A lifetime's worth of scholarship on Middle East, American, and Western history just waiting for your reading device.
Among the titles available in HTML and PDF courtesy of the GLORIA Center:
Cauldron of Turmoil
The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict
Paved with Good Intentions
Modern Dictators: Third World Coupmakers, Strongmen, and Populist Tyrants
Islamic Fundamentalists in Egyptian Politics
The Long War for Freedom-The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East
The Tragedy of the Middle East
The Truth About Syria
Secrets of State
Hating America: A History,
Assimilation and Its Discontents
Children of Dolhinov: Our Ancestors and Ourselves
Click here to read more about each and download them all.
You are very welcome, dear Anguper Hupomosing9418. If anyone wishes to do a book review on any of these after, Rantburg would be happy to post it as a Sunday Morning Coffeepot. For that matter, if any of y'all has read something you think would be of benefit to the readership here -- WoT-related please, game reviews are for the O Club -- a brief or in-depth review would be lovely. :-)
This is a translation of a Proceso article. The translation appeared in Borderland Beat. Rantburg.com did report on the gunfight at the time and its aftermath even as Edomex officials denied it even took place. Those reports can be found here and here.
MEXICO, D.F. (Proceso).-- Last year, on August 23, residents of the Mexico State municipality of Luvianos noticed suspicious activities that were a prelude to a new confrontation between groups of drug traffickers disputing the plaza.
"On the main entrance to the town that comes from the turn off from the road to Bejucos, on the exit towards Zacazonapan and in downtown streets, several pickups with tinted windows started to circulate, and, acting as if they were police, would stop cars that they thought looked suspicious to inspect them," says a resident who asked not to be identified.
A cab driver also commented that in the ranching community El Estanco, three miles east of the main entrance to Luvianos, a group of unknown individuals arrived in pickups with tinted windows and installed roadblocks on the roads, where they remained for more than two hours: "They were stopping everybody, those who were going to, and those that were coming out of, Luvianos."
Because they have lived through prior confrontations, the residents of Luvianos dug in inside their homes and closed their businesses. There was a rumor going around that members of La Familia Michoacana were looking for gunmen from Los Caballeros Templarios who had managed to infiltrate their territory to try to take over.
On Friday, the 24th, the number of clandestine roadblocks around Luvianos increased, and with that, the tension. Local authorities did not get involved.
The morning of the 25th (of August) began peacefully, as if the residents of Luvianos and the surrounding area had gotten used to the constant traffic of pickups with tinted windows. After midday, on the road that goes over the river and across the Barranca del Gato, about two miles east of Luvianos, the persons on one of those vehicles opened fire on a car.
"They wounded a woman on the arm; she was driving a car that a relative had loaned her and they said that people with La Familia were looking for that relative, that's why the fighting started," says one of the residents, who also asks to remain anonymous.
It was on the 26th at dawn that another group, in retaliation for the attack on the woman, went over to Barranca del Gato to attack the people at the roadblock. According to area residents, the first "big shootout" took place between Barranca del Gato and the ranch quarters at Cruz de Piedra, which are located about a half mile from Cerro de la Culebra (Culebra Hill).
"The shots could be heard from a long ways off. Those people use only cuernos de chivo (AK-47s) and AR-15s. They hit each other with everything they had, there were a lot of shots fired -- says one of the witnesses --; the shooting lasted more than 30 minutes, and, of course, there were deaths, everybody around here saw that.
But it's also the practice with those killers for each side to pick up their dead and all the fired cases. They do this so they won't leave evidence for the "greens" or the "blacks" (soldiers and federal or state police)."
The residents in the municipality believe that "somebody important" in one of the groups must have fallen in the first shootout because about 40 minutes after the shooting, there were pickups and cars chasing each other on the flanks of the Cerro de la Culebra (Culebra Hill), about two miles from the municipal seat.
