Archive Page 2

06
Aug
10

Five comments on the Israel-Lebanon border clash and what it means

by Daniel Levy

This article was taken from Foreign Policy. Click here for the link.

Tuesday’s flare-up on the Israel-Lebanon border continues to be analyzed from every angle. Thus far at least, the deaths of three Lebanese (two soldiers and a journalist) and one Israeli soldier have not spiraled into a broader escalation. The much-dreaded and talked about summer war is still a matter of speculation, albeit now heightened (all of this exactly on the fourth anniversary of the 2006 war).

The exact sequence of events is still unclear. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had informed the relevant UN officials of a planned tree clearance deployment in the border area. UNIFIL updated the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as per protocol while apparently asking the IDF to postpone its activity. The Israelis undertook their somewhat python-esque mission (Israel has none-too-subtle surveillance cameras throughout its border area with Lebanon. The Lebanese don’t like it, the trees get in the way, but until this week they were the only innocent victims). An Israeli soldier can be seen almost dangling from a crane to fell the tree – he is clearly over the border fence though the UN has clarified that this particular territory, while on the Lebanese side of the fence, is still on the Israeli side of the UN-demarcated blue line border. The Lebanese seem to be disputing this.

Here is where the respective versions of events go their separate ways. Seeing their side of the fence transgressed and having shouted for Israel to pull back, the LAF either fired warning shots or immediately responded with lethal fire at an IDF position. The IDF either responded with lethal fire of its own on LAF positions or escalated by taking this action. Initial investigations suggest that the Lebanese side escalated. A brief exchange between the LAF and IDF ensued, both sides took casualties, and UNIFIL together with Washington, Paris, and other capitols urgently intervened to prevent further escalation.

In addition to dissecting exactly what happened, the immediate question is whether this will develop into a broader outbreak of violence. That development would not exactly come as a shocking surprise – both the International Crisis Group and the Council on Foreign Relations Center for Preventive Action have released reports in the past month looking into this very question and how it could be prevented. The reports were respectively entitled, “Drums of War” and “A Third Lebanon War.”

The CFR report, authored by former U.S. Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, considered such a war to be almost inevitable and focused a significant part of its contingency planning recommendations on limiting the scope of such a conflagration (the report suggested that the U.S. might “encourage a limited Israeli military strike as a means of forestalling a major military operation by Israel”). Against this backdrop, Tuesday’s events might be considered to carry a foreboding echo, and the quiet that has prevailed since the flare-up does not mean that we are in the clear, yet.

Nevertheless and somewhat paradoxically, Tuesday’s incident could help avert a more intense and bloody round of violence. The Israel-Lebanon border was not exactly being ignored in international diplomacy but it was certainly not on the front burner. That has now changed. The U.S., the UN, and various players in the region are not taking any chances, and anything that might signal further escalation will now be placed under a far more intense diplomatic microscope than would have been the case just 48 hours ago. That much is good news.

A fair working assumption is that while none of the key protagonists (the Government of Israel, the Government of Lebanon, and Hezbollah) is interested in war, the hair-trigger tension and fragility of the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border has the capacity to produce miscalculations that carry devastating consequences. What initial conclusions then can be drawn from the aftermath of Tuesday’s clash?

1. The Internal Lebanese Dynamic

While Israel has threatened to hold the government of Lebanon responsible for any future clash or attack by Hezbollah (and the IDF attacked not only Hezbollah but also Lebanese targets in the 2006 summer war), the LAF have not made itself a party to previous rounds of fighting.  This time the LAF was at the heart of (and perhaps even initiated) a bloody round with Israel, and Hezbollah sat on the sidelines. Lebanese internal politics still exhibit a surfeit of fragility, fluidity, and conspiracy theory-driven posturing. Nevertheless, we are in a quite prolonged period in which a sustained effort (kicked off by Qatari mediation) has successfully held together a wall-to-wall coalition government in Lebanon and prevented the outbreak of internal clashes (since May 2008).

This relative domestic calm was considered to be under threat in recent weeks against the backdrop of the anticipated Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) decision to charge members of Hezbollah with involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Assad together visited Lebanon last week in what amounted to a joint peacekeeping mission attempting to lower the tensions between their respective allies in the Lebanese polity. Indeed, both Future Movement leader (and Rafik’s son) Saad and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah have avoided the harsh rhetoric that sometimes characterizes Lebanese politics and demonstrated a degree of mutual deference in their dealings that has surprised many.

This week’s events will almost certainly serve to further decrease the prospects of an internal clash and to solidify some measure of shared Lebanese solidarity in the face of a common foe (Israel). The LAF has now both suffered losses at the hands of Israel and inflicted a casualty on Israel. This will somewhat change its own self-perception and certainly change how Hezbollah and the rest of Lebanese society view the LAF. If there is to be an outbreak of Israeli-Lebanese violence then it is not unreasonable to expect closer LAF-Hezbollah cooperation than has ever previously been the case.

Speaking several hours after the clashes, Sheikh Nasrallah claimed to place his fighters at the disposal of the LAF, and enthusiastically talked of how he was coordinating with PresidentSuleiman, Prime Minister Hariri, and Parliamentary Speaker Berri. One shouldn’t get carried away — there will be challenges ahead, not least how Hezbollah responds if and when the STL decision is announced (Nasrallah has promised that next week he will reveal supposed evidence of Israel being behind the assassination). In addition, PM Hariri may now have to decide on a response if and when the US exerts pressure for the LAF to distance itself from this week’s events and its newly discovered national pride (more on that later). Internal political suspicion and mistrust have not magically evaporated, but in certain significant ways, we are in a new Lebanese reality.

