This is a discussion on Persian Gulf & Middle East News & Views within the World Armed Forces forums, part of the World Strategic Defence Area category; The Daily News of the German magazine Marine Forum has this remarkable item for 01 September: USA – ISRAEL Due ...
The Daily News of the German magazine Marine Forum has this remarkable item for 01 September:
This is a curious development during a US election campaign.USA – ISRAEL
Due to “budget restrictions” the US reportedly will much scale down participation in bilateral missile defence exercise “Austere Challenge 12”, scheduled in Israel for October … deploy just one instead of two BMD-capable Aegis ships and cut troops from 5,000 planned to mere 1,500.
(rmks: Some US and Israeli media speculate Obama and Netanyahu at odds over Israel's threats to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities)
An article by a German psychologist with wide political experience in Asia Times on line: Asia Times Online :: 'Teachable moments' loom in Syrian conflict
'Teachable moments' loom in Syrian conflict
By Christof Lehmann
After more than 18 months of belligerent action against the government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic, the regime is still maintaining relative stability and security. A peaceful resolution however, becomes increasingly illusive while the potentially catastrophic regional and global consequences of the failure to broker a peaceful resolution seem to be a harbinger of a return to global barbarism, anarchy and unspeakable human suffering.
NATO's victory and teachable moments in Libya.
In an article, published in Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 edition which was published prior to the 25th summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Chicago, Ivo H Daalder, the US Permanent Representative to NATO, and James G Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander and Commander of the US European Command, gave a clear indication of what NATO has in mind for Syria.
Daalder and Stavridis described NATO's Operation Unified Protector in Libya as "NATO's Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run and Intervention" and as "A Teachable Moment". 
What was so "teachable" about Libya, and what is "The Right Way to Run an Intervention"? An analysis of NATO's post 25th summit doctrine and the consequences for security and stability in the Middle East points to a two-tiered NATO strategy that combines low cost, low intensity, illegitimate warfare with an aggressive nuclear posture. 
There are in fact numerous teachable moments in the phenomena that is euphemized under the name "The Arab Spring":
the successful political manipulation of Turkey;
the successful implementation of plans developed by the RAND Corporation, which already in 1996 advised that Turkey should be governed by Abdullah Gul in the office of president and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the office of prime minister, as a precondition for a successful implementation of a comprehensive solution for the Middle East;
the successful transformation of the Turkish High Command from a bastion of secularism into a High Command that would cooperate with Muslim Brothers and Al-Qaeda mercenaries in preparation of the division of both Syria and Turkey along ethnic lines;
the successful manufacturing of a crisis as precondition for the successful abuse of a UN Security Council resolution, as a precondition for the successful implementation of regime change.
A UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution is adopted when it has the concurrent vote of all permanent members. However, since resolution #4 (1948) on Spain it has become practice that abstentions are interpreted as a passive or quasi-concurrent vote. This practice implied that the members who propose the resolution are not overstepping the resolutions authorizations to a significant degree.
When Russia and China abstained on UNSC resolution #1973 (2011) on Libya it was implicitly understood that Russia and China expected that NATO would adhere to the letter of the resolution and not overstep it in any significant degree. It should be added here, that the fact that the UNSC has adopted a resolution does not necessarily make it legitimate.
What Daalder and Stavridis also found "teachable" was that NATO or its allies could disregard the Convention against the Use of Mercenaries and use the al-Qaeda-associated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group as infantry, while abusing resolution 1973 to wage an aerial war against the Libyan military.
Special Forces on the ground would function as liaison within a joint command while NATO could enjoy "plausible deniability". The Libyan government de jure was ousted, the head of state murdered in cold blood, an independent investigation into his death could be prevented, a proxy government could be installed.
It is not surprising that Daalder and Stavridis proclaim a NATO victory in Libya. From a NATO perspective it was in deed a victory and a teachable moment. It was also a moment that has taught both Russia and China that NATO will abuse an abstention at the Security Council to implement wars of aggression.
The UN Security Council has since been frozen in a deadlock between NATO members on one hand and China and Russia on the other. The deadlock has brought the necessity of structural changes within the United Nations into focus.
The United Nations is rapidly loosing its residual credibility and functionality as an instrument for conflict resolution while security and stability in the Middle East are deteriorating. Negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria, for the brewing conflict between NATO, Israel, the Gulf Cooperation Council member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) on one hand, and Iran, Russia, China on the other at the UN seems increasingly implausible, if not impossible.
NATO's victory in Libya not only brought about regime change, it also devastated the countries infrastructure, divided the country along tribal and ethnic lines, and resulted in a weak and split national government that is unable to maintain internal as well as external stability and security.
What is most worrying about Daalder's and Stavridis interpretations of Libya as a victory and teachable moment is that it implies that the achievement of the destabilization of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and subsequently Turkey are also likely to be perceived as victories and teachable moments.
The cost of further NATO victories in terms of regional and global stability and security, in terms of the economies of Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and the global economy, the cost in terms of a deterioration of international law and a return to barbarism and anarchy in conflict and conflict resolution, and the cost in terms of human suffering are staggering.
Peaceful resolution in Syria and good faith
The primary precondition for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Syria is that all parties are negotiating and acting in good faith.
An immediate withdrawal of all NATO and GCC member states special forces and other military personnel from Syria is a minimum precondition for showing good faith.
An immediate adherence to the Convention against the Use of Mercenary Forces and other international bodies of law by NATO and GCC member states, Jordan, Lebanon or major political players in Lebanon such as Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, Israel, Libya and any other nation that is currently involved in financing, training, arming or other support of insurgents and the armed opposition.
An immediate establishment of strict controls of refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Particularly the refugee camps in Turkey are being systematically abused to recruit, train, arm and deploy insurgents into Syria. Strict controls would include that entrance into and exit from the camps is strictly monitored by Turkish police or military personnel, eventually with the participation of military observers from one or several non NATO or GCC member states.
The close monitoring of all Syrian borders by neighboring countries military forces to stop the illegal flow of weapons, troops and the deployment of military observers from non NATO, GCC member states.
The blatant violations of international law in particular by Turkey and Jordan, which not only offer their territory for infiltration by foreign fighters, but also actively take part in organizing the subversion, and all logistical and other support of insurgents must halt immediately.
The new joint UN-Arab League envoy Ladhkah Brahmini should be given the full support of all UN member states. His role is, however, not likely to be perceived as that of a neutral or fair broker, as long as the Arab League upholds the dispensation of Syria's membership. Brahmini will be facing an insurmountable challenge as long as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which together with Iran and Egypt form the Contact Group, are violating international law and sponsoring the insurgency and subversion.
Initiatives by the Arab League to politically, diplomatically, economically and otherwise isolate Syria which are inherently opposed to the Charter of the Arab League and its purported function do not create preconditions for negotiations in good faith.
Illegitimate initiatives, such as the one to pressure Arabsat and Nilesat to stop broadcasting Syrian Radio and TV satellite signals in order to facilitate absolute image and media control by nations who are taking part in the attempted subversion must cease.
A dialog in good faith is not facilitated by one-sided, strongly biased propaganda. The Organization of the Islamic Conference must recall the dispensation of Syria. The abuse of this organization is dangerous and risks to aggravate a religious dimension of the conflict and to further aggravate the abuse of Sunni-Shia conflicts world wide.
Organizations such as the "Friends of Syria" group, which is a de facto subversive alliance, must be abandoned as instruments for finding a resolution to the conflict. The Friends of Syria group is a de-facto cartel of nations that meet to organize systematic violations of international law in an attempt to bring about regime change in Syria.
Iran last week hosted a conference of 120 nations to work towards a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it is not likely to bring about a peaceful resolution unless Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE will take part in good faith.
It is a positive initiative that should be supported, but it risks further aggravating the conflict unless Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are taking part and are willing to play a constructive role, which is unlikely.
In the absence of NATO and GCC member states, Jordan's, Israel's, Libya's and others good faith in negotiating a peaceful resolution, the Iranian initiative may in fact be part of the only viable alternative. If it is supported by Russia and China it may have a chance to succeed.
The second-best solution to an all-inclusive solution that embraces the armed political opposition and the nations that are supporting it would be the establishment of a multilateral group that protects Syria from the consequences of a continued aggression. Such an alternative solution could include the following initiatives: countering the consequences of attempts to diplomatically, politically, economically and otherwise isolate the government de jure of Syria by reinforcing diplomatic and political relations; trade agreements that help alleviate the devastating consequences of sanctions; and diversifying the one-sided international discourse about Syria.