Information gathered at the ranch houses and ranches adjacent to Luvianos tell of at least eight shooting skirmishes. The second confrontation, "for certain" -- says a witness --, was near the turn from Luvianos to Caja de Agua, where "the shooting was intense." Minutes later there was another volley of shots "with high powered weapons" at the ranch houses in La Toma de Agua, where the residents say "there were casualties on both sides."
The fighting between suspected gunmen with La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios reached all the way to El Pueblito and Acatitlan, about 10 miles from Luvianos. The chase extended to just past the Acatitlan River, towards the west and in the direction of La Estancia, where the road joins with the intersection that goes to Zacazonapan.
Some residents say that the final confrontation took place in the outskirts of La Estancia, hours after the slaughter on the river crossing at Barranca del Gato.
Adding up the testimony, it's calculated there were between 27 and 32 (persons) killed, and dozens of wounded. "They picked up their dead and took them away on canvas covered trucks; that's what they always do," says a local.
Along with their casualties, both sides carried away the evidence: they didn't leave any cartridge cases and they swept the roads with tires tied to the rear bumpers of the pickup trucks.
Law enforcement; not involved
The majority of the accounts agree that the municipal authorities and the state and federal police detachments assigned to Luvianos remained totally quiet during the gunfights. "They've paid them off," says a woman. "All of us who live around here already know that when the shooting starts the only thing we can do is hide because the police and the military are good for nothing," she adds, then she begs us not to publish her name.
Nobody in Luvianos can say with certainty which groups fought each other on August 26. The majority believes they were different groups from La Familia Michoacana who split up and are fighting to control the plaza. Others argue that Los Caballeros Templarios want to take the plaza from La Familia Michoacana, controlled around here by "El Faraon" and "La Marrana." The first individual is an alleged friend and protege of President Enrique Pena Nieto, former governor of Mexico State.
Another allegation is that it was a battle between the groups that La Familia Michoacana and the Zetas have put together and Los Caballeros Templarios and La Mano.
Some residents say that about seven young men from that area died in the shootout, but others state that the criminal groups won't touch people from the municipality. The first witnesses recount that they saw several young men run into the cornfields, some of them wounded. They say they went up to the houses to ask for clean clothes to change their bloody ones.
Despite this, another local says that: "Many of the young men who took off running and the ones they picked up (dead) looked like Central Americans, because of the way they talked when they knocked on doors and because of the features of those that were killed. They were between 17 and 30 years old. It's very common now for the people who work for the Luvianos criminal groups to be Central Americans".
The authorities of the State of Mexico and of the Luvianos municipality declared that on August 26 there was no slaughter nor any high intensity confrontation among suspected drug trafficking groups.
However, after that, beginning that afternoon dozens of federal and state police officers, in addition to several Army squadrons (sic), arrived at the municipal seat. They patrolled the battlefield hours after the shootouts but did not find bodies nor any cartridge cases.
They told the people here not to leave their homes during the next few days; the businesses closed down and classes were suspended from Monday through Wednesday in all of the Luvianos schools," a woman says.
Why would cleanup after a firefight include dragging tires on the road?
Two reasons. Casting from tire tracks to be used as evidence. And a good tracker can follow them.
What does it mean that a drug gang brings in foreigners as common henchmen?
Cheap, anonymous, labor. No ties to the area(s) the narcos operate in, hence a very low chance of a security risk (such as popping up in a Mexican government database or having a relative or family member kidnapped or arrested to place pressure on the hired gun to cooperate.)
Lastly a very low possibility of alienating the population by 'hiring local' or hiring Mexicans who might end up killing a local. Guatemalans getting killed is also much easier to shrug off.
1. Why would cleanup after a firefight include dragging tires on the road?
From reading scores of reports on Mexican press about intergang gun battles, typically they take place on the roads between groups of shooters riding in SUVs and pickups. The garden variety drug cartel shooters are charter members of the spray and pray club. They have to shoot large amounts of ammunition to hit their targets and to counter opposing fire. When they do they usually they produce large amounts of spent cartridges casings on the ground.