2. Israel’s Next Moves

While Israel’s current governing coalition talks a tough game, this incident was notable in the lack of enthusiasm Israel displayed for turning it into the occasion for a more aggressive military action against Lebanon. Israel, for now, has responded positively to international calls to deescalate. The Israeli government has for sometime been warning that it would not allow Hezbollah to continue upgrading its military capacity and that the Lebanese state should do more to prevent arms reaching Hezbollah and would be held responsible were hostilities to break out. Kurtzer, in his CFR paper, concluded that an Israeli military move in response to Hezbollah’s arming of itself has become unavoidable, suggesting that of the two scenarios in which conflict may break out, an Israeli-initiated attack (as opposed to Hezbollah starting hostilities) was more likely. But that assessment is somewhat out of sync with Benjamin Netanyahu’s modus operandi as prime minister of Israel. Part of the Netanyahu narrative to the Israeli public goes something like this: “I’m a responsible leader in a harsh neighborhood and harsh times. Unlike other leaders, I don’t go for military adventures and I also don’t go for peace adventures.” Most observers would hardly take issue with Netanyahu’s lack of enthusiasm for peacemaking, but the other half of the equation is also borne out by his track record as PM.

Israel has not been involved in anything approaching a major military confrontation or action either during Netanyahu’s first term as PM from 1996-99 nor in the first 15 months of this second tenure (unpleasant as they were, the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident this May and the clashes following the opening of the tunnel in Jerusalem’s Old City in 1996 hardly fall into that category). The same cannot be said for any of Israel’s other prime ministers in the last 15 years at least: the centrist Ehud Olmert fought two wars in two years as PM; Labor PM Ehud Barak led Israel through the initial escalation phase of the Second Intifada while Ariel Sharon spent much of his term as PM escalating that conflict further; Shimon Peres’s half-year tenure (post-Rabin assassination) saw the large-scale Operation Grapes of Wrath attack on Lebanon in April 1996.

Netanyahu’s response to Tuesday’s events is primarily focused on the diplomatic arena, notably pressing Lebanon’s friends in the West to reconsider their support for (and in particular their military assistance to) the LAF. In a meeting of Israel’s security cabinet on Wednesday, Netanyahu saved most of his bellicose rhetoric for Hamas and the recent rocket-fire incidents in Israel’s south.

Netanyahu is cautious and well aware that it was a war in Lebanon that wrecked the premiership of his predecessor. He will be pulled in opposing directions – on the one hand to avoid a risky military foray which is anyway unlikely to deliver a decisive outcome, might again expose the weaknesses of a superior military power in an asymmetrical conflict setting, might spread beyond the Lebanese arena (Syria has suggested that it could get involved under certain circumstances), and would likely lead to Israel’s further isolation. On the other hand, Israel is clearly uncomfortable with the re-armament advances being made by Hezbollah and talk of restoring its so-called “deterrence.” Netanyahu is notorious for sweating and quite easily bowing under pressure – the question being what will be greater, the pressure to act militarily or to proceed with caution (the Obama administration might want to take note of this equation and not just in relation to Lebanon).

Of course the bigger question is not just a tactical one and cuts to the heart of the current Israeli government’s vision of Israel’s long-term security and place in the region. The ICG report points out, “The only truly effective approach is one that would seek to resume – and conclude – meaningful Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese peace talks. There is no other answer to the Hezbollah dilemma, and for now few better ways to affect Tehran’s calculations.” In his current term as PM, Netanyahu though has shown little to no inclination for advancing peace with Syria and by extension Lebanon (unlike his Defense Minister and Chief of Staff who both prioritize progress on the Syria track, and indeed Netanyahu himself during the late 90’s sent out peace feelers to the Syrians).

The alternative for Israel to ending occupations (including in the Golan) and securing recognized borders and a new, more peaceful equilibrium probably includes a lot of Israeli-initiated military actions in order to restore the balance in its favor or in the laundered lingua franca, to mow the lawn. To put it in more blunt terms, absent peace we will see Israel unleash disproportionate and destructive violence on its vastly outgunned neighbors, with all the consequences that entails.

3. Another Headache for U.S. Diplomacy

This week’s events were the second occasion in as many months in which the U.S. found two of its regional allies more or less in armed conflict with one another (the first being the flotilla incident between Israel and Turkey). Being the unquestioning defender and all-weather political safety net for an Israel that has increasingly lost its strategic (not to mention moral) compass puts America’s standing in the Middle East and ability to advance its self-interests in a rather sticky place. The Saad Hariri government in Beirut and the March 14 Movement which he leads are considered close allies of the U.S. and part of what is referred to as an “axis of moderation,” which became a central pillar of U.S. regional policy under President George W. Bush (a policy which has undergone only a limited review under the Obama administration).

Golden rule number one for an American ally – be nice to Israel and whatever you do, don’t shoot at them. Turkey’s ruling party faces a torrent of lobbying and congressional backlash (including these recent congressional hearings) after having dared to challenge Israel’s policy in Gaza. It seems that the Lebanese government might soon be coming in for some similar treatment in Washington, DC. It is worth noting that even Jordan’s King Abdullah had to be browbeaten by the White House into taking a meeting with Israel’s current leader, and it is only the Egyptian regime – obsessed by its own survival and succession – that is on its best behavior, with Mubarak and Netanyahu exchanging pledges of ‘best friends forever.’

America is rather considerably invested in Hariri, his movement, and the assistance it provides to the LAF, which amounted to $162 million in 2009. In recent congressional hearings, both Assistant Secretary Jeffrey Feltman and Ambassador-designee Maura Connolly (in her nomination hearings) explained the thinking behind this support and suggested that it should be increased in time, part of the logic being that the LAF is a crucial factor for stability in Lebanon and a counterweight to Hezbollah. Even before this latest incident, U.S. support for the LAF was beingquestioned in congress. That scrutiny and the pressure to further condition aid will now become intense – a week prior to the border incident, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on the U.S. to reconsider such assistance, claiming “whatever you give the Lebanese armed forces might end up in the hands of Hezbollah.” Israeli officials have repeated this with added emphasis, andAIPAC and JINSA are already pressing the same message.

The next period of relations with Lebanon will require some acute diplomatic navigation from Foggy Bottom. The administration’s initial crisis response seemed to help prevent a further conflagration. Under Obama the U.S. has also actively reengaged diplomatically with Syria. Expect Congress to be trying to further tie the administration’s hands, now not just in reference to Syria but also to Lebanon – Republican senators have already placed a hold on sending an ambassador to Damascus after a hiatus of six years. At times under President Bush, America was a party to the escalation of domestic tensions in Lebanon, and there will now be pressure to return to that MO and perhaps to push Hariri into a confrontation with Hezbollah. The Obama team would do well to ignore any such ill-considered advice as would their Lebanese allies, even if the cost is a cut in budgetary assistance.

