Chicago shuffle in the East Wing: Meet Mrs. O’s high-powered, Soros-friendly chief of staff

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Readers of Culture of Corruption are already familiar with the name “Susan Sher.”

Sher is Michelle Obama’s old boss at the University of Chicago Medical Center (where they worked together on the infamous patient-dumping scheme no one wants to talk about) and a former Mayor Richard Daley attorney. She took over as chief of staff for the First Lady in June 2009; after Mrs. Obama’s first, short-lived chief of staff Jackie Norris was installed at Americorps to protect the Obamas’ cronies.

Earlier today, the White House announced that Sher was stepping down and heading back to the Windy City.

Who’s filling her place?

Another left-wing Chicago crony, of course.

Call it a shakeup or call it a natural turnover halfway through the term, but the White House is preparing for significant change throughout its top ranks. Much of the movement, though, will involve new posts for longtime aides to President Barack Obama.

Among the many moves afoot, Tina Tchen, who is responsible for working with outside groups, is preparing to move to the East Wing to serve as First Lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, according to two Democrats close to the White House.

It’s part of a shuffle that gives the White House a chance to consider how it wants to organize itself for the coming two years, when it will face a more hostile, more Republican Congress. Interim Chief of Staff Pete Rouse is studying how to reorganize the place so it is ready for the next stage.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with Tina Tchen, too.

She’s a close pal of Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett and a longtime bagwoman for Illinois Democrats. Tchen headed up the “Office of Public Engagement,” a murky outfit overseen by Jarrett that, among other things, had its hands in the Obama’s failed Chicago Crony-lympics bid and was in the middle of Obama administration efforts to recruit artists to advance their political agenda.

I pointed out in November 2009 that Tchen, a high-powered campaign finance bundler for Team Obama who personally raised more than $ 200,000 while a lawyer at Skadden Arps, is listed in White House visitor logs as having met there with none other than…

George Soros.


*GEORGE SOROS. And let there be no doubt that other far Left kingpins have easy access to this White House. Billionaire George Soros dropped in on David Lipton, Obama’s special assistant for international economic affairs and a longtime Treasury bureaucrat in past Democrat administrations whose contact with Soros goes back to at least 1998.

Soros visited Lipton on February 25, just a few days after he made international headlines for statements at Columbia University about the global financial collapse, and again on March 25, the day he was quoted around the world gloating about “having a very good crisis.”

Soros also met with National Economic Council director Larry Summers and Valerie Jarrett’s gal Tina Tchen.

Inquiring minds want to know: Did Petrobras come up?

Tchen’s specialty is serving as a conduit and sounding board for far Left constituencies from Planned Parenthood to Hollyweird to George Soros. They’re digging in their heels at the East Wing.

I said before the midterms that the Obamas had no intention of moving to the center. Need any more proof?

Michelle Malkin

Calvin And Hobbs-And The Refudiation Of Normalcy In The Middle East

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Yaacov Lozowick writes in response to Sarah Palin’s “refudiate” being declared the word of the year by the Oxford American Dictionary.

Lozowick quotes from the Oxford University Press website on Warren G. Harding:

Although Palin is likely to be forever branded with the coinage of “refudiate,” she is by no means the first person to speak or write it—just as Warren G. Harding was not the first to use the word normalcy when he ran his 1920 presidential campaign under the slogan “A return to normalcy.” But Harding was a political celebrity, as Palin is now, and his critics spared no ridicule for his supposedly ignorant mangling of the correct word “normality.”

True enough: there are manufactured words we use today, and no one says a word.
But are also words that are reworked to fit new situations:

We all use the word access, but according to my 1970 copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary-access is a noun, not a verb. Even the word accessibility is not defined as the ability to access. But today in the computer age, who doesn’t talk about the need to access information?

As one lexicographer put it:

Then we come to specialized words that used without consideration of their meaning-say, like disproportionate force: a word that you know you will hear every time that Israel defends itself, as if a country that is attacked must use the exact equal amount of force.

Or look at how the media uses “militant” or “activist” to describe terrorists who attack civilians.

When the topic of Israel comes up, so too does the word “Occupation,” when in point of fact-given the legal arguments on both sides of the Israeli settlements-the land is question is in fact disputed, not occupied.

And the list goes on.

Bottom line: Hobbs was wrong-we have already made language a complete impediment to understanding.

Technorati Tag: and and and .