I gotta admit, removing spent casings after a intergang gunfire exchange is new information to me. I knew that some cartel groups will remove bodies to prevent identification by government authorities.
Dragging roads using tires sweeps the roads and scatters evidence of a gunfight, to what useful purpose I don't know.
2. What does it mean that a drug gang brings in foreigners as common henchmen?
The foreigners that Mexican cartels bring in to Mexico usually come from Guatemala, which is Los Zetas turf, and Honduras. They are formerly members of common street criminal gangs, sometimes they come from schools (students who have been promised cash and prizes if they become cannon fodder), and some are prior service military. Some are impressed into service at gunpoint. Bringing in foreigners is an additional cost to investigating authorities, and a buffer. What is a dirt poor Guatemalan farming family, for example, going to do if their precious winds up shot to death in Mexico as a shooter for a drug cartel? How are local police going to investigate in Mexico?
Dunno if that answers your question, but that is my explanation.
Reminds me of the brave Afghan Security Forces (NFD) woofing big kak about being in large, complex attacks with the TB.
Q: Any WIA? A: no.
Q: Any KIA? A: No, they drug away the bodies, but here is a fertilizer sack full of spent casings....(proof, praise be to Allan)
Q: Do you have any newer casings, these look like they came from the Battle of Gallipoli.
[Dawn] THE timing was likely a coincidence, but the stark contrast in the comments made on Thursday by Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani ... four star general, current Chief of Army Staff of the Mighty Pak Army. Kayani is the former Director General of ISI... and Nawaz Sharif ... served two non-consecutive terms as prime minister, heads the Pakistain Moslem League (Nawaz). Noted for his spectacular corruption, the 1998 Pak nuclear test, border war with India, and for being tossed by General Musharraf... says much about the confused response of the state to the threat from militancy. In a meeting with outgoing Isaf commander in Afghanistan Gen John Allen, the Pakistain army chief is quoted in an Isaf blurb as having acknowledged that "there is more to do". Yes, there is more to do, Mr Sharif echoed in a statement of his own, but it is for the government to better negotiate with the Pak Taliban. What is particularly striking about Mr Sharif's statement is how it contained not a word of condemnation of the TTP's violence or its agenda. Instead, the PML-N supremo saw fit to throw in several digs at the government for its "track record" of unreliability.
Since Mr Sharif has raised the issue of a track record, it would make sense to examine the track record of the Taliban themselves in both honouring previous peace agreements and in carrying out ugly and savage attacks against both state and society repeatedly. Which peace agreement have the Taliban ever adhered to? Have they evicted the foreign terr-orists operating among them on Pak soil? Have they renounced ties with Al Qaeda? Have they laid down their arms and accepted the democratic system? Have they exhibited any tolerance for the basic principles of the Pak constitution? The answer to each of those questions is no -- so perhaps the more relevant question for Mr Sharif, and others advocating peace deals with the TTP at this stage, is: who will guarantee that the TTP will abide by the terms of an acceptable peace deal, and how? It's almost perverse that the offer of talks by the Pak Taliban has come in the middle of an alarming wave of violence carried out by them -- and yet some politicians are advocating extending the hand of peace to groups that want nothing more than to hack off that arm and plunge a knife into the heart of the very idea of a modern state.
Sifting through the possible reasons for the TTP's offer of talks, it is apparent that driving a wedge in politics and society was a likely priority. As Gen Kayani and his army have lamented -- though of course there is much more than meets the eye there -- the state cannot win a war in which society and politicians are divided about the very necessity of that war. Mr Sharif appears to have taken the TTP's bait and the country will be all the worse off for it.
[Dawn] WHEN President Morsi of Egypt was quoted calling Zionists the descendants of "apes and pigs", there was not a ripple of comment or criticism in the Mohammedan world. And yet much of his recent visit to Germany was overshadowed by hostile questioning from the media.