4. Where Was UNIFIL?

This was one of those occasions where one saw the best and worst of a UN mission at work. The United Nations has an 11,000 strong force deployed in Lebanon in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon mission (the “interim” in its title being somewhat superfluous – UNIFIL has been in Lebanon since 1978). The UNIFIL presence and even its mandate was significantly strengthened after the 2006 war, with its renewed mandate being outlined in UNSCR 1701 and new forces being enlisted from Western European NATO countries including France, Spain, German and Italy- largely at the request of Israel.

UNIFIL deserves credit for immediately making use of its physical presence on the ground, for making contact with the relevant military headquarters of both parties, and for sending its acting chief of mission to the area in question. UNIFIL then convened IDF and LAF officials for a three-way meeting in Naqoura. This facilitation mechanism and the fact that both sides could in their next steps appeal to UNIFIL to clarify matters (rather than, say, shoot at each other) undoubtedly helped to defuse tensions. In this respect, UNIFIL acts as a pressure valve. Both sides, despite some misgivings, work closely with UNIFIL and appreciate the mediating role that it can play. That’s the good.

The bad is that there are clear limitations imposed on what UNIFIL can do (often and for good reason, self-imposed). UNIFIL has neither intervened to disarm non-state actors in Lebanon nor has it prevented Israeli Air Force overflight violations of Lebanese airspace. When UNIFIL does appear to get heavy-handed in southern Lebanon, it apparently soon loses the trust of the local population, and there have been clashes recently against this background. Juan Cole cheekily suggested that UNIFIL could be the ones cutting the trees around the border fence rather than the IDF.

More importantly, UNIFIL is no substitute for a restructuring of the Lebanese state whereby armed militias no longer coexist alongside the official state security apparatus; and by extension of course is no substitute for a peace agreement between Israel and Lebanon and a comprehensive regional settlement which would include respect being accorded to Lebanese sovereignty (and the reason/excuse for the existence of militias thereby being removed).

Until that happens, the UN could take a lead role in creating a more robust ongoing coordination mechanism between the sides that clarifies the rules of the game and minimizes and preempts sources of possible tensions and misunderstanding. The ICG in its report calls for the UN along with the governments of the US, France, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, “to consider establishing a Contact Group, or alternatively, more informal consultative mechanisms to discuss implementation of Resolution 1701 and address potential flashpoints.”

5. And What About That Peace Process?

Tuesday’s incident once again demonstrates that the alternative to a negotiated regional settlement is not the status quo but rather occasional convulsions of violence which sometimes do and sometimes do not ignite a wave of prolonged clashes. Lebanon and Israel have a set of bilateral issues that need to be addressed from relatively minor territorial disputes (the village of Ghajar, Shebaa Farms area, and a precise border delineation) to Israeli concerns of hostilities being launched from Lebanese territory against Israel by non-state actors, and Lebanese concerns regarding Israeli actions that undermine Lebanese sovereignty and of course the question of Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon. It is widely assumed that a stand-alone Israeli-Lebanon bilateral peace deal (something that has been tried in the past and spectacularly failed) is not a realistic proposition but would need to be part of a broader regional realignment. There are currently no peace negotiations between Israel and Lebanon or Israel and Syria. There is no comprehensive regional peace effort. While the current US administration has expressed its intention to pursue a comprehensive peace, it has very much focused on the Israeli-Palestinian track, where there has been little movement.

The peace process industry is absorbed by the likely resumption in the near future of American shepherded Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but virtually everyone in the region is already dismissing those as lacking any real credibility or prospects for success – and with good reason. This latest spike in violence on the Israel-Lebanon border should serve as a timely reminder for policymakers in Washington that a comprehensive regional negotiation should very much be on the agenda and that siloing the separate peace tracks is as illogical as it is ineffective.

The Syrian and Lebanese tracks, de-occupation and rights for the Palestinians, recognition and final borders for Israel, the broader Arab Peace Initiative, diplomatic efforts with Iran, and even relations with Turkey are all linked. It is time for a policy that recognizes that and wraps its head around an inclusive new approach to building an architecture for regional stability and security.

Daniel Levy directs the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation and is editor of the Middle East Channel.

04
Aug
10

Israel-Lebanon tensions flare after skirmish leaves four dead

by Robert Fisk

This article was originally published in The Independent. Click here for the link.

Can a tree start a Middle East war? It almost did yesterday.

That such a question can be asked is a symbol of the incendiary state of the region, the mutual distrust of Arabs and Israelis, and the dangerous border of southern Lebanon which was – as so often – drenched in blood yesterday, the blood of three Lebanese soldiers, an Israeli lieutenant-colonel and a Lebanese journalist outside an otherwise nondescript village called Addaiseh.

And after the tank shells, Israeli helicopter missile attacks, Lebanese machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, the UN called on both sides to “exercise restraint” and the battle died down under the cold eyes of a Spanish UN battalion and a few soldiers from Malaysia.

But this comes after a tripartite Arab summit in Beirut, mysterious rocket attacks on the borders of Jordan, Israel and Egypt two days ago, a claim by the Lebanese Hizbollah that the UN inquiry into the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri was an “Israeli project”, and the discovery – on Monday – of yet another alleged Israeli spy in the Lebanese telephone network.

But back to the tree. It was a miserable, scrawny thing, probably a spruce and – after a 46-degree heatwave in Lebanon – its foliage blocked the Israeli security cameras on the Israeli-Lebanese border near Addaiseh. The Israelis decided to use a crane to rip it out. But there’s a problem. No one is exactly sure where the Israeli-Lebanese border is.

In 2000, the UN drew a “Blue Line” along what was – in those long ago, post-Balfour days – the frontier between the French mandate of Lebanon and the British mandate of Palestine. Behind it, from the Lebanese point of view, stands the Israeli “technical fence”, a mass of barbed wire, electrified wires and sandy roads (to look for footprints). So when the Lebanese army saw the Israelis manoeuvre a crane up to the fence yesterday morning, they began to shout at the Israelis to move back.

