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Imperialist Scum is now Levantine Times

February 9, 2011

You can now find it here:

http://levantinetimes.blogspot.com/

Egyptian democracy and the wisdom of Omar Suleiman

February 7, 2011

Here are some key points from Daniel Greenfield, who has a great piece on his blog Sultan Knish, about why democracy in Egypt or in any country which isn’t culturally ready for it, can be detrimental:

http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2011/02/what-if-problem-really-is-people.html

The United States has freedom due primarily to its culture. Those freedoms were an outgrowth of the rights of Englishmen and the Enlightenment. They cannot be exported to another country– without also exporting the cultural assumptions that produced them.”

“Egypt’s period of greatest liberalization was under British rule. Since then its cosmopolitan nightspots have been torched and it has drifted closer to Islamization. Even Egypt’s current level of human rights under Mubarak is above that of most of its neighbors. And the reason for that is Mubarak’s ties to America. The more democratic Egypt becomes, the more its civil rights will diminish. Its rulers will see social issues as an easy way to compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood. As Egypt’s cultural ties to the West diminish, so will its freedoms.”

“The Islamists understand this far better than the neo-conservatives. That is why they campaign so ruthlessly against Western culture. They understand that it is cultural assumptions that dictate behavior, more than any law. While we try to export institutions to the Muslim world, they export Muslim culture to us. And they have had far more luck changing us, than we have had changing them. Institutions are shaped by culture, but cultures are not shaped by institutions. Export every aspect of American government to Egypt, and it will run along Egyptian lines, not American ones. And within a year, Egypt’s government will run the same way it does today. Only the window dressing will be different.”

 

 

 

It’s one thing to hear this from a westerner, it’s quite another to hear this from a secular vice president of a soon-to-be Islamic theocracy.

When Egypt’s Vice President Omar Suleiman was asked by the extremely gullible Christiane Amanpour what he thinks about the internet-savvy young people all across the Middle East who clamor for freedom, he had the following to say:

(skip to the 3:20 mark)

A Return to Sinai…from Spy Sharks to Natural Gas.

February 7, 2011

After learning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s desire to break Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, a close friend who happens to hold the rank of Major in the IDF exclaimed to me, “Great! Now I can go scuba diving in Sharm el-Sheikh!”  Slightly befuddled by his statement, I asked him how he would manage such a feat in light of current events. He answers in a resounding and distinctly Israeli tone, “We’ll take back Sinai…we did it three times before, WE CAN DO IT AGAIN!”

At first I thought to myself, “why would we want or need to do that at this stage?”. But then the very next afternoon, I catch a serendipitous headline on Bloomberg,”Egyptian Gas to Israel, Jordan May Halt for Two Weeks“. A pipeline, which plays a significant role in providing Israel with 40% of its natural gas, was severely damaged in an explosion. Egyptian state TV insists the damage was the result of a terrorist attack. Egypt’s Oil Ministry, which is currently headed by Sameh Fahmy, maintains that the blast was merely the result of a gas leak.  But Fahmy’s explanation must automatically come into question, mainly because of his controversial stint as Egypt’s ambassador to the U.S. At his post, he was accused of inciting violence against Coptic Christians at the hands of Islamists by portraying Copts as “traitors and separatists”.

Yet the striking aspect of this incident was not so much who or what perpetrated it, but rather where it occurred, namely a wadi (valley) in the northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula called El Arish. For those not well versed in the history of pre-statehood Israel (when it was still called Palestine), El Arish was within the land mass which was claimed by the World Zionist Organization in 1918. This brings us back to my friend the IDF Major, whose notion of swimming with tropical fish or in this case spy sharks trained by the Mossad, suddenly doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did when he first blurted it out. In light of the potential negative economic effect this incident may bring on the region, Israel ultimately controlling this piece of property may indeed prove pivotal.

For decades, rabbis and economists alike have commented that finding natural gas and/or crude oil within its borders would lead to the demise of Israel’s innovative spirit and its position as a global leader in the start-up industry. To put it simply, we would become a liberal version of Saudi Arabia, and Golda Meir’s famous quote about Moses leading the Jews to the one place with no oil would be forever nullified. But will it?

