Monday, August 31, 2015
In his August 29th column, “The Road to statehood is blocked in all directions” which appeared in the Abu Dhabi paper the National, Dr. Ibish manages to ignore nearly all the paths that are and have been open to the Palestinian Authority for statehood. He starts with a screed against Danny Danon, claiming Danon’s appointment as Israel’s ambassador to the UN means the sky is falling on a two state solution. While Danon is no advocate for a two state solution, he's less against giving up land to an Arab State than Menachem Begin was. An article that starts with flogging Danon is not going dig up the PA intransigence for the last 10 plus years of Abbas fruit on the bottom rule. I find it hard to imagine that Danon would have a job in government if Abbas negotiated with the Israelis or was willing to make the compromises necessary for peace. Instead, Abbas has led the PA away from the Oslo accords to seek recognition unilaterally leaving Dr. Ibish to complain the Israelis are somehow not two state enough after all these years of zero progress.
Dr. Ibish writes, “Israel’s government has dropped all pretenses” but pretenses are all that’s left of the peace process barring the possibility of new Palestinian leadership. He then claims, “It is no longer to possible to argue honestly with Israel’s government is open to, let along supportive of, peace with the Palestinians.” I think it is possible to argue that Israel is no longer optimistic on a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but Abbas has kept the PA off a war footing and Israel has done the same. Peace is possible, “Palestine” could become an semi autonomous part of Israel, something I think will be very difficult considering the amount of corruption in the PA and its lack of democracy but such a peace is possible. It is also possible that the Palestinians and Israelis will both hold their noses and come to an agreement that creates a mostly Arab state within Judea and Samaria.
“Palestinian leaders themselves appear to be further burying, rather than rescuing, their own cause” is a solid point and Dr. Ibish goes on to list Abbas’ attempts to purge rivals, increase control over the PLO and angering European financial supporters. However, Dr. Ibish then creates a false dichotomy of a PA state increasingly finding international acceptance instead of doing the work on the ground to create a Palestinian state. I’ve always called Abbas, ‘yesterday’s man doing yesterday’s work’ but a lot of progress along with a lot of corruption has happened on his watch. The PA is much futher along on its project toward a state since the time of the Grand Mufti and then Arafat. Palestinians still need the man the world hoped Abbas was but not being up to all the tasks is not the same as making no progress. While Ibish is correct that Abbas is making himself available to the "highest international bidder," I believe pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia the problem is the highest bid remains a peace settlement with the Israelis and yet Israel is not allowed a bid.
“However, events on the ground, and the attitudes and conduct of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, point to a very different and extremely dangerous future. Viewed from that perspective, the cause of Palestine appears to be a rapidly vanishing aspiration,” Dr. Ibish is being understandably myopic here. The big picture is that regional acceptance of Israel is increasing which means region is likely to be more supportive of the compromises necessary to make peace, governments that are tired of the Israeli-Arab conflict are more likely to pressure Abbas to make and agree to some of those compromises and the silver lining to the tragic disruption in Syria is that Palestinians may one day eventually gain some rights and citizenship in the places they reside without prejudice to their claims against Israel. The most important item that Dr. Ibish ignores is that were an Abbas willing to negotiate with Israel and a peace deal was struck, no Israeli government could resist the popular desire for peace with Israelis nor the pressure of the international community because Israel is a democracy. If all his accusations against the Israelis were correct, Dr. Ibish would still be incorrect because he wants to blame the failure of the peace process on the Israelis even when he describes Abbas as “recently sprung into uncharacteristically vigorous action…hasn’t been behaving like a national leader,” he still claims “Israel has dismissed Palestinian statehood.” While Ibish makes a great case for dismissing Palestinian Statehood in his description of Abbas, Israel has not done so but Israel appears to share Dr. Ibish’s skepticism regarding Abbas and has leadership acting like “national leaders.” The PA has long since been saddled with a pair of ruby slippers but wizards like Dr. Ibish keep giving bad advice by on how to get home by casting Israel as a wicked witch when the PA has had the power all along to become a state. All that ails Palestine is ultimately internal.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
W. Robert Pearson, wrote in the August 26th article, “Erdogan and Turkey's Tipping Point” for Middle East Institute about Erdogan’s ambition displacing Turkey’s “dream” of a united society and cites the example of Ataturk’s revolt against the allied powers after World War I. Pearson moves quickly into a small list of things that went wrong for Erdogan such as the failure of Greek Cyprus to agree to a UN sponsored settlement and then described the Turkish inability to mediate between Syria and Israel which ended with the Gaza War in 2008 where Pearson wrote:
Then the deepest cut came with Israel. After he visited Israel in 2005 and led Israeli-Turkish relations to new heights despite personal misgivings, his efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria were scuppered by the Israeli Gaza operations in 2008, which convinced him that the Israelis were duplicitous.
Deepest cut? Et tu Israel? This biased description misses some key elements. Erdogan’s interest in interceding between Israel and Syria was to show Turkey as a diplomatic power at the expense of US prestige and Israeli security. Syria was sponsoring with Iran proxy operations against Israel in the form of rocket launches against civilians and Israel’s response was limited to Hamas. A justifiable attack on Syria during negotiations might have been bad form and Israel showed self-restraint. If fingers need to be pointed, why didn’t Erdogan blame the Syrians for the attacks or at least demand the Syrians sponsor a Hamas ceasefire? It the Turkish government that cancelled Israel’s participation in the Anatolian Eagle military exercises with the US and Turkey. If Erdogan wanted to be effective by being fair, why didn’t have complain about the actual problem of violence against Israeli civilians? There was no reason to break of the security relationship with Israel beyond Erdogan’s doctrine of support of Sunni terrorism and his animus against Israel. Pearson described Erdogan as having misgiving about Israel but Erdogan is a classic anti-Semite, during a protest in which Erdogan was being called a murderer and thief, he followed Taner Kuruca into a store and punched him but he also called a local of Soma “Israeli Sperm” although Jews and Israel had nothing to do with this protest. This led, opposition deputy chairman at the time, Haluk Koc to say, "Erdoğan's hate speech knows no limits and hehas gone so far as to resort to violence against a citizen." The previous, Islamist Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan also tried to derail what had been at that point a very strong and friendly alliance with Turkey but he failed where Erdogan succeeded because the Kemalist Military, the Mustafa Kemal Ataturk military doctrine for whom W. Robert Pearson believes Araturk used to unite Turkey kept that relationship very strong throughout Erbakan’s short term and beyond until military leaders were tried and convicted on false charges of planning a coup. There had been many coupes in the past, so there were many reasons to attack the military which opposed Erdogan’s Islamism but when the smoke cleared, Erdogan had a free hand to demolish the Israeli-Turkish relationship. Something both Islamist governments wanted.