The moment the crane’s arm crossed the “technical fence” – and here one must explain that the “Blue Line” does not necessarily run along the “fence” – Lebanese soldiers opened fire into the air. The Israelis, according to the Lebanese, did not shoot in the air. They shot at the Lebanese soldiers.

Now for the Lebanese army to take on the Israelis, with their 264 nuclear missiles, was a tall order. But for the Israeli army to take on the army of one of the smallest countries in the world was surely preposterous, not least because Army Day had been attended by the president of Lebanon, Michel Sleiman, in Beirut only two days earlier – when he ordered his soldiers to defend their frontier.

At about this time, Al-Akhbar newspaper’s local correspondent Assaf Abu Rahal turned up in Addaiseh to cover the story. And a little time later, an Israeli helicopter –apparently firing from the Israeli side of the border (though that has yet to be confirmed) – fired a rocket at a Lebanese armoured vehicle, killing three soldiers and the journalist.

Lebanese troops, on orders from Beirut, fired back and killed an Israeli lieutenant-colonel. Hizbollah, the Iranian-paid Shia militia, which was not involved in the battle, announced his death five hours before the Israelis confirmed it; their information apparently came from an Israeli soldier using a mobile phone. It was top of the headline news on Hizballah’s Al-Manar television station.

All afternoon, the Israelis and Lebanese abused each other as aggressors. Israel said the whole thing was a misunderstanding. Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister and Rafiq’s son, was on the phone to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, denouncing “Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty”, while Israel said it was taking the whole affair to the UN Security Council. “Israel views the Lebanese government as responsible for this serious incident and is warning of ramifications if the violations continue,” a spokesman said. Because of a tree? Of course, the Israelis would like to have a file of “incidents” before the next Hizbollah-Israel war, when they have promised to smash up Lebanon’s infrastructure for the sixth time in 32 years – on the grounds that Hizbollah is now represented (as it is) in the Lebanese cabinet.

And all this while President Ahmadinejad of Iran – one of Hizbollah’s sponsors – claims he wants face-to-face talks with President Obama over Iran’s nuclear programme, and when the International Crisis Group has just come out with a new report warning that the next Israel-Lebanese war will be more violent than ever.

Yet the Israelis used tank shells and helicopters yesterday; the Lebanese army used rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-gun fire in the opposite direction. Briefly, Lebanon’s much-abused mobile-phone system almost collapsed. Not because of Milad Ein, the alleged spy who worked for the Ogero landline communications company. But because everyone wanted to know if another war was about to start. Because of a tree.

An Explosive border

“Exceptionally quiet and uniquely dangerous” was how one group of experts yesterday described the border dividing southern Lebanon and northern Israel.

An uneasy calm has prevailed over one of the world’s most combustible political boundaries since the 2006 war waged by Israel against Hizbollah. But the region, littered with landmines and patrolled by Lebanese troops along with 13,000 UN peacekeepers, remains as tense and volatile as ever.

The Brussels-based think-tank, International Crisis Group, warned yesterday that the political roots of the 2006 crisis remain unaddressed and that another war would be more devastating than the last.

Hizbollah, the Iran-backed militia movement that fought Israel in 2006, took no part in yesterday’s skirmish, but its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said his group would react if the Lebanese army was attacked again.

“The Israeli hand that targets the Lebanese army will be cut off,” he said.

Middle East correspondent for The IndependentRobert Fisk has been based in Beirut for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East andPity the Nation: Lebanon at War.

04
Aug
10

What’s the Difference Between Combat and Noncombat Troops?

Not much.

by Joshua E. Keating

This article was taken from Foreign Policy. Click here for the link.

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States is on schedule to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31. However, a residual force of at least 50,000 “noncombat” troops will remain in Iraq for the next year. So what exactly are noncombat troops?

Whatever you want them to be. The distinction is more political than military. The White House says the remaining troops will “train and advise Iraqi Security Forces; conduct partnered and targeted counter-terrorism operations; and protect ongoing U.S. civilian and military efforts.” All of this has the potential to involve quite a bit of combat.

When asked about the distinction, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last year that he thought the units in Iraq will still have combat capability, “the notion of being engaged in combat in the way we have been up until now will be completely different.”

It’s true that the majority of U.S. troops left in Iraq will rarely leave base, but that’s already the case. However, the units involved are certainly prepared for combat should the need arise. For instance, the first division deployed in support of the new noncombat mission — which the Obama administration decided in February to rechristen Operation New Dawn — is the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Division, an armored cavalry unit.

The remaining U.S. troops will participate in combat patrols with Iraqi forces. (This isn’t new. According to the U.S. military, independent operations have not been carried out for several months, and the Iraqi government’s approval of any combat mission has been required since the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement.) U.S. special operations troops will continue, in partnership with Iraqi forces, to conduct counterterrorism raids against insurgent groups. Additionally, Iraqi forces are still largely dependent on the United States for air support, artillery and medical assistance.

And of course, as Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing U.S. commander in Iraq, recently pointed out, “as we moved away from combat operations, the enemy has not.” Even if the U.S. combat role has been reduced, U.S. facilities and patrols will still come under attack and need to be defended. The threat of insurgent attack certainly distinguishes the “noncombat” garrisons in Iraq from those in South Korea and Germany. (Thankfully, U.S. troop fatalities are now down to below 10 per month from a high of nearly 70 in 2007.)

So while the next stage of the Iraq war may be, as Obama described it, a transformation from “a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats,” the actual mission of the remaining troops will stay largely the same: building the capabilities of the Iraqi military and rooting out the extremists.

The scope of that mission will certainly change as troop levels continue to decline, though of course this isn’t the first time a president has declared an end to “combat” in Iraq.

Thanks to Mike Few, Iraq combat veteran and assistant editor at Small Wars Journal, and the U.S. Army public affairs office.