His clarification that his words had been taken out of context cut little ice with his audience.
This silence in the Mohammedan world reflects the deep anti-Semitism rife in the Islamic world. To most Mohammedans, there is no difference between 'Jew', 'Zionist' and 'Israeli'. This ignorance and prejudice is reinforced by the virtual absence of any personal contact between Mohammedans and Jews.
Morsi, in his 2010 statement, went on to urge Mohammedans to bring up their children and grandchildren to hate Zionists. Now being pressed by the United States and others to publicly repudiate his earlier rant, Morsi is caught between the demands of his position as president of an American ally and the dogma of the Moslem Brüderbund.
But among Mohammedan leaders, Morsi is hardly alone in his anti-Semitism. President Ahmadinejad of Iran has never made a secret of his views on Jews and Zionists. In September 2008, he assailed them at the United Nations ...aka the Oyster Bay Chowder and Marching Society... General Assembly as "a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists" dominating financial and political centres in Europe and the US in "a deceitful, complex and furtive manner".
This charge resonates deeply among many simple Mohammedans who see a secret Jewish plot to dominate the world. This has its roots in a document called Protocols of the Elders of Zion that was forged and disseminated by the czarist secret police in 1903. Despite being discredited decades ago, the Protocols continue to inform Mohammedan attitudes towards Jews.
However, alcohol has never solved anybody's problems. But then, neither has milk... it was not until the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 that Mohammedans across the world began to express their anger and hatred against Jews openly. Unfortunately, they draw no distinction between Jews and Zionists, although many Jews are not Zionists and many Zionists are not Jews.
Much of the support for Israel and the Zionist movement in the US, for example, comes not from Jews but from Christian Evangelists. They believe that the End of Days will come when the Jews have reclaimed the Promised Land pledged to them by God. The Chosen will then ascend to Heaven. Evangelists are convinced that they will be in this select band that, ironically, excludes Jews.
Mohammedans often argue that when Jews were persecuted across Europe, and were being exiled and subjected to bloody pogroms, they were protected in the Islamic world. There is much truth in this, although the record is mixed. Often, Jews were treated as dhimmis and forced to pay jaziya, a special tax levied on non-Mohammedans. As second-class citizens, they were often made to wear distinguishing marks.
But it is certainly true that compared to their lot in most of Europe, they were far better off in Mohammedan countries where many of them were very successful. However, a person who gets all wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package... following the creation of Israel, thousands of Arab Jews migrated to the new state. Now, very few live in Mohammedan countries.
This mass migration has meant that few Mohammedans have ever met a Jew, and are therefore willing to believe any slur applied to them. So when Morsi described them as "bloodsuckers who attack the Paleostinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs", few Mohammedans questioned his choice of words.
It is certainly true that the Paleostinian conflict has fuelled the virulent anti-Semitism rife in the Mohammedan world today. Over the years, I have lost count of the many articles critical of the Israeli occupation of Paleostinian lands that I have written. Indeed, many of my European and American friends have voiced their revulsion at Israeli policies in the West Bank.
I should mention here that several of these friends are Jewish. It would thus be a mistake to assume that all Jews blindly support Israel's expansionist land grab and its oppression of the Paleostinian people.
But while the Paleostinian tragedy might explain some of the anti-Semitism rampant among Mohammedans, it's not the whole story. I suspect there's a strong element of envy that underlies these negative feelings: here is a small group of people who, despite being homeless and persecuted for centuries, has managed to achieve so much against all odds.
Mohammedans tend to credit American support for Israel's success. While it is certainly true that US military equipment has been crucial to Israel's domination, its soldiers have fought bravely and have been brilliantly led. Israeli high-tech factories export their state-of-the-art equipment across the world. Israeli agronomists have transformed the desert.