Pearson claims Erdogan misunderstood Obama and somehow it was this misunderstanding that led Erdogan misuse Obama’s “offer of friendship”
Erdogan’s response was to use the partnership to aggrandize his influence domestically and to try to use the U.S. tie as a personal endorsement of himself as a regional and global leader. He was even sharply critical of the United States when it served his own domestic purposes.
This is an excuse, Erdogan doesn’t appear to care that much for democracy which has become very clear to almost everyone as he abuses the constitutional restrictions on his current ceremonial office of President and he took advantage of President Obama but he also took advantage Abdullah Gul and then sidelined him, he took advantage of Fethullah Gulen and now wants to arrest him, he took advantage of the Kurdish HDP party to grain a majority and when the party gained votes at his expense he ended peace talks to fight Kurds. Even now he is allowing Americans to use the Incilik air base so Turkey can have some cover in fighting the Kurds. The pattern here is of a politician who takes advantage of anything in his reach. He misunderstands little, our President misunderstood Erdogan.
The world expects scholars to be accurate with recent history but the inherent anti-Semitic narrative against Israel has infected this analysis, Israel did not harm the Turkish-Israeli relationship in 2009. Erdogan as is his habit took on a conflict he did not have the credibility or temperment to negotiate and he did so to prove Turkey is a regional power worth paying attention to but he also has a clear distaste for Israelis and Jews and that has affected his foreign policy. Even now the contradictions are very stark, he supports Hamas but keeps the Kurdish Arafat, Abdullah Ocalan, in jail and wants to sideline a Turkish-Kurdish leader who is demanding the PKK disarm. Treating similar things as though they were different is the definition of prejudice and W. Robert Pearson would understand President Erdogan a lot better if he could recognize such attitudes and learned to question popular narratives about Israeli-Turkish relations.
Pearson further demonstrates he doesn’t understand Erdogan with the following:
Erdogan has always had the ability to take the path that will realize the Turkish dream—a true democracy at peace and in harmony with itself, its national and religious past, and the world beyond its borders. Not too many years ago, he represented that hope. Whether he will step forward to provide that principled guidance depends on him— and the voters of Turkey—in a rapidly approaching moment of decision.
Erdogan has no interest in having an inclusive society where conservative Muslims enjoy only the same freedoms as their secular counterparts as he only cares about those secularists that might vote for him and he only said things like that to avoid a coup when the AK party first took power. Other AKP leaders may have that “dream” but not Erdogan. He is a classic machine politician right down to the bribes and public works and infrastructure projects. Pearson thinks public pressure will make Erdogan change his mind and embrace the “Turkish dream” but Erdogan never had that dream. Nonetheless, Pearson writes, “The next phase of that dream—a truly democratic Turkey—is waiting to be made reality.” That dream does exist, Pearson is right about that but really the more conservative of the conservative Muslims want secularists to be more like them and secular people really don’t trust religious conservatives whom they see as backward and waiting to create a tyranny. People do have friends and families across the divide who trust each other and the question is what political system will allow mutual political trust. So I agree with Pearson there is “a dream” in Turkey of greater unity but it is alongside a fear of socially pressured indoctrination and tyranny on both sides. Turkey does need a Muslim but pro secularist party that wants to protect religious rights rather than impose religion and stand for Muslim values, a real Muslim-Democratic party but Erdogan’s attempt at a cult of personality with the AKP party is not the way. What Turkey needs is for the AKP to split and give people a real choice between freedom for religion in the context of secularism in politics and an Islamism that shows little pretense for secularism. Perhaps Bulent Arinc or Abdullah Gul could create a credible alternative to the AKP. If this happens, Turkey will be far better represented with a healthy political spectrum but problems will remain. In a country that is 90% Muslim, secularism is necessarily anti-clerical and Turkey has not yet found a way to strike a balance between religion and secularism. Erodgan is not the man to figure this out, nor is the he the man to create a situation where other leaders can figure out how to maximize religious freedom for everyone.
There’s a problem with academia when it can only see what it believes, Pearson buys into the Israel at fault canard for Turkish Israeli relations and he can’t see that the current President of Turkey has more in common with Richard J. Daley and Nursultan Nazarbayev then Martin Luther King.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Erdogan is not failing to kill Kurds, the fighting is going just fine with enough dead bodies produced by both sides to make Erdogan and PKK delighted about their prospects and impress their diehards. Turkey’s national Kurdish HDP party remains demanding the PKK to disarm as was reported on July 15th in the Hurriyet Daily News and other papers. Mahmoud Abbas and Jerry Adams could take lessons Selahattin Demirtas but he is clearly expressing collective exhaustion by the fighting over the years and that kind of fatigue is what is required to make peace with terrorists. Success within the political spear is also necessary, the HDP had an unprecedented success in the last election, taking support away from Erdogan’s AKP which has ironically sparked this latest round of fighting. In a government that is only capable of the most Byzantine political alliances, a government which only makes cynical political moves, the sudden betrayal of the Kurds and ending the peace talks after the election didn’t produce votes for the AKP but the behavior stood out as pretty cynical even for them. Like the HDP to the PKK, the Turkish population doesn’t appear to be going along with this war. A Gezici poll in Turkey shows a slight drop in votes for AKP to 38% which is only 1% drop but shows that the AKP is not recovering votes lost in the last election.
Erdogan’s contract with the public has failed. Turks cannot ignore the all the building that happened during its administration or its political improvement as a player on the world stage but everything it was supposed to stand for has been rolled back. The AKP was supposed to secure civil rights for religiously conservative Turks without eroding anyone else’s rights but through government pressure and forcing laws through the legislature many secular freedoms have been rolled back, frequently minor ones such as limits on alcohol sales but were noticed by the secular majority. Also, having journalists outside of jail has become a luxury rather than a standard, the crack down on by the police on the Gezi protesters is still an open wound for many. Erdogan is urging people to vote of stability because the constitution requires he not directly endorse the AKP but a police state at war with a third of the population while bullying the majority is not the stability people are looking for and the economy is faltering.