Joshua E. Keating is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

22
Jul
10

The World’s Worst Counterterrorism Ideas

by Joshua E. Keating

As the Washington Post explores the unwieldy and unaccountable intelligence sector developed in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, here’s a look at some even less efficient ways of combating militants around the world.

This article was originally published in Foreign Policy. Click here for the link.

DIAL “M” FOR MILITANT

Country: Germany

Scheme: Germany estimates that it now contains as many 29 radical Islamist organizations with some 36,000 members. These figures include the so-called“German Taliban,” which is said to have recruited fighters for militant groups in Pakistan. To combat this growing radicalization, the country’s domestic intelligence agency recently announced that it is setting up a new “exit program,” including a telephone hotline for militants who are looking for a way to get out.

The program, called “HATIF” — or “phone” in Arabic — aims to helpradicals transition out of militant organizations by finding them jobs or relocating them. The hotline staff will be fluent in German, Arabic, and Turkish.

In announcing the hotline, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière warned the public to keep its expectations low — and his caution is probably justified. HATIF is based on a German program from the early 2000s aimed at deradicalizing neo-Nazi youth. Despite the call center’s best efforts, however, only a few dozen low-level skinheads out of the country’s estimated 33,000 took advantage.

THE ONE-WEEK DERADICALIZATION PLAN

Country: Yemen

Scheme: Yemen was once considered a leader in terrorist rehabilitation, after the government set up one of the first rehab programs following the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately the program, known as theCommittee for Religious Dialogue, proved to be a complete disaster.

As part of the program, hundreds of radical prisoners in Yemeni prisons engaged in “theological duels” with religious counselors, who urged them to renounce violence — a process that generally lasted only a few days.

Once the debriefing was over, the men were released into society with no support or follow-up. More troublingly, the counseling tended to focus on convincing the militants that Yemen was an Islamic state and receiving their assurances that they would refrain from carrying out attacks within the country. Discouraging militant activity elsewhere was not a priority. Perhaps not surprisingly, the program had a high recidivism rate: Some distinguished alumni were killed while fighting U.S. forces in Iraq, and many others remain unaccounted for.

Due to a lack of funding and political will, the program was cancelled in 2005. In counterterrorism circles, Yemen is now best known for releasing some of the world’s most dangerous militants from jail, including the American-born cleric Anwar al-Alwaki, who reportedly counseled both Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and the “Christmas bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

THE NAME GAME

Country: Pakistan

Scheme: For many years, militant front groups in Pakistan were able to take advantage of a loophole in a 1997 anti-terrorism law to hide in plain sight — so long as they changed their name.

The law treated groups with new names as entirely different groups, even if they were founded by the same members. Lashkar-e-Taiba, for instance, the anti-Indian militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was first banned by Pakistan in 2002. But many of its leaders continued operating under the new name Jamaat-ud-Dawa. When that group was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2008, the Pakistani government cracked down and members rebranded themselves as “Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool.” Most recently, senior members of the group were holding rallies under the name “Tehreek-e-Tahafuz Qibla Awal.”

To close down the loophole, the Pakistani government amended the law in late 2009 to say that a group formed by members of another banned group with the same aims would also be banned.

FAMILY TIES

Countries: Chechnya, Russia

Scheme: Beginning soon after the 2004 Beslan school massacre, the regional government of Chechnya began a policy of punishing militants by targeting their families. That year, eight relatives of Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov were detained in a small room for six months and tortured with beatings and electric current. Relatives of other militant leaders simply disappeared.

Lately, authorities have adopted a new tactic — burning down the houses of militants’ families. While only top leaders used to be targeted for this treatment, Human Rights Watch documents 26 cases of punitive arson between June 2008 and March 2009. Moscow-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to deny responsibility; he has publicly warned the families of militants that they can expect punishment unless they turn their relatives in.

Kadyrov’s tactics are proving popular. Regional authorities in neighboring Dagestan have also taken to threatening villages with destruction unless they turn militants in. But the measures appear to have little effect, as the deadly attacks in the Caucasus and Russia continue.

PRISON MADRASSAS

Countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Syria

Scheme: Throughout the Middle East, mass arrests are a popular strategy for suppressing Islamist movements. The problem is, locking up large groups of radicals in a room together is not necessarily the best way to keep their ideology from spreading. Egyptian prisons, where the father of modern militant Islam, Sayyid Qutb, wrote his most influential works during the 1950s, and al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri was radicalized, currently holdsomewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners. These include members of the banned but relatively nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood and partisans of more militant groups like Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Rounding up the usual suspects is also a popular tactic in Jordan, where human rights groups say prisoner abuse is widespread. Jihadist groups are thought to have established extensive networks in Jordanian prisons, at times even organizing simultaneous riots in multiple prisons. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who went on to lead al Qaeda in Iraq, is said to have been radicalized during a prison stint in the late 1980s that turned him from a petty drug user into a committed Islamist militant. Mass arrests have also been used to crack down on Islamist movements in AlgeriaSaudi ArabiaSyria and elsewhere — with, mostly likely, similar degrees of success.

Of course, it’s not that prison never works. Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, the former al Qaeda early adopter, began to publish books critical of his old militant friends once he was locked up for life in the Egyptian prison system.

Joshua E. Keating is an associate editor at Foreign Policy.

12
Jul
10

The Sheikh Who Got Away

How the United States got Lebanon’s leading Shiite cleric dead wrong — and missed a chance to change the Middle East forever.

by David Kenner

This article was originally published in Foreign Policy. Click here for the link.

The coffin of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, covered in a black cloth embroidered in gold with verses from the Quran, wound through Beirut’s southern suburbs July 6, traveling from his home to the Hassanein mosque, where he used to deliver Friday sermons. It was followed by thousands of mourners, most of them wearing black and many carrying pictures of Lebanon’s most eminent Shiite cleric on their way to his final resting place.

Tributes poured in from across the Middle East. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei referred to the late ayatollah as a “true companion of the Islamic Republic.” Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, even came out of hiding to pay his respects at Fadlallah’s casket and offer his condolences to his family. Nasrallah issued a statement mourning the death of “a merciful father and a wise guide.”