Jewish scientists and writers have won scores of Nobel prizes. Indeed, this tiny community has contributed to finance, the arts and the sciences out of all proportion to its numbers. But in our blind anger, we overlook these glittering achievements. Even in terms of Islamic texts, Jews are 'ahle-kitab', or 'people of the Book'. While there are many negative references to them as well, the fact is that they are the followers of the oldest of the three major Abrahamic faiths.
So while Mohammedans can (and mostly do) oppose Israeli policies, this should not blind them to the dictates of common decency and good sense. Calling adversaries names might assuage our anger, but it does not change reality. I am reminded of the childhood rhyme: "Sticks and stones may break my bones/But words will never harm me."
Apart from moral considerations, practical politics demands a more mature approach. When people like Morsi and Ahmadinejad resort to such childish and hateful rhetoric, the rest of the world tends to be more, and not less, supportive of Israel. Israeli leaders like Netanyahu can underline this anti-Semitism to their friends and detractors in the West, and ask for their help against such implacable foes.
Israelis have long equated criticism of their country with anti-Semitism, seeking to use this ploy to silence its critics. Even Jewish detractors of Israel are subjected to this slur by the powerful Zionist lobby in the US. But by using shrill anti-Semitic rhetoric, Mohammedans have undercut their own credibility. Now, even rational criticism of Israel is ascribed to anti-Semitism. Ultimately, this has damaged the Paleostinian cause.
...I should mention here that several of these friends are Jewish. It would thus be a mistake to assume that all Jews blindly support Israel's expansionist land grab and its oppression of the Paleostinian people....
The Jews, living on THEIR land constitutes a "land grab" and oppression? That's why Israel has walls and defensive protection systems, because they are oppressing the rockets and missiles being fired at them.
In today's global and socially networked world, step change is increasingly not an option and profoundly new solutions are often required. In our world, yesterday's basement blogger is today's citizen journalist and a mere observer in a crowd now becomes an engaged and influential participant. Technology is not the only cause of these shifts, but it has turbo-charged our industry. Everything we do at Porter Novelli is designed to achieve one goal: to transform the opinions, beliefs and behaviors of those who matter most to our clients. We make this happen through a consistent and systematic approach that pairs a deep, data-driven understanding of what makes people think and act the way they do with sophisticated metrics that enable us to identify, monitor, manage and engage the most influential audiences.
We make this happen through a consistent and systematic approach that pairs a deep, data-driven understanding of what makes people think and act the way they do with sophisticated metrics that enable us to identify, monitor, manage and engage the most influential audiences.
Ick. At least Saul Alinsky was upfront about what he was up to.
Much of the support for Israel and the Zionist movement in the US, for example, comes not from Jews but from Christian Evangelists. They believe that the End of Days will come when the Jews have reclaimed the Promised Land pledged to them by God. The Chosen will then ascend to Heaven.
How real is this or is it just another left-wing canard?
IMHO - most Americans hold Israel in high esteem because of their similar cultural mores, David against the Arab Goliaths, general assholish behavior of their neighbors, and the only democratic state in the region. Not the End Of Days thing
Posted by: Frank G ||
most of the evangelical community that I interact with favor Israel (modern country0 because it is a reflection of the inheritance we have as Christians. I am yet to hear any proclamations about support of the modern country outside of a call to the promises of the OT... I base this on a sample of roughly 75 evangelists whom I have personally heard speak.
many have talked on the subject of the role of Israel and the tribulation, but in the cases i have witnessed, that was a teaching of prophesy; not a call to support Israel to hurry the second coming.
Posted by: abu do you love ||
No Mo Euro. ALL the nations will officially be against Israel. All Christians, along with the Holy Spirit will cease to exist on the earth. Islamic nations all around Israel will launch an attack on Israel, only to be wiped out by Nuclear explosions and a resulting earth quake.