Even though political parties in Syria are legitimate, and even though one opposition party is holding a ministerial post in the unity government, there is a lack of party infrastructure that makes opposition parties equal competitors to the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. Selective support of the one or the other political party at building a party infrastructure can be problematic and invites unwarranted foreign interference.
A model for developing a democratic culture and multi-party infrastructure projects could facilitate a pluralistic political process that could help to remedy the consequences of decades of government under emergency laws.
When organizing those projects, it must be taken into consideration that Syria, because of its de-facto state of war with Israel, has had heightened security needs that have not decreased since the onset of the attempted subversion. A long-term strategy of delegating political influence and responsibilities to multiple political parties is the best strategy to discourage attempts to use violence and to strengthen national coherence.
In the event that the UN fails as an instrument to safeguard the national sovereignty and security of Syria while the subversive alliance continues the illegitimate support of armed insurgents, it must be considered to add a military dimension to finding a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The government de jure of the Syrian Arab Republic has the right to sign treaties with friendly, non-hostile nations and deploy foreign military troops on Syrian territory. Failure by Turkey and Jordan to ensure that insurgents are not using their territories as bases of operation for transgressions in Syria could be countered by the deployment of international troops along the borders to help repel insurgents.
Further failure of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, as well as NATO member states to halt the illegitimate support could warrant diplomatic and other sanctions.
Sadly, in the light of sustained aggression, the most viable way to secure peace and stability is to aid Syria by establishing diplomatic, political, economical and military credibility against a foreign aggression.
In closing this article, I would like to reiterate that war crimes will be committed as long as they can be committed with utter impunity. The current state of affairs, where NATO and allied nations instrumentalize the International Criminal Court (ICC) and special tribunals for political show trials and victor's justice, with an ICC that in and of itself has no legitimacy in international law on one hand, and a Kuala Lumpur war crimes tribunal that has no other than moral authority, it is unlikely that the international regression into barbarism can be halted.
Those nations that wish to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Syria and who want to prevent future aggressions would be well advised to establish international jurisdiction for the most serious crimes to limit war criminals' ability to act with impunity.
1. Daalder Ivo H, Stavridis James G. (2012) "NATO's Victory in Libya. The Right Way to Run an Intervention". Foreign Affairs March/April 2012 pp 2-7
2. Lehmann Christof (2012) "NATO`s 25th Summit in Chicago in Preparation of Global Full Spectrum Dominance, Interventionism, Possible Preparations for A Regional War Directed against Russia and China, and Developments in Global Security." nsnbc, May 20, 2012.
Dr Christof Lehmann, born 1958 in West Germany, was Advisor for Research in Psycho-traumatology to Yasser Arafat and survivors of the Sabra Shatila massacre in 1982, secured a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1986. He was adviser to Joshua Nkomo on the impact of torture and psychological trauma on conflict solution and reconciliation in Zimbabweดs politics in 1986-1990, and advised Nelson Mandela on social politics, public mental health and the effect of psychological trauma on peace and reconciliation in 1994-1997. Dr Lehmann is a practicing clinical psychologist and runs an independent blog at: nsnbc | nsnbc – no spin news – english
(Copyright Christof Lehmann 2012)
A different view on the controversy about the Iranian nuclear program by Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, professor and scientist-in-residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, published in Christian Science Monitor: An Israeli strike won
This seems a "reasonable" explanation of the rather absurd attitudes displayed by the US and Israel in this matter.An Israeli strike won’t delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It will start it.
In spite of the hype, there is no definitive evidence Iran is working to develop a nuclear weapon. A new study suggests that the one thing that could launch an Iranian drive to weaponize, however, would be an Israeli strike.
By Yousaf Butt / September 5, 2012
Last week, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters that an Israeli attack on Iran would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program.” This is true enough, but it is important to note that the general did not say Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
While Iran’s ongoing nuclear enrichment program could be used to gather the material needed for a bomb, there is no definitive evidence that Iran has kicked off such a weaponization effort. The one thing that would almost surely launch an Iranian drive to weaponize, however, would be an Israeli strike.
While there is no clear indication Iran is currently working on a nuclear weapon, there is considerable evidence to the contrary. In fact, following the release of the 2011 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed in the spring of 2011 that he had a “high confidence” that Iran had not restarted their nuclear weapons program.
And International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors continue to meticulously monitor Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium to make sure none is being diverted to any military related activities. Mohamed El-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, said that he had not “seen a shred of evidence” that Iran was pursuing the bomb during his time at the agency (1997 – 2009), adding “All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”
Even Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged this fact: “Are [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear [weapons] capability. And that’s what concerns us.”
Of course, a nuclear weapons capability comes with the territory: Any nation with a fully developed nuclear fuel cycle has such a weapons capability. In fact, this could be considered a major flaw in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. For instance, Japan, Argentina, and Brazil also have a latent nuclear weapons capability. Just like you can't get a speeding ticket for a car that is capable of going 110 miles per hour, it is not illicit to have a latent nuclear weapons capability.
An Israeli strike on Iran could change this latent capability into an active weaponization program. Iran’s response would likely include the expulsion of IAEA inspectors and a break-neck race to the bomb – not to mention the possibility of a region-wide conflagration and sky-high gas prices.
An Israeli strike would also have a “rally-around-the-flag” effect on the Iranian populace, allowing the regime to crack down further on political opponents and silence critics, cementing the regime’s authority.
Recent analysis shows that a previous Israeli strike – in 1981, on Iraq’s civilian Osirak nuclear reactor complex – led Saddam Hussein to demand a nuclear deterrent and was actually the trigger for Iraq launching a full-scale effort to weaponize. A decade later, by the time of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of a nuclear weapons capability.
As researcher Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer explains in a recent International Security article, such ostensibly “preventive attacks can increase the long-term proliferation risk posed by the targeted state.”
Her research suggests that the conventional wisdom that Israel’s 1981 attack on Osirak denied Iraq a nuclear weapons capability no longer holds up: The strike actually created unprecedented pressure inside the Iraqi national security apparatus to pursue the bomb more vigorously than ever.
It is clear that senior echelons of the Israeli national security establishment understand this dynamic perfectly and are firmly against any strike on Iran.
For instance, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy recently told Haaretz: “[W]hat I recommend is trying to calm the Iranian-Israeli conflict and not escalate it.”
He continues: “It is possible that, in the end, we will have no choice and will be forced to attack.....But before venturing on such an extreme and dangerous action, I suggest making a supreme effort to avoid it. We must not hem the Iranians in and we must not push them into a corner. We have to try to give them an honorable way out. It’s always worth remembering that the greatest victory in war is the victory that is achieved without firing a shot.”
It seems to be only some of Israel’s top political leaders who are calling for a strike. Commentators Nahum Barnea and Simon Shiffer wrote in Israel’s biggest-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth: “Insofar as it depends on Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, an Israeli military strike on the nuclear facilities in Iran will take place in these coming autumn months, before the US elections in November.”
They later explain: “There is not a single senior official in the establishment – neither among the [Israeli Defense Forces] top brass nor in the security branches, or even the president – who supports an Israeli strike at the moment.”
So if an Israeli strike on Iran is such a transparently bad idea, why does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keep threatening one? Many – including Israeli politicians – speculate that this posturing is simply a cynical ploy to try to influence the outcome of the US elections by trying to paint Obama as weak on defense.
Former Israeli defense minister and current Kadima party leader Shaul Mofaz put it bluntly to Mr. Netanyahu, saying recently, “Mr. Prime Minister, you want a crude, rude, unprecedented, reckless, and risky intervention in the US elections. Tell us who you serve and for what? Why are you putting your hand deep into the ballot boxes of the American electorate?”
Quite apart from the fact that an Israeli attack on Iran would be against international law, it would likely convince Iran to kick out IAEA inspectors and kick off full-fledged nuclear weaponization.
As Ms. Braut-Hegghammer’s new analysis of the consequences of the 1981 Israeli strike on Iraq explains: “Such attacks may not only speed the targeted state’s efforts to produce nuclear weapons, but also create a false sense of security in the outside world.”
Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is professor and scientist-in-residence at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The views expressed are his own.
Carney says 'self evident' Benghazi attack was terrorism, despite claims it was spontaneous | Fox News
Even the local government admitted as much before the Administration.The White House, after insisting for more than a week that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a "spontaneous" act, conceded Thursday that it was "self evident" that it was an act of terror -- an admission that took eight days for any administration official to make.
