"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

The Middle East - Awash in Violence or The Beginning of the End of Terrorism

What does the current crisis (war) in the Middle East mean. Is the whole Middle East going to erupt in war, does this represent a last ditched effort by terrorists, or something in between.

Lets start with Iraq. While a violent insurgency continues in Iraq, it is clear that the Iraqi government is able to defend itself against internal threats. With a 268,000 Army/Police Force, Iraqis everyday are striking significant blows to terrorist organizations in Iraq. For all the visual effects that VBIED and suicide bombers have on TV, the fact is that Iraq has a large, well trained Army and Police Force capable of defending their democratic government. The backing of 127,000 American Troops assures that this democracy will prevail and succeed. It also ensures there will not be direct attacks from neighboring countries. Like the young United States in 1776, American Troops on the ground in Iraq are acting like the buffer of the Atlantic Ocean for early America.

Moving to Palestine, an Hamas led government infiltrates Israel, kills several of its Soldiers and kidnaps Cpl Shalit and then demands a release of Palestinian prisoners for the release of Cpl Shalit. Why would Hamas do this when Israel has withdrawn from Gaza for over one year and Olmert and Abbas were in the midst of working out the very same prisoner release? The answer lies in the polls. 33% of Palestinians stated they would vote for Fatah if elections were held in June 2006, compared to 31% for Hamas. This is a drop in popularity for Hamas of about 11% since February 2006 and for the first time since being voted into power puts Hamas behind Fatah in the polls. In addition, Abbas was leading a charge for the recognition of Israel and release of Palestinian prisoners. This would further undermine Hamas' popularity if it succeeded. Therefore, Hamas needed to increase its popularity while simultaneously diminishing Fatah's popularity. A way to do this is to do a brazen act that would ensure Israel would stop negotiations and attack Gaza; hence the kidnapping of one of its Soldiers.

Moving to Lebanon, one would have to ask the same question. Why would Lebanon, in the heighth of its tourism quarter knowing what is curently happening in Gaza, cross the border and kidnap two Israeli Soldiers-the same modis operandi as the Palestinians? It is the same answer, the polls. Since its partial freedom from Syria, Lebanon has returned to its Middle Eastern tourist roll. Faced with a weak government that would undoubtedly be strengthed by employment from a vibrant tourist trade and UN Resolution 1559 demanding Hezbollah disarm, it saw no choice to retain its power except to open old wounds to regain support. Therefore, while Hezbollah is seeing Israel pound Hamas in Gaza, they do exactly the same thing to ensure they too are at war with Israel.

Why would Syria, home of Hamas' militant leader Khaled Meshal and still tacitly in control of Lebanon, approve the use of violence against Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah? Again, it is the polls. Bashar was extremely weakened by the Hariri assassination. The UN for awhile was putting alot of pressure on Bashar. However, recently, this pressure has wained and Bashar, looking for a way to enhance his prestige at home, therefore goes on the attack. And why not? A UN report directly links him to Hariri's murder. It appears that he will either be censured by the UN or dethowned by his own people only to miraculously survive the ordeal. He literally got away with murder, but was severely weakened. Now, to increase his popularity and to shore up his base, he authorizes attacks against Israel to take pressure off himself and to build unity in his government.

Moving to Iran. Why would they, in the height of a nuclear standoff with the UN, go on the offensive since they directly control Hezbollah. Agian, its the polls. Much internal unrest is occurring in Iran. Many do not believe Iran should be pursuing and pumping so much money into nuclear research when Iran cannot even produce its own gasoline and has instituted gasoline rationing. It is not lost to the Iranians that the US dethrowned governments to its east and west in a little over one month each. Both of these governments fell due to its citizens not putting up a fight. Their citizens fled battle and as a result their governments fell. When faced with an attack, the best defense is to attack at the time of your chosing and to preferably attack on somebody else's soil. This is exactly what Iran has done. By letting Hamas attack and instigating Hezbollah to attack, Iran has taken the offensive so it can hope to prevent an attack on its soil and give itself clout in the UN during nuclear negotiations.

So what does all this mean? Where do we go from here?

The insurgency in Iraq is fueled by the Baath party in Syria on the Sunni side and Sadr's allegiance to Iran on the Shiite side. Likewise, Hamas' militants are controlled by Syria and Hezbollah by Iran. Therefore, we must not only let, but indirectly assist Israel in defeating these entities. Defeat of these terrorists groups will strike a severe blow to Syria and Iran. The US should press the UN to continue it diplomatic assault on Syria. The US should continue to press Iran in the UN. Taking out these players will forever change the face of the Middle East. It will result in peace in Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon. It may result in regime change without direct US intervention in Syria and quite possibly Iran. It will undoubtedly result in free elections in Egypt if it sees the Muslim Brotherhood significantly weakened and no longer a threat.

While many are fearful of the crisis in the Middle East, this crisis is what is needed to put an end to the 50+ year crisis that has plagued the Middle East. Middle East heavyweight, Saudi Arabia, helped dramatically when it put the blame of this crisis on Hezbollah. This is a good start and if fought correctly, will lead to peace in the Middle East.

For its part, Israel is not only bombing Hamas facilities Gaza, but is only speaking and negotiating with Abbas. This will heighten Fatah's standing. Fatah's leadership is re-examining its roll after its beating it took in the recent elections which led to Hamas' victory. This will forever change Fatah. It will change from a party of elitists to a party that will help its people.