A man will make peace to the world. A false prophet will support him from Rome. The Jewish temple will be approved to be rebuilt on the spot where the Dome of the Rock is destroyed in the Islamic conflict. After the first 3 1/2 years the world ruler will have his image placed in the Jewish temple to be worshipped and sacrifices will be orderred to be stopped. He will now be god of the world. The religious leader from Rome will support that. No one can buy or sell without a mark by number or his name on their skin as worshippers of him or they will be killed. Resistance to that will be a constant conflict even to the final vicious battle at Armageddan that could end all known human life on earth, thus the return of Christ to establish His Kingdom at the end of the 7 year tribulation.
[Dawn] THE government may rightly take pride in its legislative record but its abject failure in controlling lawlessness in the country's commercial capital may shame and haunt it for long.
There is no denying that the government's policy of unifying all parliamentary forces in order to remove distortions inserted in the constitution by two military dictators worked wonders. It also deserves plaudits for the National Finance Commission Award which will enhance and support provincial autonomy.
But blaming a steady slide in the law and order situation in Bloody Karachi ...formerly the capital of Pakistain, now merely its most important port and financial center. It is among the largest cities in the world, with a population of 18 million, most of whom hate each other and many of whom are armed and dangerous... , which is often likened to the country's jugular, on the legacy of dictators, even if partially true, would hardly on its own have improved the security of life and limb of its many million inhabitants.
And Bloody Karachi represents the worst example of what happens when various state institutions work at cross purposes. The Sindh coalition government, the Supreme Court and the agencies entrusted with the nation's security must all share the blame.
While in the past, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement ...English: United National Movement, generally known as MQM, is the 3rd largest political party and the largest secular political party in Pakistain with particular strength in Sindh. From 1992 to 1999, the MQM was the target of the Pak Army's Operation Cleanup leaving thousands of urdu speaking civilians dead... (MQM) was blamed, with considerable justification, for most of the violence in the city, a look at the contemporary scene tells one that the story is no longer as straightforward as it was in the past.
Various political parties and players in Bloody Karachi have cried wolf so many times that their credibility has been diminished. So, when the MQM talked of 'Talibanisation' many saw it as a euphemism for its unease at the influx of Pakhtuns from Swat ...a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistain, located 99 mi from Islamabad. It is inhabited mostly by Pashto speakers. The place has gone steadily downhill since the days when Babe Ruth was the Sultan of Swat... and South Wazoo displaced by the army action there.
But now reports in the independent media, such as Herald magazine, are documenting instances of the Pak Taliban taking over several strategically important city localities. Reports are very clear of the extent of Taliban control, even if not popularity, over these areas.
It is strange that nobody was alarmed when within a matter of months dozens of Awami National Party workers/leaders were killed and the party's flags removed from entire localities. The political blame game continued but nobody pinpointed the real threat.
All this while the agencies tasked with keeping an eye on the Taliban were busy making sure that the Lyari ...one of the eighteen constituent towns of the city of Karachi. It is the smallest town by area in the city but also the most densely populated. Lyari has few schools, substandard hospitals, a poor water system, limited infrastructure, and broken roads. It is a stronghold of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. Ubiquitous gang activity and a thriving narcotics industry make Lyari one of the most disturbed places in Karachi, which is really saying a lot.... gangs could be organised into another formidable armed force in the city to counter the predominant armed political player.
Street crime and extortion peaked, assassinations became the norm, and protest shutdowns became the order of the day though they didn't achieve anything beyond delivering another lethal blow to economic activity in a city that needs to feed millions of mouths each day.
Speaking anonymously, some Sindh police officials also say that the Supreme Court's extraordinary interest in appointments in the department from the start of the government's term has also created a leadership crisis as the bosses aren't sure how long they'll last in office.
"This has resulted in a tentative approach and nervousness very quickly travels down to all ranks. Instead of sure-footed handling that such a critical situation warrants, what we have are half-baked, unsure measures," said one officer.