But the accolades did not just come from America’s enemies. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni leader considered sympathetic to the United States, called Fadlallah “a voice of moderation and an advocate of unity.” Ali al-Adeeb, an official in Iraq’s Dawa Party, which Fadlallah helped create, said that it “will be hard to replace him.” Dawa Party leader and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has worked closely with U.S. forces in the country, counted himself among the ayatollah’s many followers. Even British Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy offered her praise, writing that when visiting with him “you could be sure of a real debate … and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person.”

Although Fadlallah may have confounded the Middle East’s traditional fault lines, the United States never wavered on its stance toward the ayatollah: He was the “spiritual advisor” to Hezbollah, a terrorist who was responsible for numerous attacks on U.S. interests in the region. This grudge was formed more than a quarter-century ago, during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, when the CIA reportedly sponsored a notorious plot to assassinate Fadlallah.

On March 8, 1985, a car bomb carrying 200 kilograms of explosives detonated outside Fadlallah’s home in the southern suburbs of Beirut. The bomb devastated the neighborhood, killing 80 people and wounding approximately 200 more. Fadlallah, however, escaped without injury. In the eyes of his followers, there was no doubt who was responsible: They strung up a “MADE IN USA” banner over a destroyed building immediately following the attack. The U.S. government, however, steadfastly denied any involvement. Targeted assassinations, officials pointed out, were explicitly forbidden since Gerald Ford’s administration.

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s explosive account of CIA involvement in the Middle East, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, would eventually undermine the official denials. Woodward, drawing on interviews with President Ronald Reagan’s aggressive CIA Director William Casey, reported that Casey had circumvented the spy agency’s established bureaucracy to funnel money to a professional hit team trained to assassinate Fadlallah.

It was a bloody time for the United States in Lebanon. The 1983 U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks bombings and the 1984 attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in East Beirut had claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans. The CIA station chief in Beirut, William Francis Buckley, was also kidnapped in 1984 and eventually died in captivity after being tortured by Hezbollah interrogators. U.S. officials were itching for revenge. Fadlallah “had been connected to all three bombings of Americans facilities in Beirut,” wrote Woodward. “He had to go.”

Woodward may have gotten an explosive scoop on the inside story of the CIA’s involvement, but he got the much easier story of Fadlallah’s relationship with Hezbollah wrong. In Veil, Woodward refers to Fadlallah as “the leader of the Party of God, Hizbollah,” and an “archterrorist.” The confusion over Fadlallah’s connection to the organization would continue to bedevil U.S officials and media until the current day.

Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer who worked in Beirut during the 1980s, denies that Fadlallah played any operational role within Hezbollah. “I can guarantee you, and I have seen every bit of intelligence, that Fadlallah had no connection [to the attacks],” he told me. “He knew the people carrying out the terrorism acts, but he had no connection in ordering them.”

Fadlallah himself consistently denied having any official role within the Shiite militant group, even while making no apologies for supporting many of its aims. “I live in a warm atmosphere surrounded by the youth of ‘Hezbollah,’ whom I consider my sons,” he said in one 1995 interview. “However, and since the inception of Hezbollah, I was never part of its organizational structure.”

Fadlallah did have relationships with some of the highest-ranking Hezbollah officials and had never made a secret of the fact that he issued rulings offering religious sanctions for its attacks. He enthusiastically supported attacks against Western forces in Lebanon during the civil war and continued to support attacks on Israel until his last days.

“He wasn’t our friend, let’s get that straight,” noted Baer. “But that doesn’t mean he was a master terrorist.”

Fadlallah’s political worldview considered the Islamic world a victim of oppression and injustice at the hands of imperialism and Zionism. Like his contemporaries in the Shiite Islamic revival of the era, he turned to the Quran for justification to overturn the status quo. “There is no alternative to a bitter and difficult jihad,” he wrote in a 1983 article titled “The Islamic Revolution in Iran: Reflections from the Inside,” to remedy these ills.

He also provided religious legitimacy for the use of suicide operations in this religious war. “There is no difference between dying with a gun in your hand or exploding yourself,” he reasoned. “What is the difference between setting out for battle knowing you will die after killing ten [enemies], and setting out to the field and knowing you will die while killing them?”

While Fadlallah’s political agenda often overlapped with Hezbollah’s, he often parted ways with the group on important matters of religion. He came to embody an Arab Shiism that competed for primacy with the Iranian clerics who seized power following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fadlallah distinguished himself from Iranian Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini by fusing Shiism with Arab nationalism.

“[N]obody can criticize the Islamists about their Arabism,” he wrote in his 1997 book Hadith Ashura. “We are intertwined with Arabic, our Prophet was Arab, our language is Arabic, and for this reason Islam has been able to expand in the Arab circle.”

Hezbollah, with its strong religious and operational ties to Iran, recognized Khomeini and later Khamenei as its preeminent source of religious knowledge and authority. Fadlallah supportedwilayet al-faqih, Iran’s religiously inspired system of governance, during the 1980s, under the reign of Khomeini, a respected cleric. However, he soon broke with the system after Khomeini’s replacement by Khamenei, who could not match his predecessor’s religious authority.

In 1995, Fadlallah declared himself a marja, the highest religious authority within Shiism — a step that was opposed by the Iranian religious establishment, which saw Khamenei as the proper source of emulation for the Shiite world. Although both Iran and Hezbollah issued statements praising Fadlallah upon his death, they studiously avoided referring to him as a marja.

For this reason, Western claims that Fadlallah was “the spiritual advisor” to Hezbollah were particularly ironic: Although he was clearly influential, it was on precisely the issue of Fadlallah’s ultimate religious authority that he and the Party of God parted ways.

Starting in the 1990s, Fadlallah began to preach a more self-consciously modern version of Shiism, placing particular emphasis on scientific and rational methods. He opposed the practice of self-flagellation on the Shiite holy day of Ashura, arguing that it accentuated sectarian differences in Lebanon rather than promoting coexistence. His rulings in the field of gender relations have also been important: He asserted that women were qualified to lead men in prayer and were fully capable of moving up the ranks of the Shiite clergy, up to the post of ayatollah. In 2007, he issued a fatwa saying that a woman could fight back in self-defense if she were beaten by her husband.