Daled Amos


November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

This is not the only Israeli attack on churches and mosques in occupied Palestine. Killing worshipers is a common criminal practice that terrorist Zionist groups have mastered for over 70 years in Palestine. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslims praying inside the Ibrahim Mosque; and Zionists have made a statute for him at the entrance to Al-Khalil (Hebron)

Jewish settlers burn completely the first floor of the Baptist Church, which was built in Jerusalem in 1897

One day before the massacre perpetrated by the forces of terrorism against worshipers in Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in the Al-Karada neighborhood in Baghdad, a similar terrorist attack was carried out by Jewish settlers who burned the Baptist Church on Prophets Street in occupied Jerusalem, after they burned a number of mosques as part of their attempts to Judaize Palestine. Zakaria al-Mashriqi, a leader in the church, said “right-wing Israeli settlers broke a number of windows of the two-story church and hurled Molotov cocktails inside it, completely burning the first floor.” The church was built in Jerusalem in 1897 and housed the Palestinian Bible College until 1948, when parishioners were pushed out by armed Jewish gangs during the violence accompanying the creation of the state of Israel.”

Israeli settlers spurred by a mandate from G-d attacked a West Bank Mosque, sprayed graffiti on it and burned Qurans inside.

This is not the only Israeli attack on churches and mosques in occupied Palestine. Killing worshipers is a common criminal practice that terrorist Zionist groups have mastered for over 70 years in Palestine. Baruch Goldstein opened fire on unarmed Palestinian Muslims praying inside the Ibrahim Mosque; and Zionists have made a statute for him at the entrance to Al-Khalil (Hebron). Such crimes usually pass by without any condemnation on the part of those who claim responsibility for preserving coexistence among peoples and defending religious freedom.

With the strongest possible condemnation of the horrible crime committed in Our Lady of Salvation Church, one cannot compare the reaction to crimes against churches in Iraq and those muted responses to crimes committed by terrorist Zionists against Christians and their churches in occupied Palestine: In the second case, reactions are almost non-existent. I have not seen any media coverage or political condemnation of the crime committed by Jewish settlers against the Baptist Church in Jerusalem.

As a result of the massacres and displacement perpetrated against millions of Palestinians since the 1940s, the number of Christians dropped to unprecedented levels despite 14 centuries of tolerance and coexistence. Israel’s destabilizing of Lebanon led to the 1975-90 Civil War and the consequent violence which led to mass migration on the part of Christians from Lebanon. This is what has been happening in Iraq since 2003 where Western powers are destabilizing the country for objectives related to dominating the Middle East.

The crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians do not distinguish between Muslims and Christians: the martyrs and the prisoners are always Christians and Muslims. After days of burning the Baptist Church in Jerusalem, the settlers, protected by Israeli occupation troops, attacked the Prophet Yusuf tomb in Nablus. These Zionist crimes against Arab Christians became more ferocious since Bush’s war on Iraq and even more brutal since the publication of the recommendations of the Catholic Synod for the Christians of the East which condemned violence, terrorism and all forms of religious extremism, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. The Catholic Synod called on Christians to “adhere to their homeland,” stressing that “Christians are an essential component of the peoples of the region, and that they should be actively involved in the political, cultural and economic life of their countries in a context of mutual respect and continuous dialogue with people of other religions, particularly with their Muslim partners.”

Muslims, who have lived in tolerance with Christians and Jews for 14 centuries, agree with this approach. Israel is the only nation which prevents Muslims from worshiping in their mosques on Fridays and religious occasions and prevents Christians from going to their churches. Yet, no one in the “free” West, the defendant of human rights, dares condemn this brutal insult.

Zionism is a danger, not only to unarmed Palestinian civilians whom it humiliates, imprisons and assassinates in front of the cameras of the “free” world, but also to coexistence, tolerance and peace in the Middle East. Christ was born in Bethlehem in the “East.” Prophet Mohammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Saint Paul embarked on his mission from Damascus carrying Christ’s message and spreading Christianity all over the world. Who are those who want to empty the East of its Christians in the same way they emptied it of Jews? Who are those who attack mosques and churches to sow conflict between Muslims and Christians, something that never existed before the creation of Israel?

On these grounds, confronting Zionist crimes in Palestine is the duty of all the free people of the world, not only in defense of coexistence in Palestine alone, but in defense of coexistence, tolerance and peace in the Middle East and the world at large, in the same way that killing innocent worshipers in the Lady of Our Salvation Church in Baghdad is a condemned terrorist act, every transgression against any holy place, Muslim or Christian, and worshipers, Muslim or Christian, is a terrorist act which should be condemned by the whole world.

