Lee Smith: A Weak Horse in the White House
While many have wondered whether the recent Arab uprisings are more like the Iranian revolution or the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Obama administration could profit most by turning the analogy on itself. There’s been speculation that the White House is reluctant to take steps against Qaddafi lest he ransom American citizens still in Libya. That suggests that Obama has misunderstood the lessons from Tehran 1979: To have American hostages taken is not a political liability for the president, rather it is a direct challenge to U.S. power and prestige. The political fallout comes only if the president fails the test, as Carter did. Today we have a commander in chief who is silent when the Muslim masses he once reached out to are being slaughtered, because he is scared that for all the power his country wields he cannot protect American citizens or advance U.S. interests. He will be judged harshly.
Robert Kaplan: Arab democracy and the return of the Mediterranean world
The political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that the United States essentially inherited its political system from England and, thus, America’s periodic political upheavals had to do with taming authority rather than creating it from scratch. The Arab world now has the opposite challenge: It must create from the dust of tyrannies legitimate political orders. It is less democracy than the crisis of central authority that will dominate the next phase of Middle Eastern history.
DEBKAFile: Middle East oil war spreads. First demos in Saudi Arabia, Iraq refinery blasted
Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji, 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, was blown up early Saturday, Feb. 26, by an Al Qaeda cell activated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades, debkafile’s Middle East sources report. Tehran is using the Middle East turbulence to generate fuel shortages in Iraq and boost oil prices worldwide.
Thursday night, Feb. 24, saw the first signs of unrest in Saudi Arabia with demonstrations by young people demanding reforms of the kingdom’s system of government and by Shiites living and working in the kingdom’s oil-rich eastern regions. They demonstrated at Awwamiya in Qatif in solidarity with the protests in Libya and Bahrain.
Iran is the biggest beneficiary of soaring prices. In 2010, sanctions slashed Iran’s oil revenue from $120 billion to $80 billion, i.e. 6.6 billion a month, whereas in February, 2011, it shot up to $10 billion as a result of Middle East unrest.
Melanie Phillips: The debauching of the LSE
The Times (£) reports that half the board of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, which has received money from Libya among other Arab dictatorships, has called for a boycott of Israel, the one democracy in the Middle East.
Thus not just the LSE but swathes of the British academy have debauched the very notion of education, having lent themselves to libelling, delegitimising and demonising the victim of genocidal aggression in the Middle East while pocketing funding from the Arab world from which this poison unremittingly pours. This gross corruption of academic standards, and with it the mindset of the intelligentsia, sits at the very heart of the British derangement over Israel. It is truly a disgusting spectacle.
Lee Smith (FB): The Dictator Wears Prada: Anna WIntour and the Banality of Evil
Poor Anna Wintour. It’s going to be a very good month for her enemies, because the latest issue of Vogue shows the rail-thin cultural icon and style arbiter to be well behind the curve on the biggest international fashion trend of the year. Arab democracy is in, and what’s out are Arab dictators—Ben Ali, Mubarak, and Qaddafi are just so, well, 2010. But in the March 2011 Vogue, Joan Juliet Buck pens a jaw-droppingly unctuous profile of the woman behind the tyrant who runs Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s glam wife Asma.
AYALON: The death of ‘linkage’
Palestinian issue was never the key to stability
The last few weeks and months have finally proven the fallacy of one of the most mistaken theories about development and peace in the Middle East. For a number of years, foreign officials, experts and commentators have claimed that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was solved, then there would be peace in the Middle East. This was coined “linkage.”
Former President Jimmy Carter was once asked, “Is the linkage policy right?” He replied, “I don’t think it’s about a linkage policy, but a linkage fact. … Without doubt, the path to peace in the Middle East goes through Jerusalem.” Another enthusiast of linkage is former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the single most combustible and galvanizing issue in the Arab world.”
Diaa Haddid, Gaza’s Islamist rulers hounding secular community
Friday, February 25, 2011; 3:31 AM
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — After nearly four years of Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip’s small secular community is in tatters, decimated by the militant group’s campaign to impose its strict version of Islam in the coastal territory.
Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals. Most recently, it has confiscated novels it deems offensive to Islam from a bookshop and banned Gaza’s handful of male hairdressers from styling women’s hair.
The Hamas push toward religious fundamentalism is especially striking at a time of great change in the Middle East. With the Iranian-backed group firmly entrenched in power, Gaza seems unlikely to experience the type of pro-democracy unrest that has swept through much of the region.