Earlier in the week, a top State Department spokeswoman declined to label the attack terrorism.
Carney's comment, though, comes after the director of the National Counterterrorism Center testified on Capitol Hill that the strike was indeed a "terrorist attack." Intelligence sources also told Fox News on Wednesday they are convinced the deadly attack was directly tied to Al Qaeda, with a former Guantanamo detainee involved.
The administration is still sticking by its claim that they don't have evidence the assault was pre-planned. But Carney for the first time Thursday called it terrorism -- while downplaying the fact that he was doing so.
"It is, I think, self evident that what happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack," Carney said. "Our embassy was attacked violently and the result was four deaths of American officials. That is self evident."
On Monday, though, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland would not go so far when asked whether the attack was terrorism. To that point, administration officials had said publicly they believed the "spontaneous" attack was triggered or inspired by protests in Egypt over an anti-Islam film.
"I don't think we know enough. I don't think we know enough," Nuland said. "And we're going to continue to assess. She gave our preliminary assessment. We're going to have a full investigation now, and then we'll be in a better position to put labels on things, okay?"
Matt Olsen, director of the NCTC, put a label on it during a Senate hearing Wednesday.
"Yes, they were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy," Olsen said.
Olsen echoed administration colleagues in saying U.S. officials have no specific intelligence about "significant advanced planning or coordination" for the attack.
However, he was the first top administration official to call the strike an act of terrorism.
Fox News, meanwhile, was told by intelligence sources that Sufyan Ben Qumu is thought to have been involved and even may have led the attack. Qumu, a Libyan, was released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007 and transferred into Libyan custody on the condition he be kept in jail. He was released by the Qaddafi regime as part of its reconciliation effort with Islamists in 2008.
His Guantanamo files also show he has ties to the financiers behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The declassified files also point to ties with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known Al Qaeda affiliate.
Olson, repeating Wednesday that the FBI is handling the Benghazi investigation, also acknowledged the attack could lead back to Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
"We are looking at indications that individuals involved in the attack may have had connections to Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda's affiliates, in particular Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," he said at the Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.
Still, Olsen said "the facts that we have now indicate that this was an opportunistic attack on our embassy, the attack began and evolved and escalated over several hours," Olson said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called Wednesday for an independent review of the attack.
"A State Department Accountability Review Board to look into the Benghazi attack is not sufficient," Collins said. "Given the loss of the lives of four Americans who were serving their country and the serious questions that have been raised about the security at our Consulate in Benghazi, it is imperative that a non-political, no-holds-barred examination be conducted."
Read more: Carney says 'self evident' Benghazi attack was terrorism, despite claims it was spontaneous | Fox News
As the US embassy is a player in the violence in Libya it might be inappropriate to call this terrorism.
The Egyptian President Morsi is a very important figure in the Middle East. The New York Times publishes an interview with him:
Egypt’s New Leader Spells Out Terms for U.S.-Arab Ties
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEVEN ERLANGER
Published: September 22, 2012
CAIRO — On the eve of his first trip to the United States as Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi said the United States needed to fundamentally change its approach to the Arab world, showing greater respect for its values and helping build a Palestinian state, if it hoped to overcome decades of pent-up anger.
A former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mr. Morsi sought in a 90-minute interview with The New York Times to introduce himself to the American public and to revise the terms of relations between his country and the United States after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, an autocratic but reliable ally.
He said it was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt, long a cornerstone of regional stability.
If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, he said, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. He said the United States must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
And he dismissed criticism from the White House that he did not move fast enough to condemn protesters who recently climbed over the United States Embassy wall and burned the American flag in anger over a video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad.
“We took our time” in responding to avoid an explosive backlash, he said, but then dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.
“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees were never in danger.
Mr. Morsi, who will travel to New York on Sunday for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, arrives at a delicate moment. He faces political pressure at home to prove his independence, but demands from the West for reassurance that Egypt under Islamist rule will remain a stable partner.
Mr. Morsi, 61, whose office was still adorned with nautical paintings that Mr. Mubarak left behind, said the United States should not expect Egypt to live by its rules.
“If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
He suggested that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as Mr. Mubarak either.
“Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region,” he said, by backing dictatorial governments over popular opposition and supporting Israel over the Palestinians.
He initially sought to meet with President Obama at the White House during his visit this week, but he received a cool reception, aides to both presidents said. Mindful of the complicated election-year politics of a visit with Egypt’s Islamist leader, Mr. Morsi dropped his request.
His silence in the immediate aftermath of the embassy protest elicited a tense telephone call from Mr. Obama, who also told a television interviewer that at that moment he did not consider Egypt an ally, if not an enemy either. When asked if he considered the United States an ally, Mr. Morsi answered in English, “That depends on your definition of ally,” smiling at his deliberate echo of Mr. Obama. But he said he envisioned the two nations as “real friends.”
Mr. Morsi spoke in an ornate palace that Mr. Mubarak inaugurated three decades ago, a world away from the Nile Delta farm where the new president grew up, or the prison cells where he had been confined by Mr. Mubarak for his role in the Brotherhood. Three months after his swearing-in, the most noticeable change to the presidential office was a plaque on his desk bearing the Koranic admonition, “Be conscious of a day on which you will return to God.”
A stocky figure with a trim beard and wire-rim glasses, he earned a doctorate in materials science at the University of Southern California in the early 1980s. He spoke with an easy confidence in his new authority, reveling in an approval rating he said was at 70 percent. When he grew animated, he slipped from Arabic into crisp English.
Little known at home or abroad until just a few months ago, he was the Brotherhood’s second choice as a presidential nominee after the first choice was disqualified. On the night of the election, the generals who had ruled since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster issued a decree keeping most presidential powers for themselves.
But last month Mr. Morsi confounded all expectations by prying full executive authority back from the generals. In the interview, when an interpreter suggested that the generals had “decided” to exit politics, Mr. Morsi quickly corrected him.
“No, no, it is not that they ‘decided’ to do it,” he interjected in English, determined to clarify that it was he who removed them. “This is the will of the Egyptian people through the elected president, right?
“The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces, full stop. Egypt now is a real civil state. It is not theocratic, it is not military. It is democratic, free, constitutional, lawful and modern.”
He added, “We are behaving according to the Egyptian people’s choice and will, nothing else — is it clear?”
He praised Mr. Obama for moving “decisively and quickly” to support the Arab Spring revolutions, and he said he believed that Americans supported “the right of the people of the region to enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have.”
Arabs and Americans have “a shared objective, each to live free in their own land, according to their customs and values, in a fair and democratic fashion,” he said, adding that he hoped for “a harmonious, peaceful coexistence.”
But he also argued that Americans “have a special responsibility” for the Palestinians because the United States had signed the 1978 Camp David accord. The agreement called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza to make way for full Palestinian self-rule.
“As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled,” he said.
He made no apologies for his roots in the Brotherhood, the insular religious revival group that was Mr. Mubarak’s main opposition and now dominates Egyptian politics.
“I grew up with the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “I learned my principles in the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned how to love my country with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned politics with the Brotherhood. I was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He left the group when he took office but remains a member of its political party. But he said he sees “absolutely no conflict” between his loyalty to the Brotherhood and his vows to govern on behalf of all, including members of the Christian minority or those with more secular views.
“I prove my independence by taking the correct acts for my country,” he said. “If I see something good from the Muslim Brotherhood, I will take it. If I see something better in the Wafd” — Egypt’s oldest liberal party — “I will take it.”
He repeatedly vowed to uphold equal citizenship rights of all Egyptians, regardless of religion, sex or class. But he stood by the religious arguments he once made as a Brotherhood leader that neither a woman nor a Christian would be a suitable president.
“We are talking about values, beliefs, cultures, history, reality,” he said. He said the Islamic position on presidential eligibility was a matter for Muslim scholars to decide, not him. But regardless of his own views or the Brotherhood’s, he said, civil law was another matter.
“I will not prevent a woman from being nominated as a candidate for the presidential campaign,” he said. “This is not in the Constitution. This is not in the law. But if you want to ask me if I will vote for her or not, that is something else, that is different.”
He was also eager to reminisce about his taste of American culture as a graduate student at the University of Southern California. “Go, Trojans!” he said, and he remembered learning about the world from Barbara Walters in the morning and Walter Cronkite at night. “And that’s the way it is!” Mr. Morsi said with a smile.