But he was also clear that despite this rather "unnecessary" handicap all the police personnel were doing their best at the individual level. "You only need look at how many coppers have died in the line of duty in Bloody Karachi in recent years to appreciate that."
For a city the size of Bloody Karachi both in terms of its spread and population the strength of the police force is wholly inadequate. Count out from the investigative and law enforcement pool those serving to protect the so-called VIPs in a highly volatile environment and you are left with next to nothing.
The record of the better-equipped and funded paramilitary Rangers is no improvement on that of the much-maligned police force. Every journalist has counted the escort vehicles of elected officials but very few have written about the motorcade of the army major general who serves as the Rangers director general.
The only positive aspect of the Rangers in theory is that being under army command, they aren't susceptible to political influence, unlike the police force. But like the services' intelligence agencies it won't be correct to say they may not have an agenda at all.
The major failing of the elected coalition government, where initially most elected parties were represented, was not to have strengthened the police force and taken firm steps to depoliticise it. Parties that collaborated on major constitutional reform couldn't do the same in such a critical area.
And this failing will continue to haunt them. In the current term, the two major coalition partners were together in the province as well as the centre but there is no guarantee that the next term will see the same.
If the next elections' result once again brings them together at the helm at least in Sindh, they will only have themselves to blame if a different set-up at the federal level belonging to other parties sends their administration packing on the grounds of lawlessness in the city.
Given that the coalition, which should have taken the lead, and other key state institutions are either uninterested or clueless when it comes to arresting the bloodshed and mayhem resulting from ethnic and faith-based killings, the future doesn't look any better.
Neither the PPP nor the MQM have demonstrated the vision to safeguard their own long-term interests. A destabilised Bloody Karachi will threaten their political future rather than a third party's at least for the foreseeable future.
One will have to see if the 'neutral' caretaker set-up can address this critical area in its short tenure of eight to 10 weeks. The mandate of the caretaker government will clearly be to ensure the holding of free, fair and credible elections. Perhaps it'll see stemming the violence as a step towards that goal.
Well, maybe we could nudge that asteroid that way?
SHOULD the U.S. intervene to stop the bloodshed in Syria? I find myself torn between four different perspectives -- from New Delhi, Baghdad, Tel Aviv and the U.N.
Some Israeli generals are starting to realize that if Syria is a fight to the death it could pose as great a strategic threat to Israel as Iran's nuclear program. If Syria disintegrates into another Afghanistan -- on Israel's border -- it would be an untamed land, with jihadists, chemical weapons and surface-to-air missiles all freely floating about.
Can that collapse be avoided? From Washington, some hoped that by quickly toppling the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, the West and the Sunnis could "flip" Syria from the Iranian-Soviet orbit to the Sunni-Saudi-American orbit. I'm dubious. I doubt that Syria can be flipped in one piece; it will break apart in the air into Sunni and Alawite regions. And, if we did manage to flip Syria, Iran would try to "flip" predominantly Shiite Iraq and Bahrain into its camp.
Some Arab diplomats at the U.N. argue, though, that there is a middle way, but it would require the U.S. to lead: First, mobilize the Security Council to pass a resolution calling for the creation of a transitional government in Syria with "full powers" and with equal representation of Alawites and Sunni rebels. If the Russians could be persuaded to back such a resolution (not easy), it could break the stalemate inside Syria, because many regime loyalists would see the writing on the wall and abandon Assad. The stick would be to tell the Russians that if they don't back such a resolution, the U.S. would start sending weapons to the secular/moderate rebels.
It's the Middle East, Jake.
If you will the ends, you'd better will the means. You can't change the politics "unless you say you'll stay for a hundred years," insists Akbar. But no one wants to play empire anymore. In which case, he argues, it's always best not to stay long in any of these countries -- five months, not five years. Five years, says Akbar, is just long enough for people to hate you, but not fear or respect you, let alone change their long-held ways.