lebanese media reports said the facility attacked contained chemical weapons.
The Syrian army portrayed the strike near Jamraya as linked to the civil war pitting Assad’s forces against rebels seeking to push him from power.
It said that “armed terrorist gangs”, a term the government uses to describe rebel groups, had tried and failed repeatedly to capture the same facility in recent months.
“This proves that Israel is the instigator, beneficiary and sometimes executor of the terrorist acts targeting Syria and its people,” the statement said.
According to news reports, Russia weighed in criticizing the IAF strike at the research facility:
Russia's foreign ministry said on Thursday it was "deeply concerned" by the Syrian claims and that it was taking "urgent measures" to clarify the situation.
"If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification," said a ministry statement.
The strident Russian statement came after the Syrian army accused Israel of launching a strike at dawn on Wednesday targeting its military research centre in Jamraya, near Damascus.
"Israeli fighter jets violated our airspace at dawn today and carried out a direct strike on a scientific research centre in charge of raising our level of resistance and self-defense," the general command said.
A March 2012 Bulletin of Atomic Scientistsarticle profiled the dangers of Syria’s unconventional CW/BW capabilities falling into the hands of terrorist groups:
Syria's chemical weapons stockpile is thought to be massive . Syria is one of only eight nations that is not a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention -- an arms control agreement that outlaws the production, possession, and use of chemical weapons. Syria has a chemical arsenal that includes several hundred tons of blistering agents along with likely large stockpiles of deadly nerve agents, including VX, the most toxic of all chemical weapons. At least four large chemical weapon production facilities exist. Additionally, Syria likely stores its deadly chemical weapons at dozens of facilities throughout the fractious country.
Insurgents and terrorists with past or present connections to the military might feasibly be able to effectively disseminate chemical agents over large populations. (The Global Security Newswire recently asserted that "[t]he Assad regime is thought to possess between 100 and 200 Scud missiles carrying warheads loaded with sarin nerve agent. The government is also believed to have several hundred tons of sarin agent and mustard gas stockpiled that could be used in air-dropped bombs and artillery shells, according to information compiled by the James Martin Center.")
Given its robust chemical weapons arsenal and its perceived need to deter Israel, Syria has long been suspected of having an active biological weapons program. Despite signing the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention in 1972 (the treaty prohibits the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons), Syria never ratified the treaty. Some experts contend that any Syrian biological weapons program has not moved beyond the research and development phase. Still, Syria's biotechnical infrastructure undoubtedly has the capability to develop numerous biological weapon agents. After Israel destroyed a clandestine Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007, Damascus may have accelerated its chemical and biological weapons programs.
The Syrian research facility destroyed in the most recent IAF attack may have co-located CW /BW and missile warhead development. IDF planners must have picked up intelligence on work there that convinced it to take out the threat before possible transfer to non-state actors . Or its possible use as a last bastion defense strategy which could be aimed at Israel.
The evidence from the IAF raid (Operation Orchard) that took out the Syrian nuclear bomb factory in September 2007, may underlie Russian strident demands for Israel to cease such attacks. There may be due to possible employment of Russian scientists at the Syrian facility. This is analogous to what Reza Kahlili cited in recent disclosures of secret Iranian BW development centers. In the 2007 strike at the nuclear bomb factory in the Deir es- Zor area on the banks of the Euphrates River in North East Syria, Mossad had tasked agents to obtain photos of the facility and personnel. Their agents that captured pictures of North Korean personnel involved with the construction and instrumentation of the reactor. We suspect that Russian objections to yesterday’s IAF raid on the Damascus research institute may have been because some of their nationals could have been employed there. According to a New York Timesreport there are an estimated 30,000 Russian citizens in Syria which may necessitate plans for their evacuation should the Assad regime falter.
Recent statements regarding the possibility that Israel may have targeted a Syrian research facility, serve to highlight increasing concerns regarding Syria's biological weapon programs. Syria's BW programs were confirmed to exist in July 2012, by their Minister of Foreign Affairs. For some years it has been known that Syria's BW programs have branches which are located at their CW facilities. There certainly is a strong case to be made in taking out these facilities to prevent such weapons from being transferred to terrorist organizations or being diverted by terrorist groups in country. Additionally, the recent bombing of a CW/munitions facility in Sudan is a progressive step which should be applauded by the international community for its low collateral damage and pre-emptive signature. Let's hope such operations continue within an overall strategy of threat reduction.
Doubtless, there are more Israel military actions to come focused on reduce unconventional CW/BW and advanced weapons threats from Syria. We expect there will be more reports of IAF sorties coming across the newswires. All while Israel military officials continue to brief their Pentagon counterparts on target intelligence inside Syria. This is notwithstanding Russian objections fearing collateral damage to its citizens in the country.
Running Bond, English Bond, Flemish Bond -- The Mortar Is Blood
The whole point of the outrage was this: the mortar being used by the caricatured Netanyahu, dripping from his trowel, and oozing from between the bricks -- was blood, the blood of those peaceful "Palestinians" martyred, apparently, to those insatiable Jews who want to grab the entire vast territory of "Palestine" for themselves, leaving practically nothing for all of the Arabs in their teeny-tiny, resource-poor domains (approximately 1,000 times the size of Israel).
Alan Cowell uses the word "bloody" in his report, but he -- or the people who edited his piece back in New York -- fails to convey that it was not the brick wall itself, but the dripping and the oozing blood, that put many in mind of the medieval blood-libel.Passover wafers soaked in the blood of Little Hugh of Lincon, and suchlike.
You can't figure that out from Alan Cowell's story. He could have put in even a sentence or two to make it clear. That part, not to be found in his article, was eesential if readers were to grasp the nature of the offense. And since The New York Times carefully refrained from reprinting the cartoon (why? wouldn't that have been the best way to convey what it contained?) the few extra words Cowell's repoort could have included would or should have read like this:
"What outraged and infuriated many people was that the brick wall's mortar was clearly blood, blood dripping from the trowel in Netanyahu's hand, blood oozing from between the bricks -- the blood, it was clear the cartoonist meant to say, of innocents, innocent "Palestinians" who were martyred by the Israelis. It harked back, for many, to the medieval blood-libel, to Little Hugh of Lincoln and suchlike."