Category Archives: Middle East

The Palestinian Emirates?

Tyler Cowen has evidently been traveling in the Middle East. E.g., My favorite things Israel. Two days later Tyler posted a provocative piece on the UAE-style multi-city-state solution proposed by Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University:

From Barry Shaw:, this is also known as the ‘eight-state solution’:

(…) He visualizes eight emirate-type city states with designated borders that will incorporate the Arabs within them. The rest of the land can be populated by the inhabitants, whether they be Jews or Arabs, living and behaving with respect and deference to the inhabitants of the various city-states. The states shall be granted sovereignty. They shall be granted surrounding land for expansion and development. Road systems in vacant lands shall be developed for transport of people and commerce, both Jewish and Arab.

If Palestinians could ‘vote with their feet’ across these various Emirates, it would be interesting to see what kind of policies would evolve, relative to what is produced by currently existing forms of political participation.

Here is a web site devoted to the concept, with one more detailed account here.  I should add that there are versions of this idea which do not add all of the ‘baggage’ found on this web site.

In presenting this material, I am not seeking to have MR commentators reprise all of the usual debates on the broader topic of Middle East peace or lack thereof.  Nonetheless I had never heard this idea before, and so I am passing it along.

I’m intrigued with the Emirates concept. The multi-part Barry Shaw series is a good place to start

(…)  Clearly, the decades-old search for an impossible two-state solution has eluded us. Seemingly intelligent and influence people still beat on about it being the only game in town. I have advise for them. Start to think out of the box. Open your minds and horizons to other solutions. Give alternatives the opportunity to succeed or fail, even as you stubbornly cling to your impossible dream.Israel has accepted that large parts of Judea and Samaria are occupied by large numbers of Arabs with an antipathy to Israel. Neither does Israel, the democratic Jewish state, desire to integrate millions of antagonistic Arabs into an Israeli society, thereby potentially tipping the demographic scales against a Jewish majority.This was the reasoning behind the two-state notion which, despite decades of the best efforts of the international community, has failed.All that has been achieved is a Palestinian split between two sections of their society, neither of which recognizes the Jewish State of Israel, and a fading minority-backed leader defying logic with a contentious move at the UN that is bound to kill the only apparent solution on the horizon.Why would political and social scientists and other “experts” want to pour money into a situation that their basic instincts tell them is doomed to failure? But they do.Why do politicians and think-tank experts vacuously point the finger at Israel, rather than examine the pathetic and dysfunctional artificially created “Palestinian” society that is torn asunder by internal bickering and back-stabbing (literally). Their violent political divide is teetering on collapse and chaos, propped up by massive financial injections, mainly provided by the West and even Israel, with Arab regimes promising assistance but defaulting on their commitments.So who says the two-state solution need be the only solution that prevents a one-state no starter? More and more people believe the two-state collapse will not be a disaster and that the dark vacuum may enable alternatives to emerge into the light of day for consideration and application.Gradually, opinion-makers are coming to the conclusion that the two-state solution is dead.

And I recommend Dr. Kedar’s PalestinianEmirates.com

The economic incentives to the locals who would be residents of each emirate – those are compelling. The Hamas and Fatah politicians who feed off the conflict will of course try everything to prevent any progress. But eventually the interests of ordinary families might prevail.

What is not yet clear to me is why the Arab regimes (who profit politically from keeping the conflict on the front pages) would want to back the Emirates proposal? It might bring peace and left the hated Israel still standing. Where is the incentive for Egypt or Syria?

Scott Adams: imagine scenarios in which Israeli cities are still habitable in ten years

Scott Adams asks readers for scenarios that allow Israelis to live above ground. If you see a way out of the drone war, please visit Scott's comments section

In my book The Religion War, written ten years ago, I predicted a future in which terrorists could destroy anything above ground whenever they wanted. They simply used inexpensive drones with electronics no more sophisticated than an Android app.

Fast-forward to today, Iran is sending drones to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah has training camps right next to Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. Meanwhile, Hamas has its own drone production facility, or did, until Israel found it. One presumes Hamas will build more. How long will it be before Israel is facing suicide drones that only cost its enemies $100 apiece, fit in the trunk of a car, and can guide themselves to within 20 feet of any target? I'd say five years.