But he also displayed some ambivalence. He effused about his admiration for American work habits, punctuality and time management. But when an interpreter said that Mr. Morsi had “learned a lot” in the United States, he quickly interjected a qualifier in English: “Scientifically!”
He was troubled by the gangs and street of violence of Los Angeles, he said, and dismayed by the West’s looser sexual mores, mentioning couples living together out of wedlock and what he called “naked restaurants,” like Hooters.
“I don’t admire that,” he said. “But that is the society. They are living their way.”
As always M.K.Bhadrakumar's blog is well worth reading:
Obama’s Benghazi moment - Indian Punchline
Obama’s Benghazi moment
The “Benghazi moment” is likely engendering a rethink in the United States’ regional strategies in the Middle East. One is inclined to agree with the Time magazine’s assessment that a Libya-style intervention by the US in Syria now becomes highly unlikely. A curious aspect of Tony Karon’s analysis is that he tosses the Syrian ball into the court of the Arab governments.
This is also in sync with the White House “readout” of President Barack Obama’s latest telecon with Turkish PM Recep Erdogan. The tone is restrained despite Erdogan’s deep frustration (which he openly voiced in a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour) that the regime change in Syria may not come anytime soon and in the meanwhile he has been left holding a can of worms, with Obama in to mood to accept the can into his hands.
The White House said Obama and Erdogan “pledged to advance this important work” and left things delightfully vague at that. Meanwhile, there is a furious assault being mounted on Obama by the US’ allies who are disenchanted with his manifest reticence in getting America involved in a potentially debilitating Syrian quagmire.
The Saudi lobby in the US is indeed hitting out at Obama: “Syria burns and calls for help, but the call goes unanswered. The civil war there has become a great Sunni-Shiite schism. Lebanon teeters on the edge. More important, trouble has spilled into Turkey. The Turks have come to resent the American abdication and the heavy burden the Syrian struggle has imposed on them. In contrast, the mullahs in Iran have read the landscape well and are determined to sustain the Assad dictatorship.” Yes, Saudis are indeed turning up the heat.
But what can Obama do? The Benghazi moment underscores that the US read the tea leaves wrongly regarding the “right side of history” when the Arab Spring arrived. The People’s Daily is right: Contrary to what Fouad Ajami says, what is needed today is less US intervention in the Muslim world, not more.
The Saudi regime is fighting an existential battle. They are frightened like kitten that the Muslim Brothers are coming for them. The latest twist to the Saudi tale is that the Brothers are the uncles of all the Salafists and al-Qaeda guys operating on the planet. Such is their fear that the Arab Spring may soon begin to blow into Saudi Arabia and the Brothers who have been active in the underground for decades would demolish the “ancien regime”, as has happened in Egypt.
Woven into these atavistic fears is Egypt’s return to the centre stage of Arab politics. The Saudi regime has no intention to abdicate and let Egypt’s Brothers reclaim Cairo’s traditional role as the fountainhead of Arabism. On the other hand, as Prince Turki has written, Saudi regime intends to retain its “leadership role in the region… [as] the preeminent Sunni Muslim power.” Turki writes:
“By providing much needed aid and backing of various Muslim and Arab causes, the Saudi leadership has earned wide Muslim and Arab support. The mandate for the Saudi leadership now is to consolidate Saudi Arabia’s regional standing on the world stage.”
Enter the Brothers. In a stunning interview with the New York Times on Saturday, Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has reset the compass of Middle Eastern politics. And, the curious part is that there is no trace whatsoever that he even cared to consult Saudi Arabia before doing so. Yet, he speaks on behalf of the Arab nations!
Not only that, alongside, Morsi also gave his first interview on Saturday to the Egyptian state TV after coming to power, in which he harped on the importance of keeping a “strong relationship” with Iran. which he called a “vital” player in the region. And, come to think of it, all this in a matter of past 10 days that shook the Middle East.
Obama is right if he chooses to be circumspect; the US has completely missed the plot in the Middle East. The US has been led up the garden path by Riyadh and Ankara that Salafism and Muslim Brotherhood could be the antidote to the Bashar Al-Assad regime (and to “Shiite Iran”). The Benghazi moment comes as rude awakening. When Morsi walks across the Sunni-Shiite divide so very nonchalantly and holds the Iranian hand, it becomes apparent that the entire US (and Saudi) regional strategy lies in shambles.
Posted in Politics.
Tagged with Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Recep Erdogan, Salafism, Syria.
By M K Bhadrakumar – September 24, 2012
Asia Times on line publishes today this article by Ambassador Bhadrakumar:
Asia Times Online :: Egypt's Morsi resets ties with US
We live in truly interesting times. With Riyadh loosing its central role in the Middle East, China already its largest customer and the US hoping to cover their energy needs by fracking, we can look forward to a much smaller role for the monarchies. Turkey can best proceed by exchanging its prime minister for a more capable one.
Egypt's Morsi resets ties with US
By M K Bhadrakumar
The confusion in the American mind about Egypt ended this past weekend, a mere nine days since President Barack Obama made the famous remark in a television interview that he wasn't sure of post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt being the United States' ally.
The confusion actually arose when US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor scrambled to clarify that "ally" is a "legal term of art", whereas Egypt is a "long-standing and close partner" of the United States, and, thereupon, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland butted in to contradict both Obama and Vietor by insisting Egypt was indeed a "major non-NATO ally".
In an interview with The New York Times on Saturday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi offered to clear up the confusion. Asked whether Egypt was an ally, Morsi smilingly remarked: "It depends on your definition of an ally." He then helpfully suggested that the two countries were "real friends".
Growing up with the Brothers
Now, as Morsi probably intended, the thing about "real friends" is that they don't expect either side to fawn, as a poodle might do by wagging its tail. Thus when he travels to the US to address the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Morsi doesn't have to meet with Obama. Yet they will remain "real friends" - although they've never met.
According to The New York Times, Obama cold-shouldered Morsi's request for a meeting. Cairo maintains that it is all a scheduling problem and the planning of a visit by Morsi to Washington was work in progress. Meanwhile, Morsi has "quite a busy schedule" in New York and Obama too happens to have a "tight schedule" - this according to Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.
In fact, Morsi's only meeting with US officials during this week's visit to that country may be at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (which, by the way, Obama also is attending).
There is hardly any excuse left now for the American mind to remain confused about the bitter harvest of the Arab Spring on Tahrir Square. The spin doctors who prophesied that Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood would ipso facto pursue the Mubarak track on foreign policies have scurried away.
This is especially so after watching Morsi's astounding televised interview on Saturday, his first to the Egyptian state TV since his election in June. He spoke at some length on the Iran question, which has somehow come to be the litmus test to estimate where exactly Egypt stands as a regional power.
Morsi affirmed that it is important for Egypt to have a "strong relationship" with Iran. He described Iran as "a major player in the region that could have an active and supportive role in solving the Syrian problem". Morsi explained his decision to include Iran in the four-member contact group that Egypt has formed - along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia - on the Syrian crisis.
Dismissing the Western opposition to engaging Iran, he said: "I don't see the presence of Iran in this quartet as a problem, but it is a part of solving the [Syrian] problem." He said Iran's close proximity to Syria and Tehran's strong ties Damascus made it "vital" in resolving the Syrian crisis.
Morsi added: "And we [Egypt] do not have a significant problem with Iran, it [Egypt-Iran relationship] is normal like with the rest of the world's states."
Equally, Morsi spoke defiantly in his interview with The New York Times regarding Egypt's ties with the US and the latter's relations with the Arab world. The overpowering message is that Cairo will no longer be bullied by Washington. He said:
"I grew up with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned my principles in the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned how to love my country with the Muslim Brotherhood. I learned politics with the Brotherhood. I was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood."
"Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region."
It was up to Washington to repair relations with the Arab world and to revitalize the alliance with Egypt.
The United States must respect the Arab world's history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values.
"If you [US] want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German or Chinese or American culture, then there is no room for judgment. When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the US. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt."
The Arabs and Americans have "a shared objective, each to live free in their own land, according to their customs and values, in a fair and democratic fashion ... [in] a harmonious, peaceful co-existence".
Americans "have a special responsibility" for the Palestinians because the United States signed the 1978 Camp David accord. "As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled."
If Washington is asking Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, Washington should also live up to its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. The last bit in particular is ominous. Morsi could be hinting that Egypt intends to seek changes to the 1978 peace treaty. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman hurried to declare on Sunday that there was not the "slightest possibility" that Israel would accept any such changes. "We will not accept any modification of the Camp David Accords," Lieberman said.