Keeping silent toward Israeli crimes has become a threat to the freedom, security and safety of people everywhere; so it is important to call for a correct reading of the link between the Baptist Church on Prophets Street in Jerusalem, the Prophet Yusuf tomb in Nablus and the Lady of Our Salvation Church in Karada, Baghdad.

Professor Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media adviser at the Syrian Presidency and former expatriates minister. She has also been a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has a doctorate in English literature from Warwick University, London. She was the media spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;



Exclusive Intifada Interview with Archbishop Theodosios (Atallah) Hanna

Intifada Palestine

US, Afghan troops beat back Taliban assault on outpost in the east

November 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

US and Afghan troops repelled a Taliban assault on a base in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least eight fighters, in the latest Taliban attempt to overrun a US outpost.

A Taliban force, whose size has yet to be determined, opened fire on Forward Operating Base Fenty in the Behsud district in Nangarhar, an ISAF spokesman told The Long War Journal. The Taliban opened fire with small arms from “insurgent fighting positions,” the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release on the incident. A combined US and Afghan quick reaction force counterattacked the Taliban after identifying the enemy positions, and broke up the attack.

US troops estimated that eight enemy fighters, including one who was wearing a suicide vest, were killed during the counterattack. No US or Afghan casualties were reported.

The use of a suicide vest indicates that al Qaeda or a Pakistan-based jihadist group was involved in the attack. Al Qaeda and Pakistani terror groups have carried out joint operations against US and Afghan forces in the east in the past.

Al Qaeda and the Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba maintain a strong presence in Nangarhar province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Achin, Bati Kowt, Behsud, Chaparhar, Dara Noor, Deh Bala, Jalalabad, Khogyani, Sherzad, Shinwar, or 10 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

Today’s assault in Behsud district is the latest Taliban attempt to overrun a US outpost in the east. The last such attack took place on OCt. 30 at Combat Outpost Margah in Paktika province. US forces routed the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda fighters who carried out the attack, killing more than 80 fighters.

Taliban leadership in the east

The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, and Kunar. Abdul Latif Mansur is thought to currently lead the Taliban’s Peshawar shura. It was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his detention in Pakistan in February 2010. Media reports claimed that Kabir was in negotiations with the Afghan government, but Kabir released a statement on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s website, denouncing any talks.

A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996. Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009.

Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber. The majority of NATO’s supplies pass through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.

The Long War Journal

Rising East, Setting West

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Via comes this essay on Asian powers increasingly declaring their independence from America’s bankrupt hegemony.

By Juan Cole

Blocked from major new domestic initiatives by a Republican victory in the midterm elections, President Barack Obama promptly lit out for Asia, a far more promising arena.  That continent, after all, is rising, and Obama is eager to grasp the golden ring of Asian success.

Beyond being a goodwill ambassador for ten days, Obama is seeking sales of American-made durable and consumer goods, weapons deals, an expansion of trade, green energy cooperation, and the maintenance of a geopolitical balance in the region favorable to the United States.  Just as the decline of the American economy hobbled him at home, however, the weakness of the United States on the world stage in the aftermath of Bush-era excesses has made real breakthroughs abroad unlikely.

Add to this the peculiar obsessions of the Washington power elite, with regard to Iran for instance, and you have an unpalatable mix.  These all-American fixations are viewed as an inconvenience or worse in Asia, where powerful regional hegemons are increasingly determined to chart their own courses, even if in public they continue to humor a somewhat addled and infirm Uncle Sam.

Although the United States is still the world’s largest economy, it is shackled by enormous public and private debt as well as fundamental weaknesses.  Rivaled by an increasingly integrated European Union, it is projected to be overtaken economically by China in just over a decade.  While the president’s first stop, India, now has a nominal gross domestic product of only a little over a trillion dollars a year, it, too, is growing rapidly, even spectacularly, and its GDP may well quadruple by the early 2020s.  The era of American dominance, in other words, is passing, and the time (just after World War II) when the U.S. accounted for half the world economy, a dim memory.