This debate was more than an internecine feud over religious principles — it had important repercussions for the political balance of power within Lebanon’s Shiite community. Fadlallah criticized Hezbollah openly at times, notably picking a fight with the group after it declared to its supporters that voting for the party in the 2005 parliamentary election was a religious obligation. He argued that such “perverted practices” would eventually delegitimize religious authority. His extensive network of schools throughout Lebanon, which enrolled 14,300 students in 2000, produces its own religious textbooks rather than use those approved by Iran’s religious leadership.

Just as the relationship between Fadlallah and Hezbollah was hitting a low point in the mid-1990s, the United States once again lumped the Shiite cleric in with the party. Fadlallah was declared a “leading ideological figure” of Hezbollah and named a “Specially Designated Terrorist,” which empowered the U.S. Treasury to freeze his assets and prohibited him from conducting any future financial transactions with U.S. institutions.

Fadlallah’s charities continued to attract the attention of the U.S. government — even causing problems for some of its erstwhile allies. In 2003, the United States barred then Lebanese Finance Minister Fouad Siniora from entering the country because of a donation he had made to Fadlallah’s charity years earlier. Siniora would go on to serve as Lebanon’s prime minister from 2005 to 2009, acting as a staunch supporter of U.S. policies in the region during a period when the Lebanese government confronted Syria and its domestic Lebanese allies.

Following the end of the Lebanese civil war, Fadlallah became more circumspect about justifying attacks on Western targets. Along with Hezbollah and Iran, Fadlallah condemned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as incompatible with Islamic law. The attackers, he said, were not martyrs but “merely suicides.” He attributed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s motivations for carrying out the attacks to “personal psychological needs” stemming from a “tribal urge for revenge.” He also denounced the July 7, 2005, attacks in London as “a kind of barbarism that Islam unequivocally rejects.”

As Fadlallah grew in stature throughout the Arab world and also seized the attention of many in Washington, the competing portrayals of him quickly failed to bear even a passing resemblance to each other. For the U.S. government, he was an unrepentant terrorist who played an integral role in Hezbollah’s most vicious operations. To the mourners in Beirut, he was a fierce critic of colonialism and an important pioneer in efforts to reconcile traditional religious teaching with modernity and gender equality.

There was an element of truth to the U.S. stance: Fadlallah was certainly no liberal, nor an ally to be recruited to advance U.S. security goals. However, even a quarter-century after that misguided assassination attempt, U.S. officials failed to appreciate the areas where their interests and Fadlallah’s overlapped, both in isolating Iran and reducing the appeal of fundamentalism within Lebanon. The United States always preferred blunt instruments and simple epithets — crude tools indeed for a complex man.

David Kenner is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

11
Jul
10

CNN was wrong about Ayatollah Fadlallah

by Robert Fisk

This article was originally published by The Independent. Click here for the link.

I might have guessed it. CNN has fired one of its senior Middle East editors, Octavia Nasr, for publishing a twitter – or twatter in this case, I suppose – extolling Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon, calling him “one of Hizbollah’s giants whom I respect a lot”.
Well, he wasn’t Hizbollah’s man, but no matter. He was definitely a giant. A man of immense learning and jurisprudence, a believer in women’s rights, a hater of “honour crimes”, a critic of the theocratic system of government in Iran, a … Well, I’d better be careful because I might get a phone call from Parisa Khosravi, who goes by the title of CNN’s “senior vice president” – what these boss types do or what they get paid for their gutless decisions I have no idea – who said this week that she had “had a conversation” with Nasr (who’d been with the company for 20 years) and “we have decided that she will be leaving the company”.
Oh deary, deary. Poor old CNN goes on getting more cowardly by the hour. That’s why no one cares about it any more. That can’t be said about Fadlallah. The Americans put it about that he had blessed the suicide bomber who struck the US marine base in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 service personnel. Fadlallah always denied this to me and I believe him. Suicide bombers, however insane we regard them, don’t need to be blessed; they think they are doing God’s duty without any help from a marja like Fadlallah. But anyway, Washington used Saudi money to arrange a car bombing to assassinate Fadlallah in 1985. It missed Fadlallah. But it killed more than 80 innocent people. I do wonder what Ms Khosravi would have thought of that. No comment, I guess.
And now it turns out that the British ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, has written on her personal blog that Fadlallah was a man she respected and most enjoyed meeting in Lebanon. What possesses these personalities to have blogapops all over the place I have no idea. But Ms Guy has incurred the anger of the Israeli foreign ministry, whose spokesman says it would be “interesting” to know what the British Foreign Office thinks of her remarks. Personally, I would be far more “interested” in what the Israeli foreign ministry knows of the British passports its government forged in order to murder a man in Dubai not many months ago.
But it just goes to show that Fadlallah – who was also a poet – can get people’s backs up, even in death. When my friend and colleague Terry Anderson was kidnapped in Beirut – at almost seven years underground, he qualified as the longest-held hostage – I went to see Fadlallah, whom Anderson had himself recently interviewed. “He was in my home and he was under my protection,” he said to me. “I regard him as my friend.” This remark might have been what kept Terry alive: by extraordinary chance, Terry was back in Beirut this week with a party of students, although I always wondered if his visit to the southern suburbs of the city was what got him nobbled.
In those days, we journos called Fadlallah Hizbollah’s “spiritual mentor”, though that wasn’t true. He did support the Lebanese resistance during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and he was a fierce opponent of US policy in the region – like almost everyone else in the world, including the US, it seems – and he demanded an end of Shia blood-shedding ceremonies at Ashura (when Shias mourn the killing of the Prophet’s grandson).
I went to see Fadlallah again with kidnapping much on my mind. I was heading off to Baghdad and sought his guidance on how to avoid being abducted. He listened kindly to me and announced that I should see a close Shia Muslim religious friend of his in the Iraqi capital. This I did. And was escorted to Najaf and Karbala by an associate of the friend who sat in his religious clothes in the front of the car, reading the Koran all the way. “I was very worried for you,” Fadlallah’s friend said when I returned. So now you tell me, I exclaimed.
But there was a further reason for Fadlallah’s help. For every hour I was in the Iraqi holy cities, I had to meet a Shia clergyman, each of them former students of Fadlallah. And each of them would hand me a vast pile of writings and documents – their accumulated sermons over the past 10 or 15 years. To each I promised to pass their papers to Fadlallah. And thus it was that, a month later, a suspicious-looking Fisk turned up in the southern suburbs of Beirut with two massive suitcases. Fadlallah greeted me with a huge smile. He knew what the bags contained. Fisk had been a courier for more jurisprudence than he could imagine. And Fadlallah knew what his colleagues in Najaf and Karbala were talking about.
I couldn’t, frankly, care less what senior vice president Khosravi of CNN thinks of this story – though spare me one of her “conversations” – nor do I care what the Israeli foreign ministry thinks. Nor British ambassadors, for that matter. But I do believe that Fadlallah was a very serious and very important man whose constant sermons on the need for spiritual regeneration and kindness did more good than most in a country constantly flooded in a rhetoric bath. Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral in Beirut on Tuesday. I am not surprised.