Economically, Turkey has slid backward. While the AKP did not break the inflation spiral over a decade ago, it managed the economy well with relatively good monetary policies, very smooth transitioning of the Turkish Lira to denominations that made non-inflationary sense. The Turkish Lira was always the weakest of the BRICS currency in terms of debt and foreign currency reserves yet most of the building debt is financed in dollars and building has been the core constituency for Erdogan’s AK party. Drawing support from conservative Muslims in the black sea region of Turkey, economic opportunity and public works projects brought the AKP many voters who always felt on the outside looking in on the republic. With the Lira severely down against the dollar after a decade of Erdogan directly interfering with interest rates, the whole building sector is now operating at a loss. Meanwhile, every foreign policy initiative has failed, Turkey is not trusted by any Middle Eastern nation except Qatar, the US President with whom he was always able to get a photo opportunity now avoids direct contact -- even Erdogan has admitted the relationship has gone cold. AK means white as in pure but the AK Partisi as they like to be called is anything but pure, Erdogan has had to disrupt police and Judicial institutions to avoid investigation of his friends and family for corruption. The AKP has admitted the arrest and conviction of many military people for a fictional coup were based on falsified evidence but is now in waging lawfare against the Gulenist movement who were the co-conspirators against the Military and previously close allies of the AKP.
Renewing war with the Kurds is Erdogan’s attempt to “wag the dog” with Turkish voters but it is not working, AKP continues to slip in the poles which means the last election was not an abnormality and the snap elections engineered by Erdogan may only be detrimental for him. The President pushed hard for snap elections with the unprecedented move in denying the number two CHP a chance to form a government. Erdogan has exceeded his powers as president, the public seems very much aware the man they voted into a ceremonial office wants to the Government to be more like Putin’s Russia rather than a Western Democracy. Unfortunately for President Erdogan, Russia isn’t doing so well either.
“You stink” really should be refrain of the Lebanese public for the last several decades but all the garbage on the streets has at least prepared wealthy Lebanese to emigrate to the American East coast. This is country where the son of an assassinated leader works with the organization that killed his father in the same government. How could dysfunction rule! Whether failing to rid themselves of the PLO in the seventies and eighties, failing to fight Hezbollah and more recently the failure to disarm Syria and Iran's proxy or the failure to toss our sectarianism and create a boarder sense of identity in the nineties and into the millennium; the Lebanese have always had trouble ridding themselves of their garbage.
Tammam Salam’s government has been bedridden since the elections, the problems Lebanon faces are daunting. Former hegemon, Syria has broken down into civil war creating a refugee and demographic crisis for the always teetering on civil war public. Hezbollah has taken on yet another way since joining the government by taking the sides of Lebanon’s oppressor, Assad’s Syria and it is possible this will eventually put Lebanese regular forces in danger.
Hezbollah and Michael Aoun’s Christian “Free Patriotic Movement,” a capital on Lebanon’s fifth column, have walked out of a cabinet meeting because….they have not said yet but the absolute stink of their choices is unavoidable. In the meantime, the police are getting heavy handed with protesters.
Hezbollah has now sided with the protesters and are demanding the government resign, at a moment when Hezbollah is over stretched militarily and potentially very unpopular for supporting tyrant-in-chief Bashar Assad, Hezbollah sees the opportunity to pull the life support on an already weak government to strengthen its own hand. At a time when Iran may become a resurgent power, Lebanon may only be further ensnared by Iran proxy force. Something just doesn’t stink in Lebanon, something is rotten.
Monday, August 24, 2015
President Rivlin while hosting leader of Judean and Samarian communities claims Israel’s rights to its land, including Judea and Samaria, as a basic fact in spite of claims of “occupation” coming from Ramallah, Gaza City and many other places. What an egotistical, impetuous, bullheaded philistine this Israeli President is! Without any restraint he carried on, "We must not give anyone the sense that we are in any doubt about our right to our land.” Every time I hear or read the phrase “the occupied territories” I wonder if the person making the statement knows by whom they are occupied. The word “Palestine” is derived from is the Latin “Palestina” which was the Roman name for occupied Judea after the destruction of the Second Temple. This Latin word is based on Philistine but there were no Philistines at the time, so while those words are kissing cousins they mean different things. Parts of Judea and Samaria frequently referred to by its Jordanian occupational name “The West Bank” are occupied by somebody other than Jews but the word “Palestinian” came to refer to Jews living in Eretz Israel also known as “Palestine.” Eretz Israel, Palestine, was run like a colony by the Syrians within the Ottoman Empire. The more modern usage of the word comes from the Mandate of Palestine. Arabs of Palestine, considering themselves Syrians rejected the term until the early seventies but it’s important to understand this rejection when considering the actions and strategies of Haj Amin al-Husayni, Grand Anti-Semite, scion of a lineage of anti-Semites and oppressors, free Nazi war criminal, Mufti of Jerusalem and leader of Arab Higher [National] committee and his decision to reject his Palestinianess as being too Jewey led him to create a Nakba for himself and those who willing followed him into disaster.
When Britain ruled Mandate Palestine, it did not just rule the Jews aka “the Palestinians” although Palestine had been entrusted by Jews and world government to Britain to help form a viable Jewish State. They also ruled the Arabs as though they were Palestinians and sometimes Britain did so in preference of Arabs and to the detriment of the Jews living there. We could call the Arabs living in Eretz Israel during the mandate period “Palestinians” just as we must call the Jews living there Palestinians even though most Arabs of they would treated the designation as an anathema.
So who rules the Eretz Mandate Palestine today? Mandate Palestinians do, every inch is ruled by a Palestinian. These Palestinians rule from their seats of government in Amman, Ramallah, Gaza City and Jerusalem. King Abdullah might not be a mandate Palestinian as he is of foreign, Hashemite stock but his wife and children are as Palestinian as any Arab who bought into Yasser Arafat’s Egyptian sponsored sense of national identity: close enough where crowns are concerned.
It’s almost a shame the Palestinians changed the name of their country from Palestine to Israel because I would love to see the Mandate Palestinian Arabs that did not become Israelis still calling themselves Syrians and referring to Jerusalem as occupied Syria. Imagine the people who talk out of their rears -- BDS (Bowel Discourse Syndrome) having to mindlessly proclaim Arabs living autonomously in Judea and Samaria (and Gaza) as occupied Syrians. A barrel bomb of laughs! How long could Syrians then countenance living in Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps when the only thing separating these peoples historically is nothing? The world would have to consider the Palestinians are all over the lands of Mandate Palestine and their status as a local problem.
I’m not saying the Mandate Palestinians living in parts of Judea and Samaria can’t make a viable nation for themselves within those lands. Considering themselves adrift, finding Jewish Nationalism and Jewish rights to be a trigger for a xenophobic reaction like the Mufti and Israelis frequently only seeing Palestinians a hostile demographic bomb. Everyone needs to move on.