So what happens when the drone attacks start happening in volume? Let's game this out. My assumption is that the coming inevitable wave of hobby-sized suicide drones will be unstoppable because they will fly low to their target and be so numerous that no defense will be effective. I predict it will be too dangerous to live above ground in Israel within ten years unless the trend is reversed. But what could stop the trend?

(…)


Egypt is Down to $10 Billion in Reserves

David Goldman on Egypt — over the past year, David has not been afraid to forecast meltdown. Excerpt:

It’s not often that a country of 80 million people goes belly up, but that’s what I’ve been predicting in Asia TImes for the past year. Today theNew York Times reports that Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to just $10 billion–about a month and a half of imports–from $36 billion before the fall of Hosni Mubarak, “after certain obligations.” The Central Bank claims it has $18 billion, and the Times doesn’t report what those “certain obligations”: are. But the likely conclusion is that the military government has looted the central bank’s reserves and placed them in untraceable accounts and property outside the country.

The economic meltdown of Egypt promises to be a crisis of biblical proportions; the way things are going, frogs and flaming hail wouldn’t surprise me. Somali-style food shortages and chaos might bring to mind the slaughter of the first born.

I hope the Biblical allusions turn out to be overwrought.

Greg Sheridan: Arab Spring makes Israeli-Palestinian settlement hopeless

Greg has been in Israel for a week, under the auspices of the Australia Israel United Kingdom Leadership Dialogue. His dispatch is among the best Middle East analysis we’ve seen recently: Territorial compromise loses ground in Arab Spring [subscription required]. To over-simplify Greg’s report: the power vacuums created by the Arab Spring have been largely filled by Islamist parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority are in such conflict that they cannot even travel safely onto each other’s territory. This toxic brew is very unlikely to lead to a permanent settlement. Here’s an excerpt to give you the flavor:

(…) What makes me especially pessimistic about a peace deal at the moment is the interaction of two related dynamics — the unfolding of the Arab Spring and the confused mess of Palestinian politics. The Arab Spring so far has yielded bitter fruit. Across much of North Africa, elections have been held and they have shown us again that elections alone do not make democracy.

Nonetheless, elections have results and these ones have greatly strengthened Islamists and Islamist extremists. In Egypt the biggest vote went to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was backed by some of the small but rich Persian Gulf oil states. Not very far behind the Brotherhood in Egypt was the even more extreme Salafists, who were strongly backed by Saudi Arabia. The Salafists’ electoral success was extraordinary. Five minutes ago it didn’t exist as a political movement, yet it won near enough to a quarter of the votes.

But overall, all across the Middle East, the big winner is the Muslim Brotherhood. Partly as a result, the Brotherhood is in great flux internally. But on one thing the Brotherhood is absolutely clear, its constant and comprehensive demonising and delegitimising of Israel. These newly empowered forces would denounce and fatally undermine any serious Palestinian compromise with Israel.

(…) This all plays into the exceedingly dysfunctional state of Palestinian politics. The Palestinian Authority, dominated by Fatah, rules in the West Bank. Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, rules Gaza. Naturally Hamas is fantastically empowered by the way the Arab Spring is unfolding. Islamism has shown itself to be the most powerful ideological and political force in the Middle East.

Read the whole thing »

Egypt: What I Don’t See at the Revolution

Christopher Hitchens on the Arab revolts:

(…) Not a single one of these pregnant conditions, or preconditions, exists in Egypt. Neither in exile nor in the country itself is there anybody who even faintly resembles a genuine opposition leader. With the partial exception of the obsessively cited Muslim Brotherhood, the vestigial political parties are emaciated hulks. The strongest single force in the state and the society—the army—is a bloated institution heavily invested in the status quo. As was once said of Prussia, Egypt is not a country that has an army, but an army that has a country. More depressing still, even if there existed a competent alternative government, it is near impossible to imagine what its program might be. The population of Egypt contains millions of poorly educated graduates who cannot find useful employment, and tens of millions of laborers and peasants whose life is a subsistence one. I shall never forget, on my first visit to Cairo, seeing “the City of the Dead”: that large population of the homeless and indigent which lives among the graves in one of the city’s sprawling cemeteries. For centuries, Egypt’s rulers have been able to depend on the sheer crushing weight of torpor and inertia to maintain “stability.” I am writing this in the first week of February, and I won’t be surprised if the machine—with or without Mubarak—is able to rely again on this dead hand while the exemplary courage and initiative of the citizens of Tahrir Square slowly ebb away.