The odd American urge to invest heavily in perpetual war abroad, including “defense-related” spending of around a trillion dollars a year, has been a significant factor further weakening the country on the global stage.  Most of the conventional weapons on which the U.S. continues to splurge could not even be deployed against nuclear powers like Russia, China, and India, emerging as key competitors when it comes to global markets, resources, and regional force projection.  Those same conventional weapons have proved hardly more useful (in the sense of achieving quick and decisive victory, or even victory at all) in the unconventional wars the U.S. has repeatedly plunged into; a sad fact that Bush’s reckless attempt to occupy entire West Asian nations only demonstrated even more clearly to Washington’s bemused rivals.

American weapons stockpiles (and copious plans for ever more high-tech versions of the same into the distant future) are therefore remarkably irrelevant to its situation, and known to be so.  Meanwhile, its economy, burdened by debts incurred through wars and military spending sprees, and hollowed out by Wall Street shell games, is becoming a B-minus one in global terms.

A Superpower With Feet of Clay

Just how weakened the United States has been in Asia is easily demonstrated by the series of rebuffs its overtures have suffered from regional powers.  When, for instance, a tiff broke out this fall between China and Japan over a collision at sea near the disputed Senkaku Islands, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to mediate.  The offer was rejected out of hand by the Chinese, who appear to have deliberately halted exports of strategic rare-earth metals to Japan and the United States as a hard-nosed bargaining ploy.  In response, the Obama administration quickly turned mealy-mouthed, affirming that while the islands come under American commitments to defend Japan for the time being, it would take no position on the question of who ultimately owned them.

Likewise, Pakistani politicians and pundits were virtually unanimous in demanding that President Obama raise the issue of disputed Kashmir with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his Indian sojourn.  The Indians, however, had already firmly rejected any internationalization of the controversy, which centers on the future of the Muslim-majority state, a majority of whose inhabitants say they want independence.  Although Obama had expressed an interest in helping resolve the Kashmir dispute during his presidential campaign, by last March his administration was already backing away from any mediation role unless both sides asked for Washington’s help.  In other words, Obama and Clinton promptly caved in to India’s insistence that it was the regional power in South Asia and would brook no external interference.

This kind of regional near impotence is only reinforced by America’s perpetual (yet ever faltering) war machine.  Nor, as Obama moves through Asia, can he completely sidestep controversies provoked by the Afghan War, his multiple-personality approach to Pakistan, and his administration’s obsessive attempt to isolate and punish Iran.  As Obama arrives in Seoul, for instance, Iran will be on the agenda.  This fall, South Korea, a close American ally, managed to play a game of one step forward, two steps back with regard to Washington-supported sanctions against that energy-rich country.

The government did close the Seoul branch of Iran’s Bank Milli, sanctioning it and other Iranian firms.  Then, the South Koreans turned around and, according to the Financial Times, appointed two banks to handle payments involving trade between the two countries via the (unsanctioned) Tehran Central Bank.  In doing so, the government insulated other South Korean banks from possible American sanctions, while finding a way for Iran to continue to purchase South Korean autos and other goods.

Before the latest round of U.N. Security Council sanctions South Korea was doing $ 10 billion a year in trade with Iran, involving some 2,142 Korean companies.  Iran’s half of this trade; it provides nearly 10% of South Korea’s petroleum imports; has been largely unaffected.  South Korea’s exports to Iran, on the other hand, have fallen precipitously under the pressure of the sanctions regime.  Sanctions that hold Iran harmless but punish a key American ally by hurting its trade and creating a balance of payments problem are obviously foolish.

The Iranian press claims that South Korean firms are now planning to invest money in Iranian industrial towns.  Given that Obama has expended political capital persuading South Korea to join a U.S.-organized free trade zone and change its tariffs to avoid harming the American auto industry, it is unlikely that he could now seek to punish South Korea for its quiet defiance on the issue of Iran.

China is the last major country with a robust energy industry still actively investing in Iran, and Washington entertains dark suspicions that some of its firms are even transferring technology that might help the Iranians in their nuclear energy research projects.  This bone of contention is likely to form part of the conversation between Obama and President Hu Jintao before Thursday’s G20 meeting of the world’s wealthiest 20 countries.

Given tensions between Washington and Beijing over the massive balance of trade deficit the U.S. is running with China (which the Obama administration attributes, in part, to an overvalued Chinese currency), not to speak of other contentious issues, Iran may not loom large in their discussions. One reason for this may be that, frustrating as Chinese stonewalling on its currency may seem, they are likely to give even less ground on relations with Iran; especially since they know that Washington can’t do much about it.  Another fraught issue is China’s plan to build a nuclear reactor for Pakistan, something that also alarms Islamabad’s nuclear rival, India.