Those Palestinians who formed the Emirate of Trans-Jordan were able to carve out a state and Palestinian Jews were able to carve state out of what was left of Mandate Palestine so why can’t Mandate Palestinians and their government in Ramallah do the same? The Palestinians as they are known today have been rejected by Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, they reject Jews and Israel and now Israelis reject them and that is enough to go it alone, provided the Palestinians choose to make peace with their sovereign. President Rivlin understands a basic truth, Israel is the legitimate sovereign of its lands and therefore the way to peace starts with that understanding. The loudest supporters of “Palestine” fail at understanding the conflict itself much less its resolution. Without the assertion of Jewish rights as the point of negotiation the Palestinians and who ever aids them are only building sandcastles for themselves. Because supporters of Palestine ignore the historical, political and legal reality of the land and of the State of Israel, they box themselves of nonstarter rhetoric. Demands to stop building homes and demands to let Palestinians build a capital in the Israeli capital are typical. An autonomous Arab state within parts of Judea and Samaria would just be another in the group of Mandate Palestinians with states, it could live in peace and it could flourish with Ramallah as its capital. With such a state negotiated, perhaps Abbas can finally give up his occupation and return the PA to democratic government.
President Erdogan, Turkey’s first elected President chafes at being a symbolic representative of the state, non-partisan, ready to open a bridge or salute a parade and he’s done all he could to flout the constitution at his role by literally building a castle for himself with a cabinet room, making partisan speeches, denying the number two party the opportunity to form a government after his party failed to do so and once again demanding that the government update the constitution to justify the “de facto” power he has seized. He wants to alter the office of President from one that is symbolic to one that has far more power than presidents in democratic nations, centralized and undivided power similar to Putin’s Russia but with an Islamist bent. Opposition CHP leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is reported in Today’s Zaman as saying:
The major feature of a coup maker is that they stage a coup and then try to establish the legal basis for their coups. Now, Erdoğan says ‘I staged this coup. It is now time to construct its legal basis.' There is still a Constitution. There has been no change. Everyone has to obey the Constitution. However, the president says the Constitution has been changed virtually. The person saying this is the one who swore on his honor and his life that he would be loyal to the Constitution [in his presidential oath].”
For anyone uncertain of Erdogan’s push for dictatorial power it is good to remember his tattered alliances. When President Abdullah Gül wanted to be a moderating voice in the party he founded, he found he was sidelined and now allowed to stand in the last election in the party for Prime Minister. When the Gülen movement which had been in lockstep with the AK party during elections and in persecuting the Turkish Military for coup claims that proved to be false and complicit in getting opposition journalists jailed now finds itself the subject of a witch hunt with the government attempting to close Gülen’s schools, get Gülen extradited from the US and they have the editor in chief of Zaman. The last election was seen as a referendum on the Erdogan bid for a dictator like President, the Kurdish HDP party broke with Erdogan’s AK party at that election over the issue of a new presidential system and many voters defected to the HDP denying the AK party the power to rewrite the constitution without opposition cooperation. Erdogan’s response was to end the peace talks with the Kurds and begin attacking them in Syria in order to sideline the HDP party which is still calling for non-violence on both sides and for the PKK to disarm.
In Erdogan’s hometown of Rize, famous for its tea and oblivious support for the President, would be dictator made his announcement that the constitution must bend to his will or as Mustafa Akyol made light of the concept in Al Monitor:
In other words, the European-style parliamentary system enacted by the Turkish Constitution was no longer valid because Erdogan had “de facto power” that overrode the constitution. So a new constitution had to be crafted as soon as possible to reconcile the de facto reality with the nation’s charter. The president was not made for the constitution; rather the constitution must be made for the president.
The problem with Turkey is that despite a foolish renewed war with the Kurds when a Kurdish alliance would protect Turkey, a time when the Turkish economy is declining, a time when a figure head president is successfully preventing coalition government and making the Prime Minister a secondary figure, there is little that may prevent Erdogan’s power grab because Turks generally see their President either as a problem, a solution but never a danger and until the danger is recognized by the public, Turkish democracy will remain in danger.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Fareed Zacharia’s Washington Post article put the rise of ISIS and the Iran deal into the greater context of oil prices falling and a long term glut. Zarcharia argues that Saudi Arabia is the primary cause because it is willing to keep pumping oil in spite of declining profits to hard Shale, Tight Oil, Russia and especially Iran but the long term willingness of Saudi Arabia to continue is harder to read than stated by Fareed. There is a new King and more importantly a frequently less experienced court making economic and military decisions. However, North America’s available oil reserves are up, current production will not be affected by the price of oil. American Interest makes a similar statement suggesting both US producers and OPEC are “holding steady at remarkably high levels” of production. Bloomberg reported, “U.S. shale oil production will eventually respond to low prices, with access to finance dwindling as “capital markets are getting nervy,” Citigroup said”” meaning we may not have seen the bottom price of oil but the bottom is not likely the resting place for oil prices. The lesson North America should get out of this is that over production does protect the price of oil and that may be worth the high investment cost. No one should assume that Russia, Iran and Venezuela will not eventually rebound just on the price of oil alone, there certainly could. But there is a short term opportunity, meaning for four or five years domestically sponsored political change in these counties is possible as well serious instability. Wherever the chips fall by the end of that time will result either in world problems that need to be dealt with or a more stable international scene.
Friday, August 21, 2015
Deeply curious about Iran, I read the Forward’s “5 Most Common Misconceptions About Iran” with a lot of curiosity and envy in the best sense of envy. Coming from an era when we Americans originally couldn’t tell Iranian hostage takers from A-Rabs, an era where someone invented the “bomb ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” t-shirt, I want my misconceptions quickly removed like pulling off a bandage but after reading the article I wasn’t sure why Larry Cohler-Esses needed to go, though he will always have my goodwill for doing so. William Beeman’s discussion of the Iranains based on the trip left me bewildered by the idea we miss the obvious truths and are now overstating the positives about Iran. An example of this paradox is when William Beeman reports, “[a misconception]…where the population is dominated by glowering clerics restricting their behavior” but the fact is that the clerics through their police entities and draconian laws do restrict behavior but fail to completely eliminate behavior the government doesn’t like. Six young Iranian adults were sentenced to 91 lashes and jail for making a video out of just the behavior being reported on but set to Pharell Williams “Happy” and uploaded to YouTube. Fortunately, the sentences were suspended, probably due to the notoriety of the “crimes” and the impact they would have on more sanctions against the Iranian regime. Restrictions, well that video was primarily shot on roof tops so the young ‘evil doers’ could shoot outside without getting arrested during the shoot for parading fully dressed men and women dancing -- few are the restrictions on restrictions in Iran!