The refrain by Western experts used to be that Egypt's Brothers depended on US and Saudi generosity to run their government in Cairo. More important, Washington spread an impression that it enjoyed a larger-than-life influence over the New Egypt. The US was supposed to have acted as a mediator between the Egyptian military and the Brothers.
But Morsi scattered the thesis. "No, no, it is not that they [military leadership] 'decided' to do it [stepping down]. This is the will of the Egyptian people through the elected president, right? The president of the Arab Republic of Egypt is the commander of the armed forces. Full stop ... We are behaving according to the Egyptian people's choice and will, nothing else - is it clear?" he asked the New York Times editors.
The picture that emerges from Morsi's stunning interview is that the US has suffered a huge setback to its regional strategy in the Middle East. The fact that Obama has shied away from meeting with Morsi this week underscores the gravity of the deep chill in the US-Egyptian ties. And Obama's snub comes after he took the initiative to invite Morsi to visit the US and insisted it should be an early visit, even sending Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to deliver the invitation letter and thereafter following up with visits by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Cairo.
Morsi has taken a series of steps since he took over in July, which, in retrospect, had the principal objective of conveying to Washington that he resented the US diktat and intended to follow an independent foreign policy. His decision to visit China and Iran was a calculated one, intended to signal his empathy with countries that challenged US hegemony in the Middle East and to underscore that he hoped to reduce Egypt's dependence on the United States. But Washington kept pretending that it didn't take notice.
However, there has been a "fast-forward" in the past 10 days, since the anti-Islam American film, the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi and the storming of the US Embassy in Cairo by Egyptian protesters. Morsi didn't react to the storming of the embassy for a full 36 hours. Simply put, he could sense the Arab street heaving with fury toward the US and he decided that it would be politically injudicious for him to do anything other than let the popular anger play out.
Morsi's deafening silence or inertia provoked Obama to call him up to admonish him (according to leaked US accounts), but all that Morsi would do was to send police reinforcements to protect the embassy compound. He never condemned the storming of the embassy as such.
Living with yesterday's tyrant
Things can never be the same again in the US-Egypt relationship. A 33-year slice of diplomatic history through which Cairo used to be Washington's dependable ally is breaking loose and drifting to the horizon. Uncharted waters lie ahead for the US diplomacy in the Middle East. Clearly, the axis that is pivotal to the US regional strategy in the Middle East - comprising Israel and the so-called "moderate" Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, etc - cannot hold together without Egypt, and the strategy itself is in peril.
In immediate terms, the fallout is going to be serious in Syria. A Western intervention in Syria now can be virtually ruled out. On the other hand, without an intervention, a regime change will be a long haul. In turn, Turkey is going to be in a fix, having bitten more than it could chew and with the US in no mood to step in to expedite the Arab Spring in Damascus. (Obama called up Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan last week to extend moral support.)
The good thing is that the US and its allies may now be open to the idea of a national dialogue involving the Syrian government. In fact, the most recent Russian statements on Syria hint at an air of nascent expectations. On the contrary, nervousness with a touch of bitterness is already apparent in the comment by the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper on the weekend, while taking stock of the United States' growing difficulties with Egypt's Brothers:
Will the US president allow his legacy to bear the headline of having kept Bashar al-Assad in power? It would be a terrible legacy to leave behind, no matter how much it could be justified by such arguments as the wisdom of living with yesterday's tyrant because today's tyrant could be worse - and what is meant here is not just the tyrant of unruly mobs, but also the tyrants of Muslim extremism and its relations with moderate Islamism in power.
Not surprisingly, Saudi Arabia stayed away from the meeting of the quartet on Syria that Cairo hosted last Monday, without offering any explanation.
Simply put, Riyadh is unable to come to terms with Egypt's return to the centre stage of Arab politics after a full three decades of absence during which the Saudi regime appropriated for itself Cairo's traditional role as the throbbing heart of Arabism. Riyadh will find it painful to vacate the role as the leader of the Arab world that it got used to enjoying. Almost every single day, Saudi media connected with the regime pour calumnies on Egypt's Brothers, even alleging lately that they are the twin brothers of al-Qaeda.
Again, the elaborate charade that the Saudis stage-managed - propagating the Muslim sectarian discords as the core issue on the Middle East's political arena - is not sticking anymore, now that the two biggest Sunni and Shi'ite countries in the region - Egypt and Iran - are holding each other's hands, demonstrating goodwill and displaying willingness to work together to address key regional issues. The worst-case scenario for the Saudi regime will be if in the coming months the Arab Spring begins its fateful journey toward Riyadh and the Arabian Peninsula, where the Brothers have been active for decades, welcomes it as a long-awaited spring.
The heart of the matter is that on a regional plane, the Iranian viewpoint that the Arab Spring is quintessentially "Islamic" stands vindicated. In an interview with the Financial Times last week, the Speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Larijani, made the stunning disclosure that Iranian diplomats had met members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria as well as the Salafis (who are being financed by the Saudis) to encourage them to accept "democratic reforms through peaceful behavior, not violence". This made complete mockery of the Syrian logarithm as per the Saudi (and Turkish and US) estimation - Sunni militancy as the antidote to (Shi'ite) Iran's influence in the region.
In sum, Morsi's friendly remarks about Iran point toward a regional strategic realignment on an epic scale subsuming the contrived air of sectarian schisms, which practically no Western (or Turkish) experts could have foreseen. It is a matter of time now before Egypt-Iran relations are fully restored, putting an end to the three-decade-old rupture.
The biggest beneficiary of this paradigm shift in Middle Eastern politics is going to be Iran. Arguably, we are probably already past the point of an Israeli attack on Iran, no matter Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tilting at the windmill. In the prevailing surcharged atmosphere, the Muslim Middle East would explode into uncontrollable violence in the event of an Israeli (or US) attack on Iran.
In the event of such an attack, Egypt's Brothers would most probably annul the peace treaty with Israel - and Jordan would be compelled to follow suit; Egypt and Jordan might sever diplomatic ties with Israel. Baghdad is seething with fury that the US and Turkey are encouraging Kurdistan to secede; Lebanon's Hezbollah has been threatening retribution if Iran is attacked.
Even more serious than all this put together would be the domino effect of region-wide mayhem on the Arab street on the fate of the oligarchies in the Persian Gulf, which lack legitimacy and are allied with the US - and where the Brothers have been clandestinely operating for decades.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar on the relations between Afghanistan and China:
Asia Times Online :: China's security boss surveys Hindu Kush
An Indian vision on what it means for Afghanistan and China, Pakistan, the US, Russia and India. And no doubt Iran and the baby-stans, which aren't mentioned.China's security boss surveys Hindu Kush
By M K Bhadrakumar
For such a high-level exchange after such a pronounced gap of nearly half a century, Beijing actually said very little indeed about the unannounced four-hour visit to Kabul on Saturday by Zhou Yongkang, the ninth ranking member of the Politburo and China's security boss - although it pointedly took note that the "last [such] visit was made by late Chinese leader Liu Shaoqi in 1966 when he was the President of China".
Zhou's senior status make Beijing's reticence seem all the more curious, particularly as the Hindu Kush and the adjoining Pamirs and the Central Asian steppes are nowadays teeming with the "foreign devils on the Silk Road".
An air of suspense hangs around Zhou's visit, especially since his itinerary originally didn't include the stop-over in Kabul. He was to have proceeded to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, following a two-day visit to Singapore, but diverted to Kabul for a four-hour halt. The detour, of course, makes the visit at once historical and topical.
The context of the visit needs to be carefully surveyed. From a long-term perspective, a joint declaration between China and Afghanistan on "the establishment of a strategic and cooperative partnership" issued in Beijing after a visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in June marked a new step in the development of the bilateral relations. The declaration identified security as one of the "five pillars that will underpin" the Sino-Afghan partnership and affirmed that the two countries would "intensify exchanges and cooperation" in security, including "enhancing intelligence exchanges".
No 'Apocalypse Now' …
With the "transition" in Afghanistan set to shift up a gear through 2013 - as the last residues of the United States' "surge" are pulled back from the war theater and as the 2014 deadline approaches for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw - Beijing seems destined to play a larger role. In terms of China's national priorities over the development of its eastern regions, especially Xinjiang, and the consolidation of its rapidly expanding economic investments in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Beijing has no choice but to project itself as a stakeholder in the stabilization of Afghanistan. In a brief commentary on Zhou's visit to Kabul, Global Times newspaper noted:
Within China, there is also heated debate over the role that China should play … But it is generally agreed that the deterioration of the Afghan domestic situation will benefit nobody; for China, the stability of its northwestern bordering regions will be directly influenced and overseas Chinese in the region will face greater security problems.