For the time being, Israel’s claim to fame in the sphere of natural resource exploration is stumbling across a significant deposit of natural gas off its northern Mediterranean coast in the Summer of 2010. Aptly named The Leviathan, the field contains “at least 16 trillion cubic feet of gas at a likely market value of tens of billions of dollars and should turn Israel into an energy exporter“. But since extracting it has presented itself to be a time-consuming undertaking, Israel may be left with one of two options: a) push Bibi’s timetable of Israel being completely reliant on alternative energy up from 2020 to 2013 or b) take back Sinai and be in control of our destiny energy-wise.

If we are to take back Sinai, the only questions are how and when? But one thing is certain, Israel would need to prepare itself for an onslaught of disapproval from the international community.

 

 

 

Update:  this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post on the same day I published this one.

http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=207119

“IEC can manage without Egyptian supplies for 2 weeks, new Israeli natural gas reserves can’t be utilized until at least 2013

“Gas exploration companies have announced two deep-water finds over the past two years in Israeli territorial waters totaling some 25 trillion cubic meters. While that amount dwarfs the quantity Egypt has contracted to sell Israel, gas is not expected to start flowing from one of those fields, Tamar, before 2013.”

“Landau’s spokesman said the goal was to have gas from Tamar flowing into Israel by 2013, adding that the Sinai explosion “just proves” the need to do so.”

” ‘We want energy independence and to achieve it as soon as possible,’ the spokesman said.’ “

Egypt’s change is Iran’s checkmate

February 4, 2011

Sitting in my apartment in the affluent yet hip neighborhood of The Old North in Tel Aviv, which has a vibe similar to SoHo in downtown Manhattan more so than the Middle East, it’s a bit difficult to conceptualize the fact that the enemies of Israel are now officially at the gates.

A headline in the English language edition of Russia’s online daily ‘Ria Novosti’ reads “Muslim Brotherhood wants to end Egypt-Israeli peace deal”. The only shocking aspect of this headline is how soon it came. In lieu of the overtures given by the soon to be Egyptian government, which were those of non-violence, anyone privy to the track record of this organization would automatically deem these overtures to be outright lies. Their track record includes: during WWII, being closely allied with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammad Amin al-Husayni as well as the Nazi regime,  and more recently, spawning Hamas.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s intentions are obvious, but not so obvious are the intentions of former IAEA head and Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei. At first glance, having acquired a master’s degree in Geneva’s IHEID and a doctorate at NYU, both in international law, ElBaradei would certainly make for a palatable successor to Mubarak. But his dealings with the Iranians during the time of the inspections of their nuclear facilities, paint an entirely differently picture of him and do not bode well for the future of Egypt-Israel relations.  Furthermore, there is outright implication that Iran may have had a hand in the current upheaval in Egypt, via ElBaradei. On September 6th, 2010, the Egyptian newspaper Al Youm Al Sabeh reported: “In a communication to the Attorney General of Egypt, Dr. Yasser Najib Abdel Mabboud has accused Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei…of receiving funds exceeding $7 million from Iran’s leadership as support for ‘political reform in Egypt’…a meeting between an Arab businessman, who is said to be close to El Baradei and who has only been identified by the initials A. E. and an Iranian official, took place in a hotel in Bucharest, Romania…reportedly the Iranian envoy told the businessman to convey to ElBaradei that he has Iran’s complete support.”

So there you have it folks. Iran’s chess configuration is now complete. Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hamas in Gaza. Muslim Brotherhood with the help of ElBaradei in Egypt, and soon to be in: TunisiaJordan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria, and Sudan, where all have their own versions of “Day of Ragedemonstrations scheduled for various dates in February. Furthermore, the impending draw-down of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, coupled with Iran’s influence there, can potentially create a very powerful Shiite triumvirate with Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon.

One would think that the presence of two all-encompassing entities, one being Shia and the other Sunni, would have all the makings of a Muslim civil war in the region. But as the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” or to be region-specific “we all hate Israel more than we hate each other”.