As a preteen in 1979 when Iran had a revolution and became anti-American and I saw the affect of the revolution had on my friend who could not return home until things had settled. Later he could not return home because at 13 he would be drafted into the Iran-Iraq war with the bonus that since he was American he would be placed directly on the front lines. I had great empathy for his family’s feeling of upheaval as my friend really wanted to see a country he could barely recall. I remember my friend’s very secular mother telling me she wasn’t’ sure she could go back if she had to dress and live conservatively. Later in life, during the second part of the Gulf War coming across an Iranian family in Istanbul, staying at the same hotel our daughters enjoyed swimming together. A father, a doctor, broke the ice by suggesting we agree we’re not our presidents and we got along very well. His wife was also in the water but in religious clothing and I guessed if they had traveled to a non-Muslim country she would have worn a western bathing suit instead of dressing halal. In-between those times, the wife and I found lifelong friends in a couple, an Iranian woman and her German husband, she was a communist while she lived in Iran and feared arrest for the books she read and was an atheist until she came to America where she learned religion did not equal oppression. Now she is theistic. They were in Iran when I was visiting Turkey and since I am addicted to Turkish pistachios we decided to have a pistachio off where we could bring back and compare the quality of the neighboring countries roasted nuts. Remembering fondly the imported version from Iran in the seventies and thinking Turkey could not stand a chance yet the secular republic won as the Turkish ones proved be more flavorful with a delicate and deeply satisfying texture. Over the years, I’ve had clients, teachers and friends of all stripes from Iran, sometimes Jewish, sometimes Baha’i, sometimes Muslim and frequently anti-religious, from all economic levels and educational backgrounds. I have an affinity for Iran despite never being there and recognizing in high school the rise of Hezbollah by Iran as perhaps the disturbing grain of sand forming of a new evil pearl. A new evil that could simultaneously build hospitals to entrap people and then send them off as suicide bombers put my cold war fears on the back burner. The Soviets were done for; this was the problem the US would have to endure going forward. My friends could visit Iran by this time but it seemed to me it would have to be like visiting an ill family member in hospice. Knowing mostly expats never tells the whole story so a Forward Journalist going Iran was just the adventure I wanted to read about. The article like its name broke itself in to 5 sections.
“…modern Iran with a large, well-educated youthful population sitting “on the precipice of a huge change.” The millions-strong young Iranian population is fashionable, modern, restive, openly critical of their own government…”while important to know and not surprising to anyone familiar with Iran needs to be balanced by two factors. One is there is still a large peasant and rural community, many of whom see Tehran as the way, an old man can still buy a village bride in Iran and the other thing to remember is that large parts of the more religious community are also fed up with Tehran. The youth are not monolithic closeted secularists any more than they are next generation of religious backwardness and the youth described here seem middle class and frankly middle class children may have little voice in the future of Iran even if generational change is on the way and perhaps revolution. That doesn’t mean the next generation will fail to improve Iran but the generalizations on the youth seem too optimistic.
The idea that minorities are treated well is simply not true and separating the Baha’i from this description is wrong headed, the Baha’i are the canary in the coal mine. There have been witch hunts against Jewry in Iran and again the article is dismissive of the Ahmadinejad era even though he is looking to run for president again but more importantly the Ayatollah may be ready for a conservative to replace Rouhani once the Iran deal is signed. Anecdotally, Christians seem well treated in context but both Jews and Christians are minimally alien guests as far as the theocratic government is concerned but that does not necessarily reflect the feelings of their Muslim citizens.
Yes average Iranians have no interest in attacking Israel, while there must be excitable youth who believe Iran can do no wrong and want to at least see Hezbollah fight Israel most people are far more concerned with what the government does domestically and intuitively know Israel has no interest in Iran which Iran doesn’t create. Iran isn't inoculated from decades of governmental antisemitism but the hatred is not relevant to the Iranian public and many people never indulge. The easiest way to protest the government is still to have people project the crimes of the government onto Israel and the Palestinians and that does affect attitudes towards Israel and Jews as we have seen all over the Middle East.
This was a genuine surprise that Iran would accept a US passport for travel and it seems both unlikely and unsafe for now. Larry Cohler-Esses had a nice trip at a moment when Iran wants to put its best face forward but people need to be cautious when visiting a country that directly supports terrorism and which we have no embassy with much less Iran whose government bases much of their national identity on hating Israelis and Americans.
If the Iranian people not being an anti-Semitic, religiously backward borg is surprising to anyone then this article did its job but the question facing the US and the West is really how do our actions empower people to have a better government in Iran? Will letting sanctions run their course allow Iran to have the revolution that was quashed by the Ahmadinejad rigged second term or do we really think the government can reform itself once it is invested in the world community through trade and diplomacy? A wrong answer either way imposes unnecessary hardship for many, many people including Americans who may have to fight a predatory Iran. The problem here is while article serves a purpose, a purpose I hope any reader of the Forward learned the lessons offered long ago, the awkward and false caricature the article seeks to dispel is replaced by one that is different and not more accurate.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
Left, John Kerry smiling because he's got the Iranians in a corner.
Right, Mohammad Javad Zarif smiling because Iran will investigate itself.
Distressing is the idea that Iran will be expected to investigate itself on behalf of the UN the terror state’s forays into nuclear weapons building. Anyone who has read Oedipus Rex knows just how traumatizing it is for autocrats to investigate themselves, when John Kerry negotiated this agreement, he clearly did not have Iranian best interests in mind. The world was saddened to learn that Iran would have to carry this burden as reported by AP:
“VIENNA (AP) -- Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate a site it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms, operating under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.”
Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying in the Dubious Times, “If I had to police myself, I would fail and I have a police state. You have to outsource this stuff” John Boehner was also quoted by AP as saying:
"President Obama boasts his deal includes `unprecedented verification.' He claims it's not built on trust. But the administration's briefings on these side deals have been totally insufficient - and it still isn't clear whether anyone at the White House has seen the final documents.”