Historically, Afghanistan has been a nightmare for many big powers. As a neighbor of Afghanistan, China has a keen interest in the security of this region. How to help Afghanistan walk out of the shadow of long-term wartime chaos poses a big challenge to China's diplomacy.
Zhou underlined in a written statement as he arrived in Kabul, "It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership, which is also conducive to regional peace, stability and development."
Clearly, the accent was on the bilateral cooperation with the assurance held out to any third parties concerned that Sino-Afghan cooperation would be a factor of stability for the region.
How does China view the Afghan situation? The last major statement on Afghanistan by China was made hardly a week before Zhou's visit to Kabul on Sunday, during the United Nations Security Council discussion in New York on Afghanistan. The striking aspect of the speech by Ambassador Li Baodong was its underlying tone of hope and positive expectations.
Li said, "The peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan was achieving positive results, the transfer of security responsibilities to national forces was moving along smoothly, the Afghan economy was improving, and trade and cooperation with other countries was being scaled up."
However, Li indirectly criticized NATO's strategy in flagging that the transfer of security responsibilities must proceed slowly and saying the international community must continue to help to improve the security situation. Indeed, he put on record China's serious concerns over recent incidents of violence, especially the high number of civilian casualties, and he called on NATO forces to conduct its operations according to international law so as to ensure the safety and protection of civilians.
The most interesting part of Li's speech was in articulating China's belief that Afghanistan's stabilization needs to be sought through greater integration with the region "in line with the principle of mutual benefit and cooperation" and by "making full use of existing mechanisms" such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Evidently, Beijing doesn't subscribe to the inevitability of "Apocalypse Now" in the Hindu Kush in the post-2014 period. Suffice to say, Zhou's visit to Kabul needs to be weighed first and foremost as a strong affirmation of support for Karzai's government. From Beijing's viewpoint, Karzai has been a reliable friend who walked the extra mile to boost Sino-Afghan relations.
… nor any zero-sum game
From Karzai's perspective, support from Beijing may already have become irreplaceable, more so at the present juncture when his equations with Washington have again become problematic and uncertain. NATO has summarily suspended the training for the Afghan police force and the Afghan defense ministry has apparently scaled back NATO's involvement in joint operations with the Afghan forces below battalion level.
There have been several instances in the recent weeks indicative of the poor chemistry between Kabul and Washington. The most glaring instance was the concern voiced by Karzai about the security pacts signed with the US earlier this year. Negotiations over the long-term US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 are due to commence in three weeks time. At such a juncture, Zhou's visit, coming as it did on the eve of Karzai's trip to the US, most certainly helps the Afghan leader gain more negotiating space vis-a-vis Washington.
Karzai feels particularly agitated over the excessive interest that the US takes in influencing Afghan domestic politics, which is entering a delicate phase even as jockeying has begun in right earnest over the Afghan presidential elections due in end-2014. Karzai told Zhou, "China is a good and honest friend of Afghanistan … We are looking forward to a broader and strong cooperation with China."
Zhou reciprocated that the Chinese government fully respects the right of the Afghan people to choose their own path of development and will actively participate in Afghanistan's reconstruction.
Zhou signed three agreements on increased security and economic cooperation, including a Memorandum of Understanding on an "action plan" for the implementation of the joint declaration of June 8, an agreement with the Afghan finance ministry on a US$150 million aid package, and a deal with the Afghan Interior Ministry to "train, fund and equip Afghan police".
The Global Times said the security agreement aims to "protect the security of China's own projects" in Afghanistan. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group operates the $3 billion Aynak copper mine in the eastern Logar province in Afghanistan, which has been targeted by insurgent groups.
The three agreements as such didn't warrant a high-level visit, whose main purport seems to have been political. Zhou's visit has most probably sealed an institutional framework of intelligence liaison connecting Beijing and Kabul in real time. Needless to say, this matters a great deal for China. It is following India's example to tap into the excellent "database" of the Afghan intelligence, which has every reason, historically speaking, to be well clued in on a 24x7 basis on the militant groups operating out of Pakistan.
Without doubt, Karzai has signaled on his part Kabul's political priorities also in the post-2014 period. China's close relationship with Pakistan makes it a valuable ally for Kabul in its despairing efforts to moderate Islamabad's policies. The US used to perform such a role before, but today Washington is barely coping with its own woes involving Pakistan.
However, as a Russian commentary put it, "Hamid Karzai will have to take some pains in order to put up a good show for his Chinese partners. After all, the Americans are not going to surrender their positions to the Chinese."
This appears a motivated opinion. On the other hand, the big question is whether what is unfolding could be regarded as a zero-sum game at all - notwithstanding the entire panorama of the US' "rebalancing" in the Asia-Pacific and Beijing's wariness over it. Arguably, when it comes to the stabilization of Afghanistan, China and the US are still on the same side - and persuading Pakistan to cooperate in the search of a durable settlement will also remain a common objective for the two big powers.
The speeches made by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and by Chinese UN Ambassador Li Baodong at the UN Security Council last Monday present a study in contrast. Russia is incessantly taunting the US over the futility of the latter's Afghan strategy, poking fun at it, rubbishing it while constantly asking probing questions for which there are of course no easy answers.
In contrast, Li offered constructive criticism, with a clear cut and purposive political objective in view. Russia is worked up about the issue of the US bases in Afghanistan, whereas China, which could also be sharing Moscow's concerns, is going about the minefield very differently and with great diplomatic aplomb. Yet, at the end of the day, it is Russia - and not China - that is cooperating with NATO in Afghanistan at a practical level by offering efficient, dependable and open-ended transit facilities for NATO to ferry its supplies.
Actually, China is openly insisting that it isn't involved in a zero sum game with the US and that, on the contrary, the interests of China and the US and its allies mesh as regards the stabilization of Afghanistan, and there is no fundamental contradiction as such. Coincidence or not, just last week, the influential Chinese think tanker Pan Guang, vice chairman of Shanghai Center for International Studies at Shanghai Academy, made an unprecedented presentation before the American strategic community on the topic, "Understanding China's Role in Central Asia and Afghanistan." This happened just four days before Zhou's unannounced trip to Kabul.
Pan is easily recognizable for strategic analysts as an authoritative voice on Track II. But what makes things quite spicy is that he also happens to be a key adviser to Zhou's ministry in Beijing on Central Asia and Afghanistan (although his area of specialization used to be Israel).
Pan spoke for over an hour on China's role in Central Asia and Afghanistan. He focused on China's interest in fighting terrorism and extremism in the region as well as China's interests in containing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting energy and economic development, and supporting Afghanistan in its post-war reconstruction. The running theme of his presentation was that like the United States, China is interested in tackling issues such as transnational crime, illegal immigration, environmental degradation, water resource shortage, and emerging public health issues.
Pan acknowledged that Beijing has different views of political reform in Central Asia, the alignment of energy pipelines in the region, and the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. At the same time, he concluded that both China and the US are playing an increasingly crucial role in Central Asia, where they have common and divergent interests, cooperation and competition.
A profound message
Broadly echoing Pan's thought process, the Global Times summed up Zhou's visit: "China has a good opportunity to boost its global image and fulfill its international obligations. While many Western strategists stick to their mentality of dominating world politics, China is making pragmatic moves to safeguard the interests of not only itself but also the whole region."
A redeeming feature of Zhou's sudden Kabul trip that may get overlooked in the overall excitement over it but could be of pivotal importance for regional security is that it took place at a period when Afghan-Pakistan tensions have sharply escalated.
In fact, only last week, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul warned the UN Security Council that continued Pakistani shelling of Afghanistan's border provinces jeopardized bilateral relations, "with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region".
Curiously, government-owned China Daily prominently featured a Xinhua report on Sunday - even as Zhou was heading for Kabul - on the Afghan parliament's endorsement of Kabul's latest plan to lodge a formal complaint to the UN Security Council over any Pakistani border shelling.
The lengthy Xinhua report said, "Pakistan has been occasionally shelling the border areas in the eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces, forcing locals to flee their houses for shelters, a claim rejected by Pakistan." The curious part was that China Daily highlighted the relevant excerpts of Rassoul's condemnatory references to Pakistan in his speech at the UN Security Council last week.