Read the whole thing »

Iran's nuclear program – the "double standard" is false

Foreign Policy

Of the many inaccuracies and obfuscations of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, one of the most persistent has been the claim that, in questioning the ultimate goals of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, the West is seeking to enforce a duplicitous double standard. According to this line of rhetoric, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last shah of Iran, was a Western ally — or, in the language of the regime, a “lackey” — and thus America and Europe were willing and eager to help him get not one, but many, reactors. But since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, these critics allege, Iran is being singled out and persecuted. In 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Der Spiegel, “It’s interesting to note that European nations wanted to allow the shah’s dictatorship the use of nuclear technology.… Yet those nations were willing to supply it with nuclear technology. Ever since the Islamic Republic has existed, however, these powers have been opposed to it.”

Even some progressive intellectuals in the West have bought into this story, either supporting the regime’s program or at least criticizing the U.S. stance on Ahmadinejad’s current program as hypocritical given its past lenience toward the shah. The U.S. government itself, in what must be considered an inexplicable failure of public diplomacy, has never challenged this narrative — although it has access to hundreds of pages of documents that disprove the regime’s allegations.

Read the whole thing »

Winning the Peace in Iraq

Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, closes his WSJ analysis with this:

(…) Yet as things currently stand, all U.S. forces are supposed to depart Iraq by the end of 2011. This prospect fills all sensible Iraqis with dread. As Lt. Gen. Babakir Zebari, the chief of staff of the Iraqi Joint Forces, recently said: “If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020.”

Mr. Zebari is a Kurd, part of a long-prosecuted minority, so he has particularly acute reasons for fear. Yet I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by most Iraqis I’ve met, Sunnis and Shiites alike.

There is a pressing need for a new U.S.-Iraq agreement that will allow a considerable force (10,000 to 20,000 troops) to remain in Iraq for years to come. But that accord cannot be negotiated until a new Iraqi government is seated. That, in turn, will require more muscular diplomacy than the Obama administration has hitherto displayed. At least the ineffectual Christopher Hill is leaving as ambassador. His replacement, Jim Jeffreys, has actually served in Iraq. He will have to engage in Iraq’s political process in ways that Mr. Hill did not, and he will need the kind of high-level engagement from the Obama administration that Mr. Hill did not receive.

The worst combat is over, at least for the time being. But America must still fight for Iraq’s future if the sacrifices made by so many heroes, Iraqi and American alike, are not to be in vain.

Beyond Gasoline: Congress Targets Iran’s Access to Critical Energy Know-How

Mark Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and heads its Iran Energy Project. It appears that the US Congress has finally gotten serious about the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Possibly Obama will sign the new bill (?) And possibly the EU will help rather than obstruct (?)

This past week, 507 members of the United States Congress passed the toughest Iran sanctions legislation in history, with only eight members opposing. The bill, which President Obama is expected to sign this week is likely to create serious heartburn for Iranian leaders.

The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act, which has now cleared both houses of Congress, lives up to its name. It is an exhaustive sanctions bill that targets the Iranian energy and financial sectors. Most of the legislation’s provisions were telegraphed in advance when the core of the bill, then known as the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, initially passed the House and Senate in December and January. Representatives added more provisions during the conference committee, including sanctions on Iranian officials involved in serious human rights abuses, and tough measures against international financial institutions that do business with designated Iranian banks and front companies run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

While the original bills focused only on choking off Iran’s access to refined petroleum, two tweaks that occurred in committee have the potential to inflict even greater pain on the regime’s entire energy business — beyond gasoline.

Read more »

The Arabs Have Stopped Applauding Obama

Fouad Ajami in a November 29th WSJ op-ed begins:

‘He talks too much,” a Saudi academic in Jeddah, who had once been smitten with Barack Obama, recently observed to me of America’s 44th president. He has wearied of Mr. Obama and now does not bother with the Obama oratory.