Rising Asia

If you want to measure the scope of American decline since the height of the Cold War era, remember that back then Iran and Pakistan were American spheres of influence from which other great powers were excluded.  Now, the best the U.S. can manage in Pakistan is the political (and military) equivalent of a condominium or perhaps a time-share; and in Iran, nothing at all.

Despite his feel-good trip to India last weekend, during which he announced some important business deals for U.S. goods, Obama has remarkably little to offer the Indians.  That undoubtedly is why the president unexpectedly announced Washington’s largely symbolic support for a coveted seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a ringing confirmation of India’s status as a rising power.

Some Indian politicians and policy-makers, however, are insisting that their country’s increasing demographic, military, and economic hegemony over South Asia be recognized by Washington, and that the U.S. cease its support of, and massive arms sales to, Pakistan.  In addition, New Delhi is eager to expand its geopolitical position in Afghanistan, where it is a major funder of civilian reconstruction projects, and is apprehensive about any plans for a U.S. withdrawal from that country.  An Indian-dominated Afghanistan is, of course, Pakistan’s worst fear.

In addition, India’s need for petroleum is expected to grow by 40% during the next decade and a half.  Energy-hungry, like neighboring Pakistan, it can’t help glancing longingly at Iran’s natural gas and petroleum fields, despite Washington’s threats to slap third-party sanctions on any firm that helps develop them.  American attempts to push India toward dirty energy sources, including nuclear power (the waste product of which is long-lived and problematic) and shale gas, as a way of reducing its interest in Iranian and Persian Gulf oil and gas, are another Washington “solution” for the region likely to be largely ignored, given how close at hand inexpensive Gulf hydrocarbons are.

It is alarming to consider what exactly New Delhi imagines the planet’s former “sole superpower” has to offer at this juncture; mostly U.S. troops fighting a perceived threat in Afghanistan and the removal of Congressional restrictions on sales of advanced weaponry to India.  The U.S. military in Afghanistan is seen as a proxy for Indian interests in putting down the Taliban and preventing the reestablishment of Pakistani hegemony over Kabul.  For purely self-interested reasons Prime Minister Singh has long taken the same position as the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives, urging Obama to postpone any plans to begin a drawdown in Afghanistan in the summer of 2011.

The most significant of the Indian purchases trumpeted by the president last weekend were military in character.  Obama proclaimed that the $ 10 billion in deals he was inking would create 54,000 new American jobs.  Right now, it’s hard to argue with job creation or multi-billion-dollar sales of U.S.-made goods abroad.  As former secretary of labor Robert Reich has pointed out, however, jobs in the defense industry are expensive to create, while offering a form of artificial corporate welfare that distorts the American economy and diverts resources from far more crucial priorities.

To think of this another way, President Obama is in danger of losing control of his South Asian foreign policy agenda to India, its Republican supporters in the House, and the military-industrial complex.

As the most dynamic region in the world, Asia is the place where rapid change can create new dynamics.  American trade with the European Union has grown over the past decade (as has the EU itself), but is unlikely to be capable of doubling in just a few years.  After all, the populations of some European countries, like powerhouse Germany, will probably shrink in coming decades.

India, by contrast, is projected to overtake China in population around 2030 and hit the billion-and-a-half-inhabitants mark by mid-century (up from 1.15 billion today).  Its economy, like China’s, has been growing 8% to 9% a year, creating powerful new demand in the world market.  President Obama is hoping to see U.S. exports to India double by 2015.  Likewise, with its economy similarly booming, China is making its own ever more obvious bid to stride like a global colossus through the twenty-first century.

The Hessians of a Future Asia?

Unsurprisingly, beneath the pomp and splendor of Obama’s journey through Asia has lurked a far tawdrier vision; of a much weakened president presiding over a much weakened superpower, both looking somewhat desperately for succor abroad. If the United States is to remain a global power, it is important that Washington offer something to the world besides arms and soldiers.

Obama has been on the money when he’s promoted green-energy technology as a key field where the United States could make its mark (and possibly its fortune) globally.  Unfortunately, as elsewhere, here too the United States is falling behind, and a Republican House as well as a bevy of new Republican governors and state legislatures are highly unlikely to effectively promote the greening of American technology.