I might have guessed it. CNN has fired one of its senior Middle East editors, Octavia Nasr, for publishing a twitter – or twatter in this case, I suppose – extolling Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon, calling him “one of Hizbollah’s giants whom I respect a lot”.Well, he wasn’t Hizbollah’s man, but no matter. He was definitely a giant. A man of immense learning and jurisprudence, a believer in women’s rights, a hater of “honour crimes”, a critic of the theocratic system of government in Iran, a … Well, I’d better be careful because I might get a phone call from Parisa Khosravi, who goes by the title of CNN’s “senior vice president” – what these boss types do or what they get paid for their gutless decisions I have no idea – who said this week that she had “had a conversation” with Nasr (who’d been with the company for 20 years) and “we have decided that she will be leaving the company”.

Oh deary, deary. Poor old CNN goes on getting more cowardly by the hour. That’s why no one cares about it any more. That can’t be said about Fadlallah. The Americans put it about that he had blessed the suicide bomber who struck the US marine base in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 service personnel. Fadlallah always denied this to me and I believe him. Suicide bombers, however insane we regard them, don’t need to be blessed; they think they are doing God’s duty without any help from a marja like Fadlallah. But anyway, Washington used Saudi money to arrange a car bombing to assassinate Fadlallah in 1985. It missed Fadlallah. But it killed more than 80 innocent people. I do wonder what Ms Khosravi would have thought of that. No comment, I guess.

And now it turns out that the British ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, has written on her personal blog that Fadlallah was a man she respected and most enjoyed meeting in Lebanon. What possesses these personalities to have blogapops all over the place I have no idea. But Ms Guy has incurred the anger of the Israeli foreign ministry, whose spokesman says it would be “interesting” to know what the British Foreign Office thinks of her remarks. Personally, I would be far more “interested” in what the Israeli foreign ministry knows of the British passports its government forged in order to murder a man in Dubai not many months ago.

But it just goes to show that Fadlallah – who was also a poet – can get people’s backs up, even in death. When my friend and colleague Terry Anderson was kidnapped in Beirut – at almost seven years underground, he qualified as the longest-held hostage – I went to see Fadlallah, whom Anderson had himself recently interviewed. “He was in my home and he was under my protection,” he said to me. “I regard him as my friend.” This remark might have been what kept Terry alive: by extraordinary chance, Terry was back in Beirut this week with a party of students, although I always wondered if his visit to the southern suburbs of the city was what got him nobbled.

In those days, we journos called Fadlallah Hizbollah’s “spiritual mentor”, though that wasn’t true. He did support the Lebanese resistance during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and he was a fierce opponent of US policy in the region – like almost everyone else in the world, including the US, it seems – and he demanded an end of Shia blood-shedding ceremonies at Ashura (when Shias mourn the killing of the Prophet’s grandson).

I went to see Fadlallah again with kidnapping much on my mind. I was heading off to Baghdad and sought his guidance on how to avoid being abducted. He listened kindly to me and announced that I should see a close Shia Muslim religious friend of his in the Iraqi capital. This I did. And was escorted to Najaf and Karbala by an associate of the friend who sat in his religious clothes in the front of the car, reading the Koran all the way. “I was very worried for you,” Fadlallah’s friend said when I returned. So now you tell me, I exclaimed.

But there was a further reason for Fadlallah’s help. For every hour I was in the Iraqi holy cities, I had to meet a Shia clergyman, each of them former students of Fadlallah. And each of them would hand me a vast pile of writings and documents – their accumulated sermons over the past 10 or 15 years. To each I promised to pass their papers to Fadlallah. And thus it was that, a month later, a suspicious-looking Fisk turned up in the southern suburbs of Beirut with two massive suitcases. Fadlallah greeted me with a huge smile. He knew what the bags contained. Fisk had been a courier for more jurisprudence than he could imagine. And Fadlallah knew what his colleagues in Najaf and Karbala were talking about.

I couldn’t, frankly, care less what senior vice president Khosravi of CNN thinks of this story – though spare me one of her “conversations” – nor do I care what the Israeli foreign ministry thinks. Nor British ambassadors, for that matter. But I do believe that Fadlallah was a very serious and very important man whose constant sermons on the need for spiritual regeneration and kindness did more good than most in a country constantly flooded in a rhetoric bath. Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral in Beirut on Tuesday. I am not surprised.

Middle East correspondent for The Independent, Robert Fisk has been based in Beirut for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East and Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War.

14
Jun
10

Stephen Kinzer on US Policy in the Middle East

This is taken from Democracy Now! Click here for the link and full transcripts of the video below.

Part 1: Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, looks at the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s role in the 1953 CIA coup against Iran’s popular progressive prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh:

Part 2: Award-winning journalist and bestselling author Stephen Kinzer is out with a new book–Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future–that looks back into history to make sense of some of these shifting alliances in the Middle East and to chart a new vision for US foreign policy in the region. Here’s Kinzer on the US’s changing role in the Middle East:

Part 3: Continued from above.