He is hardly alone, this academic. In the endless chatter of this region, and in the commentaries offered by the press, the theme is one of disappointment. In the Arab-Islamic world, Barack Obama has come down to earth.

He has not made the world anew, history did not bend to his will, the Indians and Pakistanis have been told that the matter of Kashmir is theirs to resolve, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the same intractable clash of two irreconcilable nationalisms, and the theocrats in Iran have not “unclenched their fist,” nor have they abandoned their nuclear quest.

There is little Mr. Obama can do about this disenchantment. He can’t journey to Turkey to tell its Islamist leaders and political class that a decade of anti-American scapegoating is all forgiven and was the product of American policies—he has already done that. He can’t journey to Cairo to tell the fabled “Arab street” that the Iraq war was a wasted war of choice, and that America earned the malice that came its way from Arab lands—he has already done that as well. He can’t tell Muslims that America is not at war with Islam—he, like his predecessor, has said that time and again.

(…) Steeped in an overarching idea of American guilt, Mr. Obama and his lieutenants offered nothing less than a doctrine, and a policy, of American penance. No one told Mr. Obama that the Islamic world, where American power is engaged and so dangerously exposed, it is considered bad form, nay a great moral lapse, to speak ill of one’s own tribe when in the midst, and in the lands, of others.

The crowd may have applauded the cavalier way the new steward of American power referred to his predecessor, but in the privacy of their own language they doubtless wondered about his character and his fidelity. “My brother and I against my cousin, my cousin and I against the stranger,” goes one of the Arab world’s most honored maxims. The stranger who came into their midst and spoke badly of his own was destined to become an object of suspicion.

Please continue reading…

Dore Gold on Iran’s nuclear umbrella for terrorists

David Goldman writing as Spengler in Asia Times:

This should be obvious, but it needs to be restated. Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations did so yesterday:

Dore Gold: Nuclear Iran Would Create Terrorist Umbrella

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold warns that a nuclear-armed Iran would shift “the entire balance in the war on terror” by providing terrorists with a nuclear umbrella.

Speaking at a briefing at the British House of Commons on Oct. 12, Dore — also a former adviser to Israeli prime ministers — said Iran’s nuclear program endangers “the security not just of Israel but of the entire Middle East, and I would say the world.”

Gold said that as of this past August, Iran had enough nuclear fuel to produce two atomic bombs, and a missile with the capability of striking Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“So if you take the fact that Iran is one of the largest supporters of international terrorism today, and you team that up with the nuclear capabilities that I’ve been describing, you have a security situation which the West has not yet seen,” Gold said.

“The whole point of George W. Bush’s decision to remove the Taliban after 9/11 was to send a very clear message: ‘You attack the American homeland and we will take down your regime.’

“But fast forward to 2012. Iran has operational nuclear weapons that can strike deep into Europe, and eventually towards the eastern seaboard of the U.S. Will the U.S., U.K., and NATO as a whole have the same freedom of maneuver to say to states that support terrorism, ‘We will take you down if you attack us?’

“Will the U.S. Congress authorize sending forces abroad against a state armed with nuclear weapons? In other words, the entire balance in the war on terror shifts, because the state that is the largest global sponsor of terrorism today now has nuclear capabilities . . .

“This nuclear umbrella of Iran will unfurl and will be able to provide protection, not just to Shiite Hezbollah, but to Sunni organizations such as al-Qaida and Hamas.”

Gold, now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, raised the possibility that Israel could strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if the international community does not take action.

“I will say that Israel has been thinking about this problem for a very long time,” he said in remarks published on the Web site of The Henry Jackson Society, a London-based organization that promotes the foreign policies of former U.S. Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson.

“The Israeli air force has been training for action and all options are on the table. But I would say the official position is that there is hope, even at this late date, that the key players in the international community will take action.”

He added: “You might think that Iran’s behavior at present is brazen and risky. It looks much less brazen and risky if you recall how often Iran has already defied the West and got away with it.”


[From Dore Gold on Iran’s nuclear umbrella for terrorists]