In the end, Obama’s trip has proven a less than effective symbolic transition from George W. Bush’s muscular unilateralism to a new American-led multilateralism in Asia.  Rather, at each stop, Obama has bumped up against the limits of American economic and diplomatic clout in the new Asian world order.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney thought in terms of expanding American conventional military weapons stockpiles and bases, occupying countries when necessary, and so ensuring that the U.S. would dominate key planetary resources for decades to come.  Their worldview, however, was mired in mid-twentieth-century power politics.

If they thought they were placing a marker down on another American century, they were actually gambling away the very houses we live in and reducing us to a debtor nation struggling to retain its once commanding superiority in the world economy.  In the meantime, the multimillionaires and billionaires created by neoliberal policies and tax cuts in the West will be as happy to invest in (and perhaps live in) Asia as in the United States.

In the capitals of a rising Asia, Washington’s incessant campaign to strengthen sanctions against Iran, and in some quarters its eagerness for war with that country, is viewed as another piece of lunatic adventurism.  The leaders of India, China, and South Korea, among other countries, are determined to do their best to sidestep this American obsession and integrate Iran into their energy and trading futures.

In some ways, the darkest vision of an American future arrived in 1991 thanks to President George H.W. Bush.  At that time, he launched a war in the Persian Gulf to protect local oil producers from an aggressive Iraq.  That war was largely paid for by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, rendering the U.S. military for the first time a sort of global mercenary force.  Just as the poor in any society often join the military as a way of moving up in the world, so in the century of Asia, the U.S. could find itself in danger of being reduced to the role of impoverished foot soldier fighting for others’ interests, or of being the glorified ironsmiths making arsenals of weaponry for the great powers of the future.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.  His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. Copyright 2010 Juan Cole.

The American Conservative

Taser incident in East Lansing High School raises concerns

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

East Lansing Police are defending the use of a taser on a 17-year-old student at East Lansing High School last week, reports the Lansing State Journal.

Marcus Reid, 17, has been charged with two counts of hindering, obstructing and assaulting a police officer and one count of disorderly conduct from a Thursday incident at the high school.

The Journal reports a school officer, who had just been assigned to the school, was escorting a 17-year-old woman off school property because she had been suspended when Reid intervened. The officer called for back up and seven East Lansing Police officers responded to the school. A third student, an unidentified minor, also engaged in the scuffle with officers.

The suspended student, 17-year-old Hodan Sharif, faces one count of disorderly conduct and one count of disorderly obstruction criminal charges. The minor will face disorderly conduct charges in probate court, the paper reports.

Police say they had to use the taser on Reid because they could not subdue him with other methods. But Reid’s mother says the incident was excessive force. She alleges her son ended up with a hairline fracture from the incident, something police deny. Police say he never complained of being in pain while in the city jail.

Dionnedra Reid said over the weekend that her son, a junior, already was being held down on his back by four other East Lansing police officers when another officer Tasered him twice in the chest. Reid said she watched a videotape of it Friday with school officials. Monday, she said she objects to the use of police officers to enforce school discipline, such as escorting a suspended student from the grounds of the school.

Police refused to comment on Dionnedra’s complaints. They also note that the officer had just been returned to the school after budget constraints had lead the police department and the East Lansing Schools to eliminate the school officer post. The post was reinstated just before former Chief Tom Wibert left for a new job in Texas.

School officials and police say they are reviewing the incident.

Michigan Messenger

Biden mum on Israel’s East Jerusalem development

November 9, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In an attempt to shore up support, the VP steers clear of E. Jerusalem housing issue in speech to Jewish groups.
American Thinker Blog

Israel announces East Jerusalem building plans as Netanyahu visits U.S.

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


The Israeli government has announced that construction will proceed on more than 1,300 housing units in East Jerusalem. The announcement comes while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is in the U.S. The U.S. has duly expressed its “disappointment.”

Our readers will recall how incensed the Obama administration became when, during Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, the Israeli Interior Minister unveiled plans to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. The timing of that announcement apparently was mistake, for which the Israelis apologized. President Obama nonetheless took deep offense and attempted to humiliate Netanyahu when he visited the White House.

The timing of the latest announcement, which comes in advance of a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, surely was premeditated. Presumably, the timing was intended, at least in part, to demonstrate that Israel is not concerned about the prospect of additional attempts at bullying by Obama administration.

As I suggested last night in connection with Netanyahu’s statement to Biden about Iran, in the aftermath of the American voters’ rebuke to the Obama administration, the one-sided nature of Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu looks like it’s going to change.