Now, a tantalizing question arises: How would Beijing react to a complaint by Kabul to the UN Security Council regarding Pakistan's violation of Afghanistan's territorial integrity? The point is, the Sino-Afghan joint declaration on June 8 commits Beijing and Kabul to "firmly support each other on issues concerning national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity", and, to "enhance coordination and cooperation under the United Nations ... stay in contact and coordinate positions."
It would seem that Zhou's visit to Kabul in these troubled times also holds a profound message for the "all-weather friendship" between China and Pakistan.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar on Russian diplomatic activiy in the Middle East:
Asia Times Online :: Russia bridges Middle Eastern divides
Russia bridges Middle Eastern divides
By M K Bhadrakumar
A multi-billion dollar arms deal with Iraq, a summit meeting with Turkey, a fence-mending exercise with Saudi Arabia, a debut with Egypt's Sphinx-like Muslim Brothers - all this is slated to happen within the period of a turbulent month in the Middle East. And all this is to happen when the United States' "return" to the region after the hurly-burly of the November election still seems a distant dream. Simply put, Russia is suddenly all over the Middle East.
Moscow announced on Tuesday that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in town and the two countries signed contracts worth "more than" US$4.2 billion in an arms deal that includes Iraq's purchase of 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems that can also be used to defend against attack jets.
The joint Russian-Iraqi statement issued in Moscow revealed that discussions had beem going on for the past five months over the arms deal and that further talks are under way for Iraq's purchase of MiG-29 jets, heavy-armored vehicles and other weaponry. A Kremlin announcement said Maliki is due to meet President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and the focus of the discussions will be energy cooperation between Russia and Iraq.
The stunning news will send US politicians into a tizzy. Reports say the phone kept ringing in Maliki's office in Baghdad as soon as it transpired that he was to travel to Moscow and something big could be in the works. Queries were coming in from the US State Department and the National Security Council as to what warranted such a trip at this point in time.
The point is, Maliki still remains an enigma for Washington. He is no doubt a friend of the US, but he is also possibly more than a friend of Iran. Now, it seems, he is also fond of Russia - as Saddam Hussein used to be.
Washington and Ankara have annoyed him repeatedly, taking him for granted, even writing off his political future, by consorting with the northern Kurdistan over lucrative oil deals, ignoring his protests that Iraq is a sovereign state and Baghdad is its capital and that the country has a constitution under which foreign countries should not have direct dealings with its regions bypassing the capital and the central government.
Booting out Big Oil
They not only ignored Maliki's protests but also chastised him for opposing the plan for "regime change" in Syria and for robustly supporting President Bashar al-Assad. Lately, they even started needling him on providing facilities for Iran to send supplies to the embattled regime in Syria. They then exceeded all proprieties and gave asylum to an Iraqi Sunni leader who is a fugitive under Iraqi law.
They are currently endeavoring to bring together the disparate Sunni groups in Iraq in an ominous move that could lead to the balkanization of Iraq.
Kurdistan is already a de facto independent region, thanks to US and Turkish interference. The game plan is to further weaken Iraq by sponsoring the creation of a Sunni entity in central Iraq similar to Kurdistan in the north, thus confining the Iraqi Shi'ites to a moth-eaten southern region.
The Russia visit shows that Maliki is signaling he has had enough and won't take this affront to Iraqi sovereignty anymore. What is almost certain is that he will propose to Putin on Wednesday that Russian oil companies should return to Iraq in full battle cry with investment and technology and pick up the threads from where they left at the time of the US invasion in 2003.
Maliki can be expected to boot out Big Oil and the Turkish companies from Iraq's oil sector. The implications are profound for the world oil market since Iraq's fabulous oil reserves match Saudi Arabia's.
Clearly, Maliki intends to assert Iraqi sovereignty. Recently, he decided to terminate the Saddam-era agreement with Turkey, which allowed a Turkish military presence in northern Iraq to monitor the PKK separatists' activities. But Ankara balked, telling off Maliki. The Russian deal enables him now to rebuild the Iraqi armed forces and make the Turks think twice before they violate Iraqi air space or conclude that their military presence in northern Iraq could continue unchallenged.
Does this mean Iraq is on a course of strategic defiance of the US? What needs to be factored in is that the US still remains Iraq's number one arms supplier. Iraq is expecting the delivery of 30 F-16 aircraft. A strategic defiance of the US is far from Maliki's thoughts - at least, for now.
Maliki's message needs to be taken more as one of assertively stating that Iraq is an independent country. Arguably, it is not very different from the thrust of Egypt's policies under President Mohammed Morsi. Simply put, the US needs to come to terms with such happenings as Maliki's decision to revive the military ties with Russia or Morsi's decision to pay his first state visit to China. Conceivably, it could be Egypt's turn next to revive the ties with Russia. As a matter of fact, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to visit Cairo in early November in the first high-level exchange with Morsi's leadership.
Indeed, much depends on the composure with which the US is able to adapt itself to the new realities in the Middle East. As things stand, the US has succeeded in selling $6 billion worth of arms to Iraq. It is indeed comfortably placed. The US State Department's initial reaction exuded confidence. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the Russian deal doesn't signify any scaling down of Iraq's "mil-to-mil" ties with the US, which are "very broad and very deep".
She revealed that discussions are going on for "some 467 foreign military sales cases" with Iraq worth more than $12 billion "if all of those go forward." Nuland said, "We're doing some $12.3 billion worth of military business with Iraq, so I don't think one needs to be concerned about that relationship being anything but the strongest."
New, untried alchemy
But the touch of anxiety in Nuland's words cannot be glossed over, either. The plain truth is, the "Russians are coming" and this time they are capitalists and globalists; they also know the Iraqi market, while the Iraqi soldier is familiar with the Russian weapon. During the Saddam era, Iraq was a major buyer of Russian weaponry and Moscow is estimated to have lost contracts worth about $8 billion due to the US-sponsored "regime change" in Baghdad in 2003.
Conceivably, Russia will do its utmost to claw its way back to the top spot in the Iraqi market and to make up for lost time. But then, arms deals invariably have political and strategic content as well. In the near term, the "unknown unknown" is going to be whether Maliki might choose to share the Iraqi capabilities with his close Iranian and Syrian allies.
Significantly, high-level Syrian and Iranian delegations have also visited Moscow in recent months. Eyebrows will be raised that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is scheduling a visit to Baghdad shortly. In fact, even as the Russian-Iraqi arms deal was signed in Moscow, the commander of the navy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrived on a visit to Iraq, signifying the close ties between Baghdad and Tehran. No doubt, Washington will remain on its toes on this front.
Equally, Russian experts have written in the past about the emergence of a new "bloc" in the heart of the Middle East comprising Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with which Moscow can hope to have special ties.
However, the incipient signs as of now are that Moscow's regional diplomacy in the Middle East is shifting gear, determined to bridge the regional divide that the Syrian crisis has brought about.
Of course, the enterprise seems awesome in its sheer audacity. But then, Putin is scheduled to travel to Turkey next week; Lavrov hopes to travel to Riyadh in early November to attend the second session of Russia's Strategic Dialogue with the Gulf Cooperation Council states (which was once abruptly postponed by the Saudi regime as a snub to Moscow for its dogged support for the Assad regime in Syria); Lavrov will also make a "synchronized visit" to Cairo for meeting with the new Egyptian leadership and Arab League officials.
Disclosing Lavrov's scheduled diplomatic missions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov added, "We [Russia] are interested in the dialogue and open partnership discussion with our Arab colleagues from the Gulf, which, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others, play a rather active and not one-meaning role in Syrian affairs. We always favor discussion of these issues, even disagreements, at the negotiating table, especially since we have the Strategic Dialogue mechanism."
Without doubt, Russian alchemists are experimenting with new, untried formulations that may help heal the Syrian wounds. But, as Bogdanov sought to explain, these formulations are also broad spectrum medications that will help induce the overall metabolism of Russia's regional ties with recaltricant partners who are upset for the present over Syria. Ideally, Moscow would like to see that healing process is embedded within an overall enhancement of mutually beneficial economic ties.
Russia's ties with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for instance, were going strong during the phase of the pre-crisis period in Syria. While the ties with Turkey lately have somewhat stagnated, Russian-Saudi ties have run into serious difficulty. Evidently, Moscow is keen to restore the status quo ante. The interesting part is the Russian diplomacy's assessment that the present juncture provides a window of opportunity to make overtures to Ankara and Riyadh, no matter the incessant blood-letting in Syria.