Boehner just scored an own goal against his fellow Republicans with that verification rap because he’s missing a big opportunity to shrink government. What a RINO! Asking government to verify agreements with untrustworthy adversaries that like to kill civilians, what a party pooper. Why doesn’t Boehner just reach into my pocket and throw my money away instead. Imagine being able to at last do your own IRS audits, being able to interrogate yourself in court because anyone who hires himself as a lawyer may have a fool for a client but anyone who can get himself as his own prosecutor has only a fool for an opposing lawyer. Imagine the money the FDA will save when meat can inspect itself before its slaughtered. So Iran gets stuck with chore policing itself but they were doing that prior to the nuclear negotiations so why on Earth get in the way of success? It’s not like there’s going to be explosion. Since Iran is saving the world all this work, we can cut the government to a quarter of its current size and I suggest we start with removing the State Department. Look at the treaties they negotiate! Iran could have negotiated this by itself so I say let’s save some money and get rid of the State Department.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Hamasty provided by preoccupiedterritory.com
Anonymous blogger, Elder of Ziyon, the internet’s Mike Royko has been uncovering and reporting a pattern of bias and seemingly intentional misinformation by Amnesty International. Some of the reporting has been factual correction caused by Amnesty for being at minimum far too credulous with reportage from Gaza such as this article from July 10th, “@Amnesty says this house had no terrorists. Wrong again.” Amnesty accepts Tawfiq Abu Jame’s claim their house was no involved in the fighting but was bombed anyhow but B’Tselem, an NGO and frequent critic of Israel reported that Ahmad Sahoud was living there and listed as a Hamas Operative. The original post appears to no longer be on the B’Tselem website but the family is listed here: http://www.btselem.org/press_releases/20140721_killing_of_abu_jame_family and an archive of the site shows the listing of the Abu Jame’ family as reported by Eder of Ziyon here: https://web.archive.org/web/20150203050006/http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/201407_families. To my untrained eye, the dropping off of the Abu Jame family by B’Tselem looks like collusion with Amnesty International to remove an embarrassing fact from the B’Tselem website.
In a July 31st Article, “Amnesty ignores Amnesty's own research in anti-Israel tweets” noted that while Amnesty accused Israel of attacking a house without warning, neighbors reported to Amnesty that Hamas was using the empty apartment “for some time prior to the attack” and then the Elder of Ziyon further noted,
As we have shown, under international law, an attack on a communications hub in Serbia that was only knocked out for a single day was not considered a violation of the laws of armed conflict even though the number of fatalities were higher than this instance. Amnesty's claim of "clearly disproportionate" is flatly wrong. The entire reason Israel did not give warning in this case - as opposed to hundreds of other cases - was obviously because this was a high-value military target.
And finally Elder concludes,
There was a violation of international law here, though. Hamas was using the Bayoumi family and others as human shields. Amnesty gathered the evidence proving that Hamas chose a residential building to build a command center and station at least four militants there. Yet instead of blaming Hamas for putting the families at risk- precisely because international law does not tie the hands of an army when the value of a valid military target is high - Amnesty makes up its own international law and accuses Israel of violating it.”
In the August 29th “Proven liars at Amnesty say my research is not credible without pointing out a single error” Elder of Ziyon shares a response from Amnesty International provided by one of his readers:
Amnesty's findings are in accordance with those of other human rights organisations, including B'Tselem, and I'm not sure why you would quote B'Tselem as if their findings were different from ours. B'Tselem's findings on Israeli violations are very much in line with our own, eg see here: http://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/gaza_201407_operation
We would not deem elderofziyon a credible source.
It’s easy to dismiss an anonymous, pro-Israel blogger with an edgy name, especially when Amnesty International so easily dismisses facts but citing a report in their response which has been conveniently altered is interesting when the altered part just so happens to be a part the Elder of Ziyon quoted.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post in the Middle East by Midwest blog.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post in the Middle East by Midwest blog.
Hamas run Gaza is doing really well these days, finding themselves alienated from Iran, borders infiltrated by ISIS and looking to Saudi Arabia for money and political support because election season has been prolonged in Turkey. The results of Gaza breaking itself off from the PA, Gaza being the East Pakistan of the fictional PA state, should have been good for everyone more than bad.
Israel got to treat its enemy like a separate state rather than an internal territory except Israel had Ehud Olmert as PM at the time and he could not spend the political capital appearing to undo Arial Sharon’s policies. Gaza had the opportunity to not care about Israel any longer, they could just say “Death to the Zionist Entity, We Gazans will only deal only with the Egyptians -- Israel and Palestine are those terrible places where bad things happen and we’d rather not be involved. Death to the Zionist Entity, everyone chant with us, Death to the Zionist Entity.” Israel had a chance to seal up its border with Gaza, cut off all roads and utilities and let tourism to Gaza go through Cyprus to Egypt. A Muslim Brotherhood government took over Egypt for a while which for Hamas was the girl who got a way and all could have been fine.
The real loser has and always has been Mahmoud Abbas, as the formerly elected President now President of the Palestinian Authority he had an opportunity to strike a real peace deal with Israel. He was free to have land swaps, define the right of return as the return to Palestine rather than Israel and make Ramallah the capital because he could argue “We Palestinians need a state now but we can’t argue we are Palestine without Gaza, so let’s get a state and worry about the rest later.” All he would need beyond this is some fudge language that If Gaza and Palestine reunited for fifty years then Israel would have to negotiate on the topic moving the Palestinian capital at the request of a reunited Palestine at which point, Israel would have to provide some amount of shutup money. I’m against a truce, there is a truce now and it is worthless. A formal truce needs to be either a peace treaty in disguise or the basis of a permanent peace. If Hamas can’t see the justice of Israel having access to her lands and her historic capital then let Hamas state they just want out of the war on Israel because they’d rather be a state than a war zone and because they no longer wish to have political union with Palestinian government in Judea and Samaria and all outstanding issues not affecting Gaza are now the problem of the PA. Anything less is not worth the bother.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Iraq, Syria and Iran
Thomas L. Friedman in “If I Were an Israeli Looking at the Iran Deal” states in dealing with war, Israel’s stance is “No enemy will ever out-crazy us into leaving this region.” However well-intentioned the sentiment, it’s wrongheaded. Retaliatory attacks against terrorists who have embedded themselves into civilian areas because they rule those civilians is not crazy. Attacking embedded terrorists may not be pretty but it’s not crazy. In fact, Israel was criticized by no less than the US for going to too much trouble to warn civilians under the care of the enemy of impeding Israeli attacks -- even as rockets rained down on Israeli civilians. If psychotic is crazy than the Ayatollahs who forge and support policies targeting innocent civilians are pretty crazy but Thomas Friedman wrote:
And Iran’s ayatollahs have long demonstrated they are not suicidal. [Meaning rational and not crazy. –MD] As the Israeli strategists Shai Feldman and Ariel Levite wrote recently in National Interest: “It is noteworthy that during its thirty-six-year history the Islamic Republic [of Iran] never gambled its survival as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein did three times”
The National Interest piece had some problems too but this idea that we can deduce something positive by Iran not going into direct war with a stronger enemy is not one, we might as well decide someone is not an alcoholic because they call a cab rather than drive off fish tailing and intoxicated. What Iran does do is tear a few pages from the Stalinist-Leninist playbook and support “revolution” in states it can destabilize and then use them as proxies for further violence and having at least some control in the local government as a fifth column -- this has been successful in Syria, Gaza, Iraq and Yemen. If one can deduce anything by its absence then let’s deduce since Iran has no one and no force it needs to deter with nuclear missiles the purpose of nuclear missiles is aggressive. I know of no US soldier having a case of survivor’s guilt because Israel took out the Iraqi ability to develop nukes by bombing the Osirak nuclear power plant in 1981, Israel wanted to survive and lucky us. So, if I am going to trust survival instincts, I will trust Israel’s over Iran and frankly the US should pay real attention Israel’s instincts. How much less would Syrians hate WMDs if the one’s being dropped on Syrian Civilians by Assad forces were tactical nukes rather than chemical weapons? One could argue they’d have no feeling on the matter. Israel destroyed that capacity with an operation 2007. A lot more people have directly benefitted from Israel’s survival instincts than Iran’s. Frankly, being more rational than Saddam Hussein is really lowest bar possible for rationality, he will go down in history as the symbol of an out of touch tyrant.