By the same token, Israel is not negotiating with Hezbollah, it is negotiating with Lebanon's government, sidelining Syria, in an effort to diminish Hezbollah's stature. It is calling on the UN to force Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah in accordance with UN Resolution 1559. The future may very well hold an Israeli airstrike in Syria. This strike would go a long way to diminishing Bashar's already reduced popularity. If Syria choses to directly involve itself, Israel can then directly attack it. Bashar may have no other choice to boost his status in Syria. However, this act will result in his untimely demise from power.

A nail in the coffin for Iran, and by extension Syria, would be the strategic bombing of nuclear sites in Iran. While it would undoubted not destroy all of Iran's nuclear capability, it may very well rouse Iranian groups to be more vocal in their distaste for the current Iranian regime. While it would in the short-term raise gas prices, it would in the long-term significantly stabilize the Middle East.

Yes, the Middle East is awash in violence, but it is also the beginning of the end of terrorism. It started in the Middle East and it will end in the Middle East. Without striking Al Qaeda directly, the US and Israel can kill its movement by taking out Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas in one blow now that these forces have publicly joined the battle.

The question is now, do we have it in us to finish the battle?

Taliban in search of a winning formula

Asia Times Online has an interesting article/interview with one of the top 10 Taliban commanders in Afghanistan, Mullah Gul Mohammed Jangvi. He states:
"In the recent past we tried to attack Kandahar airport and US military bases. This is aimed at rooting out American air power in these stations so that they would not be able to shield their ground troops in a short span of time. In the coming days you will see more and more attacks on airfields, and once air cover vanishes from over the heads of coalition troops, they will be trapped everywhere like sitting ducks."
The Asia Time Online points out though:
Despite Jangvi's optimism, though, the fact is that the Taliban have only inflicted about 100 casualties on coalition forces in the past three months, while the body count of Taliban and civilians in southwestern Afghanistan, most of them Taliban supporters, is estimated at more than 2,000.
A few points in this article are key.
  • The Taliban are organizing and are organized to such an extent that they are able to mount offensives in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban have lost significant fighting strength.
  • The Taliban are obviously accord American airpower the prime reason for their loses.
  • Therefore, the Taliban are beginning to focus on American airpower/bases.
  • The Taliban will need to expend significant energy/personnel to attack and destroy American airbases.
  • Loses thus far has not resulted in unity among the Taliban, but instead infighting.
  • If the Taliban are able to unify and mount a large scale attack, a significant threat awaits them on a heavily defended airbase in terms of American Infantry, Tanks, Helicopters, and Airplanes while they are exposed on open terrain around the airbase.

I have only one thing to say from a military perspective, "Bring it on." A large scale attack against Bagram and/or Kandahar airbases would put the Taliban at a severe disadvantage where not only airplanes but heavy armor could be brought to bear on them. They have been unable to hold a single piece of ground since 2001, minus the mountainous region between along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Attacking the airbases would certainly cause insurgents to lose faith in the Taliban commanders and the Taliban cause in general.

The Beacon of Democracy in the Middle East - Iraq

Iraq the Model has an excellent compendium of posts from Iraqis about the current situation in Israel and Gaza. Surpisingly, many of the post are pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian. Several times in the past, I have posted that what Al Qaeda and its ilk fear most is not the democratization of Iraq, but the beacon of democracy it will become for the rest of the Middle East. One of the post is quite interesting.
"There are trends that still live by the past and its dark residues of killing ignorance. We are the sons of today and our minds must develop at a pace close to that of intellectual development of the world. We cannot solve issues with violence, murder and destruction of nations. We have to use logic and dialogue to convince those you disagree with, and once we do that we will have defeated our enemies, at least on the political arena which enables us to win the moral case before other nations. Reckless policies that believe only in rifles, cannons and slayings belong to the past and will bring nothing but further destruction and chaos.Strange they speak in the name of Islam while the prophet of Islam was tolerant in dealing with his enemies [whenever he could] for the sake of his message. Those who slay people like sheep are far from the values of that honorable message"Hashim al-Tabatabai: Baghdad/Iraq.
Unlike Palestinians, Iraqis are living daily with terrorists and violence. Israel is not a terrorist state nor a violent country which exports terrorism. Yes, it will defend itself, but it does not go into the West Bank or Gaza and indescriminately kill people. It reacts to acts of aggression and terrorism from these areas The killing of two Israeli Soldiers and the kidnapping of a third is the act of aggression and terrorism that made the current situation erupt into the crisis it is today.

I would like to see the terrorists in Iraq unilaterally withdraw from Iraq in the same way that Israel has unilaterally withdrawn from Gaza and intends to do so from the West Bank in the near future. Israel knows the results of violence and that is why it is unilaterally withdrawing from Palestinian areas and building a security fence to keep out the terrorists.

Iraqis know real violence and that is why they make statements like that one above that states violence does not solve anything, it just begets more violence. They see this fact everyday in Iraq. Terrorists in Iraq that are trying to prevent it from becoming the beacon of democracy in the Middle East. Violence slows reconstruction and therefore slows economic growth, freedom, and happiness. Terrorists in Gaza are trying to prevent Palestinians from advancing economically just like in Iraq. As long as these terrorists can keep Palestinians from actually experiencing democracy and the freedoms and happiness that it brings, they can use demoralized Palestinians to put on suicide vests.

Iraqis see what democracy can bring. I believe Palestinians are too beginning to realize its benefits. Unfortunately, the Palestinians only had two bad political parties to choose from in their last election. However, Fatah, smarting from its loss in the last election, seeing what true democracy is bringing to Iraq, and what Hamas is currently doing to its own people, will hopefully become a party by the people and for the people of Palestine.