Power Line

Focus on Syria – using terror for political gains in the Middle East

November 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This post by IsraeliGirl was originally posted on her site-and is reposted here with permission.

Focus on Syria – using terror for political gains in the Middle East

In the complicated realm of the Middle East, Syria plays a central role. sat down with Professor Eyal Zisser, an expert on the modern history of Syria and Lebanon, to get a better understanding of Syria and the way it uses terror to advance its political goals in the region. Prof. Zisser is the head the department of Humanities Studies in Tel Aviv University; he is a frequent speaker and writer on this subject.
Giyus.orgWhat’s Syria role in the region and how is it impacted by the rising power of Iran?
Professor Zisser: Syria has a central role in the Middle East. First of all, it has a central geographic location practically at the heart of the region. Secondly, Syria borders Israel and plays a major part in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its conflict with Israel allows Syria to maintain close relationship with Hamas and Hezbollah and help them out.
The Assad family has been in power since 1970. During this period Syria became a stable country, strong from the military and political perspective. Syria is involved in Lebanon and with the Palestinians, but most of the attention it gets from the Western world is due to its close ties with Iran.
This Syria-Iran alliance allows Iran to benefit from Syria’s central location and provides a gateway for Iran to Israel’s immediate vicinity. Syria, on the other hand, benefit from the rising power of Iran. By partnering with Iran, Syria seems stronger in the eyes of the West.
Giyus.orgIran is ruled by a deeply religious Islamic regime, while Syria is completely secular – does that impact the relations between the states?
Professor Zisser: At the moment the political gains for both countries outweighs the religious differences. In the long term this is definitely an issue that can cause tension between Syria and Iran. However, since this alliance was forged 30 years ago, both countries have dealt with much greater threats to their existence so it is in their best interests to partner and over look the religious issue.
Giyus.orgWhat are some of the major threats facing Syria in recent years?
Professor Zisser: The list is very long. In the 80s Israel entered Lebanon in the first Lebanon war. This then created problems in Lebanon, the front yard of Syria. This last decade since September 11th attacks was marked by the war on Terror. Bush invaded Iraq and was considering an invasion to Syria as well.
In light of these threats Syria needs Iran as an ally to back her up. In the eyes of Syria, Israel and the US are a strategic threat, much more so than Iran.  What are the motivations behind Syria’s support of terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah?
Professor Zisser: Syria views terror as a tool to achieve its political goals. Syria does not have a strong army and is using its terror support to show its presence and make the West take it into account as a major player in the Middle East.
On top of that, by supporting terror organizations Syria is keeping radical Islamic terror at bay. Bashar al Assad said that radical Islam is a great threat for Syria since it is a secular regime. By supporting anti Israel terror organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, Syria stays on the “right side” of Islamic terror organizations like Al Qaeda.
 And of course, by supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, Syria gains popularity in the Arab street as the main backer of the resistance forces against Israel.   Moving from supporting terror to peace – what’s Syria strategic stand with regards to the peace process with Israel?
Professor Zisser: Syria would like to see the peace talks move forward but is not willing to take any actions as condition for the talks. Syria refuses to stop supporting terror as a condition to resuming the peace talks. If and when there will be peace talks Syria might be willing to discuss its terror activities.
However, when we think of a possible peace agreement between Syria and Israel, it will be more like a friendly divorce agreement than a unity in a marriage. There is too much suspicion on both sides for this to be a warm close peaceful relation. But there can be a lasting peace where each country minds its own business.
Giyus.orgHow does Syria view the efforts by the US and the European Union to bring it closer to the West?
Professor Zisser: There is actually a great disappointment in Syria from the Obama administration. Syria expected Obama to start talks and advance the relationship but this didn’t happen.  Despite the rhetoric about engaging Syria, there is still no US Ambassador in Damascus (the last US Ambassador left in 2005 after the assassination of PM Harriri in Lebanon).
The US on the other hand demands that Syria make some changes that demonstrate they are heading for peace. The US would like to see Syria sending Hamas’ leader Mashaal away from Damascus, or stop assisting anti American terror in Iraq. Syria refusal to take these steps makes it very hard for the US to make real advances.
As for the European Union, while they can offer some benefits, Syria does not view them as a strategic partner.