Friedman also shoehorns the PA into the issue:
If I were Israel’s prime minister, I’d start by admitting that my country faces two existential threats: One, external, is an Iranian bomb and the other, internal, is the failure to separate from the West Bank Palestinians into two states, leaving only a one-state solution where Israel would end up governing so many Palestinians it could no longer be a Jewish democracy.
I understand Friedman is for the formation of a Palestinian state within (at least) the West Bank but asking the Prime Minister to admit failure is silly and biased. The failure of the Palestinians to have a state within the West Bank was their allergy to the Jewish right to a state, their allergy in talking to Netanyahu, their allergy in recognizing the Israeli capital while surfing on the European and US diplomatic aversion to Netanyahu. The Palestinians under their present leadership are incapable of compromise much less making peace and the world community rather than pressuring the Palestinians to negotiate has given the Palestinians unilateral leverage at the UN that must find the time to fail before new negotiations are possible. We could replace Netanyahu with Shimon Peres and there would be no difference in the results. Friedman is absurd to link these two issues but he’s not alone in using the Palestinian-Arab – Israeli conflict as a mantra at Israel’s expense but he’s supposed to be a leading thinker at the New York Times. He is reaching into his quiver than making a point that addresses the Iranian nuclear issue. The unfortunate message I get from is Thomas Friedman might come to some other conclusion on the Iranian bomb if Israel had capitulated to the Palestinians, why else mention the Palestinians, particularly the PA which has not had Iranian support?
More importantly, Thomas Friedman in is haste to check off his pro-PA state shopping list has overlooked some important tyrannies directly relevant to Tehran. First and foremost is that most Shia outside of Iraq live under some form of religious tyranny and are also frequently becoming the targets of ISIS. Want to pressure allies into finding a way to deflate Iranian expansionism by dealing with a real problem then find a way to guarantee Shia rights without starting civil wars. The second issue is the Kurds, if we really want to help isolate both Iran and do great harm to ISIS, a healthy Kurdistan could help. In contrast to the PA, the Kurds are pragmatic and flexible in their approach to statehood, it reminds me of the Israelis or whatever the Israelis were calling themselves prior to 1948.
At least Friedman isn’t accusing the Jewish Lobby of having control of the US foreign Policy:
And I’d recognize that if my lobbyists in Washington actually succeeded in getting Congress to scrap this deal, the result wouldn’t be a better deal. It would be no deal, so Iran would remain three months from a bomb — and with no intrusive inspectors, with collapsing sanctions and Israel, not Iran, diplomatically isolated.
I stand corrected, he’s not saying the “Jewish Lobby” with absolute power but one that lacks absolute control US foreign policy, just pretty darn close to having that power. Inspectors in Iran are a genuine advantage but the collapsing sanctions was caused by the US pushing this deal and Israel was already diplomatically isolated without any Iran deal.
So what’s left of deterrent is inspectors that can be kicked out anytime Iran improves its long range capacity and sanctions are not coming back even if they come back on paper. Everyone calls this an agreement but nothing has been agreed to, Iran believes it should be causing war and killing civilians, Iran should have nukes and the rest of the world gets in the way. The US has decided to trade sanctions for Iran not going nuclear right now. This deal will not undo anything done by EU against Israel diplomatically or in trade over the last couple of years, this deal will not roll back UN recognition of the PA as a state nor will it revert the US back to the Bush understandings of a final status agreement regarding settlements, this deal will not in anyway relieve Israel’s isolation or help it with any problem. Nor will the deal keep Iran diplomatically isolated, expect ghormeh sabzi to be served from Tashkent to Ankara with a chicken or vegetarian version in New Delhi. In fact, unless Thomas Friedman knows something the rest of the world doesn’t, the US doesn’t have any idea of how to deal with a sanctions free Iran other than hoping trade will be the ties to bind and civilize Iran. History has proven when a country is ruled by a Supreme Leader threatening war, giving them what they want with easily broken agreements is how to defang them. Without real answers and real strategy, Congress would be right and obligated to vote against this agreement. Whatever credibility we lose with the Ayatollah or the other Supreme leader we will gain back from our Middle Eastern Allies who are losing faith in us.
Then Thomas Friedman makes a sober statement:
So rather than fighting with President Obama, as prime minister I’d be telling him Israel will support this deal but it wants the U.S. to increase what really matters — its deterrence capability — by having Congress authorize this and any future president to use any means necessary to destroy any Iranian attempt to build a bomb. I don’t trust U.N. inspectors; I trust deterrence.