The backdrop to which this is happening is significant. In Moscow's assessment, evidently, there could be hopeful signs for a renewed approach to seeking a political solution to the Syrian crisis even though the skies look heavily overcast. There may be merit in making such a shrewd assessment.
As things stand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are facing an acute predicament over the Syrian situation. Neither thought that the Syrian regime would have such a social base and political will to hang on; both are frustrated that any "regime change" in Syria is going to be a long haul fraught with uncertain consequences not only for the Syrian nation but also for the region as a whole and even for themselves.
Again, while there is no let-up in the dogged opposition to outside intervention in Syria, which Moscow and Beijing have amply displayed, a UN Security Council mandate for intervention is to be ruled out. Without a UN mandate, on the other hand, a Western intervention is unlikely, and in any case, the US remains disinterested while the European attitudes will be guided by their priorities over their economies, which, according to the latest Inernational Monetary Fund estimation, are sliding into a prolonged recession from which a near-term recovery seems highly improbable.
Sultan with a Nobel
In short, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are holding a can of worms containing the Syrian rebel elements that are not only disparate but also could prove troublesome in future. As for Turkey, with or without a UN mandate, the popular opinion is overwhelmingly against an intervention in Syria.
The Turkish people remain far from convinced that their vital national interests are at stake in Syria. Besides, the Turkish economy is also slowing, and a deep recession in Europe can play havoc with Turkey's economic fortunes. The ruling AKP's trump card so far has been that it steered Turkey to a period of unprecedented economic prosperity.
Increasingly, therefore, all this proactivism on Syria looks more like the hare-brained idea of the academic-turned Foreign Minister Ahmet Davitoglu and Prime Minister Recep Erdogan than a well-thought out foreign policy initiative. But even here, Erdogan's political priorities are going to change as he prepares for his bid to become the executive president of Turkey under a new constitution in 2014.
A Syrian quagmire can threaten his political ambitions, and already he senses rivalry from the incumbent President Abdullah Gul, whose popular ratings are manifestly far better than his own.
In sum, Erdogan wants regime change in Syria and he is still pushing for it, but he wants it now. He can't wait indefinitely, since that will upset his own political calendar. He is upset, on the other hand, that US President Barack Obama is not a man in a hurry and the Europeans are distracted by ailments.
All factors taken into consideration, therefore, it should come as no surprise that Putin has made a visit to Turkey such an urgent priority - although Erdogan visited Russia hardly two months ago. Putin has excellent personal equations with Erdogan. They were instrumental in taking Russian-Turkish relationship to such qualitatively new level in recent years.
Putin is a very focused statesman. He wants to revive the verve of the Russian-Turkish tango. In the process, the contract for building a $25 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey could be advanced to the implementation stage, and Russia may also secure contracts to sell weaponry to Turkey.
In the Russian assessment, Erdogan's underlying ideology in terms of pursuing an independent foreign policy needs to be encouraged, despite the recent deviations such as the decision to deploy the US missile defence system on Turkish soil.
Putin's expectation will be that within the framework of a revival of the Russian-Turkish bonhomie and taking advantage of Erdogan's travails and dilemma over Syria, a meaningful conversation between Moscow and Ankara might be possible leading to a purposive search for a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
This is the season of Nobel, after all. If Erdogan could be persuaded that he could be the first ever sultan - and probably the last, too, in Ottoman history - to win a Nobel prize for peace, Putin would have made a huge contribution himself to world peace.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)
Imran Khan, the most popular politician in Pakistan and probable next prime minister, is taken from an aircraft in Canada and so misses an appearance in New York, because is suspected to be a terrorist. I found in /. a reference to this Guardian article:
US detention of Imran Khan part of trend to harass anti-drone advocates | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk
How would that contribute to better relations between Pakistan and the US when Khan becomes prime minister of Pakistan?US detention of Imran Khan part of trend to harass anti-drone advocates
The vindictive humiliation of Pakistan's most popular politician shows the US government's intolerance for dissent
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 October 2012 14.06 GMT
Imran Khan is, according to numerous polls, the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be that country's next Prime Minister. He is also a vehement critic of US drone attacks on his country, vowing to order them shot down if he is Prime Minister and leading an anti-drone protest march last month.
On Saturday, Khan boarded a flight from Canada to New York in order to appear at a fundraising lunch and other events. But before the flight could take off, US immigration officials removed him from the plane and detained him for two hours, causing him to miss the flight. On Twitter, Khan reported that he was "interrogated on [his] views on drones" and then added: "My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop." He then defiantly noted: "Missed flight and sad to miss the Fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance."
The State Department acknowledged Khan's detention and said: "The issue was resolved. Mr Khan is welcome in the United States." Customs and immigration officials refused to comment except to note that "our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband," and added that the burden is on the visitor "to demonstrate that they are admissible" and "the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility."
There are several obvious points raised by this episode. Strictly on pragmatic grounds, it seems quite ill-advised to subject the most popular leader in Pakistan - the potential next Prime Minister - to trivial, vindictive humiliations of this sort. It is also a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur.
But the most important point here is that Khan's detention is part of a clear trend by the Obama administration to harass and intimidate critics of its drone attacks. As Marcy Wheeler notes, "this is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics."
Last May, I wrote about the amazing case of Muhammad Danish Qasim, a Pakistani student who produced a short film entitled "The Other Side", which "revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan." As he put it, "the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks" by humanizing the tragedy of civilian deaths and also documenting how those deaths are exploited by actual terrorists for recruitment purposes.
Qasim and his co-producers were chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. He intended to travel to the US to accept his award and discuss his film, but was twice denied a visa to enter the US, and thus was barred from making any appearances in the US.
The month prior, Shahzad Akbar - a Pakistani lawyer who represents drone victims in lawsuits against the US and the co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization, Foundation for Fundamental Rights - was scheduled to speak at a conference on drones in Washington. He, too, was denied a visa, and the Obama administration relented only once an international outcry erupted.
There are two clear dynamics driving this. First, the US is eager to impose a price for effectively challenging its policies and to prevent the public - the domestic public, that is - from hearing critics with first-hand knowledge of the impact of those policies. As Wheeler asks, "Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?"
This form of intimidation is not confined to drone critics. Last April, I reported on the serial harassment of Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated documentarian who produced two films - one from Iraq and the other from Yemen - that showed the views and perspectives of America's adversaries in those countries. For four years, she was detained every single time she reentered the US, often having her reporters' notebook and laptop copied and even seized. Although this all stopped once that article was published - demonstrating that there was never any legitimate purpose to it - that intimidation campaign against her imposed real limits on her work.
That is what this serial harassment of drone critics is intended to achieve. That is why a refusal to grant visas to prominent critics of US foreign policy was also a favorite tactic of the Bush administration.
Second, and probably even more insidious, this reflects the Obama administration's view that critics of its drone policies are either terrorists or, at best, sympathetic to terrorists. Recall how the New York Times earlier this year - in an article describing a new report from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documenting the targeting of Pakistani rescuers and funerals with US drones - granted anonymity to a "senior American counterterrorism official" to smear the Bureau's journalists and its sources as wanting to "help al-Qaida succeed".
For years, Bush officials and their supporters equated opposition to their foreign policies with support for the terrorists and a general hatred of and desire to harm the US. During the Obama presidency, many Democratic partisans have adopted the same lowly tactic with vigor.
That mindset is a major factor in this series of harassment of drone critics: namely, those who oppose the Obama administration's use of drones are helping the terrorists and may even be terrorist sympathizers. It is that logic which would lead US officials to view Khan as some sort of national security threat by virtue of his political beliefs and perceive a need to drag him off a plane in order to detain and interrogate him about those views before allowing him entrance to the US.
What makes this most ironic is that the US loves to sermonize to the world about the need for open ideas and political debate. In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lectured the planet on how "those societies that believe they can be closed to change, to ideas, cultures, and beliefs that are different from theirs, will find quickly that in our internet world they will be left behind,"
That she is part of the same government that seeks to punish and exclude filmmakers, students, lawyers, activists and politicians for the crime of opposing US policy is noticed and remarked upon everywhere in the world other than in the US. That demonstrates the success of these efforts: they are designed, above all else, to ensure that the American citizenry does not become exposed to effective critics of what the US is doing in the world.
And what does it say about the protection of freedom of expression by the US?