Since these advancements from the EU came with no conditions, it only convinces Syria that supporting terror organizations pays out. They believe that they can convince the world to accept them as they are, as long as they stick to their guns and continue supporting terror activities.  How does Syria view its relations with Lebanon?
Professor Zisser:  Lebanon is very important to Syria which views it as its own front yard.  While they were kicked out of Lebanon a few years ago, they are now gradually increasing their involvement again.
Lebanon is a highly fractured country and Syria is the only one that can keep the balance and help maintain stability. Since this is in everyone best interests and no one wants to see Lebanon torn apart in a civil war again, Syria has been allowed back in the game.
Syria is willing to meddle in the Lebanese swamp and is the only one that can keep Hezbollah in its place. Hezbollah’s weapon route from Iran goes through Syria. This gives Syria great leverage over Hezbollah since they can cut off their weapon supply at any time.  Will there be any impact to the expected UN tribunal announcement regarding Hezbollah’s involvement in the assassination of Harriri?
Professor Zisser:  No one has an interest to burst the Lebanese bubble. Not the US, or France, which were behind the tribunal in the first place, nor the regional Lebanese players which know their power limitation.
The main question is if Hezbollah is willing to accept an indictment. It’s clear that even if there is a report accusing Hezbollah of involvement in the assassination, nothing will be done about it. But at the moment Hezbollah is not willing to accept any report claiming the organization or its people were involved.
 It is not clear how far Hezbollah will go with its reaction on this issue but I don’t feel it will escalate to a new civil war. It’s much easier to bury a report by the UN and ignore it than to start a civil war over it.   What was Syria role in previous internal Lebanese conflicts such as Hezbollah’s coup in 2008?
Professor Zisser:  Until 2008 there was a strong anti Syria camp in Lebanon which included the Druze and Sunni and was backed by France and Saudi Arabia. When Hezbollah took over key areas in Beirut in 2008, as a reaction to an anti Hezbollah resolution in the government, the anti Syria camp was left alone in the field against the Shiite Hezbollah army.
Knowing their own power limitations, the anti Syria camp realized they cannot stand up to Syria alone. So they turned around and decided that Syria must be engaged again since they are the only ones that can maintain balance in Lebanon. The Druze and the Sunnis camps have made their peace with Syria, basically paving the road for Syria’s involvement in internal Lebanese politics once again.
Giyus.orgSyria is also bordering Turkey – how would you describe the relations between these two countries?
Professor Zisser:  Syria and Turkey enjoy close relations these days. They have strong economic ties and Turkish PM Erdoğan is a close ally. This was not always the case. In the past Syria and Turkey were enemies and Syria supported the Kurds anti Turkey terror activities. Since Syria stopped supporting the Kurds, the relations with Turkey have greatly improved. The recent Islamization process which Turkey is going through has also brought the two countries closer.
Giyus.orgCan you describe the daily life of the people in Syria?
Professor Zisser:  Syria is a totalitarian regime which is becoming more aggressive over the years. The hopes that Bashar al Assad, as a young leader, would bring about change have faded.
In the Middle East, before you seek the right to speak your mind, you seek the right to walk safely in your street. Take a look at Iraq, at Lebanon, personal safety is not granted. The people in Syria know very well where they live and realizing the alternative is chaos, therefore they stick with their dictator regime to gain stability and safety. It’s a choice between two evils – a tyrant regime or chaos in the streets.
Giyus.orgWhat keeps Assad’s regime in power? Why doesn’t it collapse like the Soviet Union?
Professor Zisser:  There is no real opposition to the Assad regime. Most people are very passive and there are no demonstrations against the ruling party. Assad power base relies on this passiveness and the fact that it brings stability. Of course the security forces play an important role as well.
Assad’s anti Western and anti Israel rhetoric is also very popular in the Syrian street. This unites the people in Syria against Israel and the West further strengthening Assad’s control.
From an economic perspective things have been rather good so again no cause for people to make a change.
This is an ethnic family based regime, similar in concept to the regime of Castro in Cuba or North Korea.
Other than Israel, there are no democracies in the Middle East – it’s all dictatorships which last a long time. The only dictator that lost power is Saddam Hussien and if September 11th attacks didn’t happen Saddam would probably still rule over Iraq.
Assad keeps a tight ship, and Syria has been stable throughout the years. While so many changes have happened in Israel or the US, Syria has shown remarkable stability and this stability is at the base of their power.

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Daled Amos

Obama’s counterproductive Middle East policy

November 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Obama’s push to create a Palestinian State in the Israeli West Bank is counterproductive to the US’s prime interest in the Middle East.
American Thinker Blog

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