Here and There in the Middle East: Sharia Law Measuring Scale, Turkey or Iran, and the Israeli Peace Initiative Contest
By Barry Rubin
1. One of my readers remarked that what we need to study now is the use of fifth columns to subvert and overthrow countries rather than the 1940-era conventional warfare blitzkrieg. Actually, and this was well-known at the time, the Germans used a very sophisticated strategy of ideological and institutional subversion. It is surprising how much this has been forgotten. Political parties and militias were set up or subsidized; newspapers bought up; German minorities organized. If any of you are interested in this I will provide examples in future, some of which I described (using U.S. intelligence archives) in my book, Istanbul Intrigues.
2. Turkey is now going to sell Egypt both unmanned aircraft and swift patrol boats. Not that there's anything wrong with that, since both are U.S. clients and, according to the Obama Administration, allies. But this is something to watch in the future. Remember that the relatively moderate military commanders in both countries are on their way out and will be replaced by ideologically motivated (or opportunist) officers who will attack whatever they're told. With excitable, reckless, and anti-American Recep Edrogan running Turkey and excitable, reckless, and anti-American Amr Moussa perhaps soon to be Egypt's president, old American friends may soon be attacking other old American friends, or even U.S. forces.
Have you noticed that its increasingly difficult to distinguish between remarks about Israel by Erdogan and those by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
3. I like U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen. He gets it. And he has to because his forces have the mission of fighting future wars and threats created by mistaken White House policies. Never forget that the official Quadrennial Review of U.S . military plans, 92 pages of Politically Correct pap, doesn't really mention Islamism, terrorism, Iran, and other real-world threats. Mullen's 3.5 page letter at the end deals with all the real issues.
Now Mullen has had to say something pretty amazing. In Senate testimony he reported that "the Haqqani [terrorist[ network... acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Agency." Imagine: America's highest military officer explains that the intelligence agency of a country receiving massive U.S. aid runs a Taliban-linked terrorist group that, on September 13, attacked the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. Twenty-five people died.
Can you imagine the uproar this should cause in any normal circumstance? There would be demands for congressional inquiries, front-page stories every day, and attacks on a president who could run such a policy.
Add this to previous U.S. Defense Department warnings based on reliable intelligence:
--Iran is protecting and helping al-Qaida.
--Iran is training Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
--Iran is training and supplying training, weapons, and explosives to kill Americans in Iraq. Mullen also spoke about that. He said: "They (the Iranians) have been warned about continuing it ... that if they keep killing our troops, that will not be something we will sit idly by and watch." Um, wow, does that raise the possibility of an armed confrontation with Iran? What is the White House going to do if Iran continues killing Americans--as I'm sure they will. My prediction is that they will do nothing. You know what that kind of empty threat followed by inaction does to credibility?
--Syria is running a war against America in Iraq.
But White House policies don't want to deal with these issues.
Congress, do you have any response?
Experts, any response?
Media, any response?
4. Michael Ledeen has written an excellent article well-worth reading about the hunkered-down White House and its Ripley's Believe it or Not policies. But I can't resist adding a bit. Ledeen writes that the White house is awaiting, "The happy moment when Assad falls and Obama takes credit for it and Erdogan calls the White House to get his orders."
Alas, most people in the region don't think that Erdogan will be calling the White House to get his orders--the idea of anyone ordering around Erdogan doesn't fit with his personality--but with Erdogan telling Obama how he's arranged a great interim government in which the Muslim Brotherhood has all-too-much power.
5. Libya's new Western-installed leader first announced that Sharia will be "the main source" for Libyan law in future, then a week later met with Obama who praised him as a great guy. A brief guide is in order here about how Muslim-majority countries do this sort of thing:
Option 1: Secular, based on Western law. You know, like Turkey used to be.
Option 2: Sharia is "a source" of legislation, not too bad, like Egypt used to be.
Option 3: Sharia is "the main source" of legislation. Uh-oh.
Option 4: Sharia is "the sole source" of legislation." Is that a chador you're wearing or are you just glad to see me? (Yes, I know that it doesnt make sense but this take-off of the famous Mae West line is sort of funny, I hope.)
Now, Turkey is moving from 1 through 2 and perhaps eventually to 3. Egypt from 2 to 3 and perhaps eventually to 4. Libya is starting off at 3. Iran and the Gaza Strip are at 4 with a bullet. That last point is record industry slang for a song headed up the charts. In this case it means, literally, a bullet in your head if you step out of line. Some time next year remind me to do a chart of where every country is at. One thing is for sure: they're all headed in the same general direction.
6. Here's the problem with the international community and with the "peace process." The Palestinian Authority demands full UN membership without doing anything to deserve it, as an alternative to negotiations with Israel. The United States opposes; almost every other country supports. So France comes up with a compromise: Make them a non-member state, in other words moving them up a level. But the problem is not having Palestine as a UN member so much as it is having Palestine as a state, which can do whatever it wants in terms of foreign alliances, buying arms, inviting in foreign troops or advisors, and condemning Israel as occupier and aggressor if it defends itself from cross-border attacks or doesn't leave all claimed Palestinian territory immediately.
So this is how it works: You don't give the Palestinians everything they want as a unilateral concession; you just give them half of what they want as a unilateral concessions. Saving the rest as a unilateral concession for the next time they make a demand.
7. The great peace initiative contest! What can Israel give to prove it wants peace and isn't sabotaging a diplomatic resolution? Come up with ideas. Important rule: Israel cannot ask for anything in exchange because if it does then the Palestinians will reject it and we are back where we began.
Warning: failure to come up with an entry means you are a right-wing extremist who opposes peace and is clinging on to an untenable status quo. Only unilateral concessions will be considered! In case of near-duplicate entries the proposal in which Israel gives up more in exchange for nothing will be judged the winner.
8. As for Israel being isolated and on the ropes, the IMF has just increased its positive evaluation of the Israeli economy to predict it will grow at a rate of 4.8 percent this year. That's triple the average for the developed economies and is number three in the world (after city-states Hong Kong and Singapore). There are, of course, problems (it wouldn't be Israel if there weren't) but this detailed evaluation in Businessweek is quite upbeat. (h/t Martin Kramer).
Meanwhile, a number of Arab states--notably Egypt--are facing major economic problems and there are some very dire forecasts for Turkey. I wish everyone was doing well and countries with economic probles can resort to war and aggression as a way out. Still, Israel's prosperity means it will continue to be strong. What about the social protests (prices too high; wages too low)? We will see if the government takes corrective action but Israel is not going to follow the Greek model, that's for sure.