The irony in all of this is that Saudi Arabia may well be the lone, even if inadvertent, buffer for Israel; a country where young Saudi’s enthusiastically endorse the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt but have no designs on doing the same with their own regime, mainly because of King Abdullah’s popularity. “What is happening in Egypt has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia,” says Muhammad Al-Asmari, 19, a student in Jeddah. “Mubarak has done absolutely nothing for Egypt in three decades. You can’t say the same for Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah has done a lot for us.” Unlike Egypt, whose oil wealth is estimated to be roughly $206 billion, Saudi Arabia’s roughly $24 trillion (by today’s prices) enables them to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure and provide social services that Egypt cannot.

These developments undoubtedly raise some questions. Now that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been put on-hold indefinitely, if not completely obliterated, what role will the U.S. now play in relation to Israel? Will Russia and Europe begin to more actively handle the rising tide of Islamic fundamentalism in their midst? And lastly, will Israel now consider acting unilaterally against Iran before this regional re-alignment is complete?

While many Israeli citizens have been asking these and other questions over the last week or so, the more pressing issue as a result of the chaos in Egypt has become the influx of yet more Sudanese refugees, a predominantly Muslim group which has brought an increase in violent crime in the last few years to places such as Eilat and the southern part of Tel Aviv.

On a more personal note, I see these unfortunates every day before getting on the bus to go home from work, and seeing them serves as a reminder that I do in fact live in the Middle East, not in SoHo. Moreover, even though there is no war at the moment, we will still be feeling the effects of the dominoes falling in the coming months.

 

 

Correction: Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth is 265 billion barrels which translates to roughly $24 trillion.

Well, no one saw this coming…

February 3, 2011


Muslim Brotherhood wants end to Egypt-Israeli peace deal


Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood movement has unveiled its plans to scrap a peace treaty with Israel if it comes to power, a deputy leader said in an interview with NHK TV.

Rashad al-Bayoumi said the peace treaty with Israel will be abolished after a provisional government is formed by the movement and other Egypt’s opposition parties.

“After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel,” al-Bayoumi said.

Egypt was the first Arab country to officially recognize Israel and sign a peace agreement with the Israeli government in 1979. It is also a major mediator of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Muslim Brotherhood has recently come to light amid mass anti-government protests in Egypt. Some media voiced concerns that the banned Islamic movement could eventually take power in the riot-hit Arab country.

The deeply conservative Islamic movement, which wants to move Egypt from secularism and return to the rules of the Quran, failed to win a single seat in the 2010 Egyptian parliamentary election.

The Muslim Brotherhood joined the anti-government protests in Egypt last week. The unrest, seen by many analysts as a major threat to repressive governments in the region, has already claimed the lives of at least 300 people and injured several thousand.

TOKYO, February 3 (RIA Novosti)

Photos of the Day: Egypt protests

February 2, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the Iran(ch)

February 2, 2011

Iran to showcase new rockets, satellites


(AFP) – 3 days ago


TEHRAN — Iran said on Sunday it will showcase what it called a new range of rockets and satellites during annual celebrations marking the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution.

Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said Safir 1-B and Kavoshgar 4 rockets and Rasad and Fajr satellites would be unveiled during the 10-day celebrations that start on Tuesday, according to state television website.

Iran will mark on February 11 the 32nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah. Every year Tehran uses the occasion to tout its scientific and technological achievments.

The Safir (Ambassador) 1-B rocket can carry a satellite weighing 50 kilogrammes (110 pounds) into an elliptical orbit of 300 to 450 kilometres (185 to 280 miles), the website said.

Iran sent into space in February 2009 the Safir 2 rocket carrying its first home-built satellite, called Omid (Hope).

The state television report said the other Kavoshgar (Explorer) 4 rocket has a range of 120 kilometres.

In February 2010, Iran launched a capsule carrying live turtles, rats and worms aboard a Kavoshgar 3 rocket in what was its first experiment to send living creatures in space.

In December, Vahidi said Iran would launch a Fajr (Dawn) reconnaissance satellite in the next few months, along with a Rasad (Observation) 1 satellite that was initially to have been launched in August 2010.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meanwhile on Sunday opened a new space research and training centre, media reports said.

Iran’s missile and space programmes have sparked concern abroad that such advanced technologies, combined with the nuclear know-how that the nation is acquiring, may enable Tehran to produce an atomic weapon.

Iran denies its nuclear programme has military aims.

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