Israel does need the capacity to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program but the US can’t rely on that because Israel is too small to train for it and it can’t necessarily fly through Turkey or Saudi Arabia even though the Saudis look like they would allow, the Saudi disposition could change quickly. The question for Israel is if Iran gets a nuclear missile (not just a bomb) then Israel will have to nuke Iran, that’s how nuclear war works. For the US to be credible for any of our allies in the Middle East the administration must develop a containment strategy that pushes Iran and its proxies out of the Middle East and forces Iran’s clerics to justify their rule with domestic tranquility rather expansion as a power into the region. The administration needs to drop the canard of snap back sanctions and plainly state the US will militarily target nuclear installations and Iran’s capacity to manufacture missiles if it breaks the agreement. The result of Iran reneging on the agreement is that the US and its allies will be worse off than prior to the agreement, therefore the US must balance that reality by guaranteeing Iran too will be worse off. If can’t have a shared principle with Iran then let’s get them to agree on what consequences of breaking the “agreement” will be.
Thomas Friedman ties up the agreement with an administration style canard:
Unfortunately, Israel has a prime minister whose strategy is to reject the Iran deal without any credible Plan B and to downplay the internal threat without any credible Plan A.
The sanction against Iran is Plan B, Plan A was to have a series of small wars against Iranian forces in the Middle East while either bringing about the collapse of the government or direct allied invasion, something no one had the stomach for even prior to the gulf wars. Now the alternative plan should be to contain Iran with force while pushing into Iran the region peacefully with trade and the administration needs to show us why that will be successful.
The AK Party aka President Erdoğan didn’t want to make a coalition government, deciding the appearance of cooperation with the US on ISIS rather than the appearance of cooperation with ISIS on Syria plus bombing the PKK to isolate the Kurdish HDP party which had cost the ruling AKP party the last elections would allow AKP to win an outright majority snap elections. A good calculation. President Erdoğan has managed to bring the skill of being the worst ex-boyfriend ever to Turkish politics. Here’s a small list of his exes, Syria’s Assad once enjoyed a bromance with Erdoğan-- now Erdoğan wants to topple him. Fethullah Gülen and his movement were once a close coalition partner who helped engineer witch trials against the Turkish Military now are called the “deep state” by Erdoğan and his cronies and are frequently arrested. Turkish Kurds once had the opportunity for civil rights and peace talks but since they have stopped supporting the AKP and its desire for a president with near absolute power they are now a target both literally and figuratively. The most prominent member of Erdoğan’s ex-political spouse club is Abdullah Gül. Once the Medvedev to Erdoğan’s Putin, a founder of the AK party, forced to become president when being president meant nothing, not allowed to become Prime Minister when Erdoğan wanted to recast the role of President into one man rule. Gül is a man who in the midst of doing almost nothing is often seen as not corrupt. As a Chicagoan I know there are two kinds of “not corrupt,” one is the kind that you can’t conspire in front of someone without risking trial and the other is the kind that passes the cash stuffed envelopes around without pocketing any. The latter tend to become leaders since they look clean and have the loyalty of the easily bribed. Gül is likely the latter. Due to his lack of desire to have a king, his lack of desire for money, his lack of desire to push Turkey over the brink from democracy and secularism to strong man rule -- Abdullah Gül should found a new Islamist Party and split the AKP!
A potential savior of Islamism, Secularism and Democracy? By Splitting the AKP, Turkey is guaranteed a coalition government. A coalition is what is needed to resolve Ankara’s internal and foreign policy problems as well as to fight terror inside and outside its borders. The corruption of the Erdoğan regime, putting a toady in the Prime Minister’s office, weakening the Judiciary first to denude the military and then to undermine a Muslim movement has tarnished Islamism. Islamism is now another excuse to give power to someone who doesn’t deserve it. While I am happy to see Islamism discredit itself there remains a lot of Turks who see Islamism as the guarantor of their religious rights and economic aspirations. There is room in Turkey for a religious party that wants to put its shoulder to a secularist nation’s wheel and that party will appeal to a lot of Turks. In a coalition a Gül party would be either an important or leading voice. Political hacks and the ideological intolerant can stay in the AK party on the fringes alongside the right wing MHP party. A coalition of CHP, Gül, and the HDP will move Turkey forward, perhaps with Gül leveraging an AKP swing vote once in a while.
I’ve always saw Turkey as a pre-civil war society before and after the election of Erdoğan. Fault lines between secularism and religiousness run deep and Erdoğan struck me as “I’m an Arab too” kind of Islamist, he wasn’t bringing the live and let live kind of Turkish Islam Turkic peoples are known for and instead he wanted to out hate terrorists, out strong man dictators and simply spend Turkey’s cohesiveness as a society on imitating the Muslim Brotherhood rather than be a source of real unity. AKP is a party of zero faith, genuine religious movements have to be pro secular because people of faith will not corrupt themselves with people who are insincerely religious, religious movements do not want to be corrupted by the state. Abdullah Gül might be right man at the right time to lead Turkey into a positive future, now is the moment for the former President to take action and renew Turkey.
Monday, August 10, 2015
The Lion in summer, ready to party!
Saudi Arabia and King Salman have moved from being a closed society to one that can seek alliances not just with the US but talk to Israel, Russia and Turkey. An acquaintance of mine described a similar transition, a perpetual expat and long term suffer of wanderlust, perhaps most delightful of diseases explained to me his ailment began during his US military service when he was stationed in Japan. Then as now, US military tended to be cloistered around the base and nearby places that served expats but soldiers didn’t necessarily explore the country they are stationed in. So a disgruntled local told him, “I hope you take the time to see Japan while you live here” and my acquaintance realized he was missing out on a big opportunity and now past retirement age he’s hardly been in the US ever since. Recreating home abroad is really a kind of sickness that a simple conversation cured him of because people need to get out and explore new things, not be hunkered down and nervous. King Salman would know what it is like to see foreigners not see your country -- living in a tourist trap disguised as a nation. Very few tourists probably see the real Saudi Arabia. So the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques decided to get reinvigorated with some world travel vacationing, see a real place like Golfe-Juan Vallauris by renting a villa and pounding sand in the south of France. A great idea for a crown in midst of wowing the world with a strong foreign policy.
Upon arrival, his party installed a temporary Salman elevator to the beach, which was approved by France but a strong tide of upset locals were against it. The King is an old guy with money and French locals were being silly. Then the Salman party closed the beach for security reasons and to keep women out. The point of an old man learning to pronounce “Golfe-Juan Vallauris” is to pretend not to notice the racks of fresh spring lamb browning on the beach and maybe catch a cool breeze and some sunshine. The French being the San Franciscans of Europe started a protest over the beach closure and why not as the local French might have been in the habit of going there. Why King Salman even bothered to come is questionable, if he just wanted to hear people with Arabic accents on the sand near some water, Saudi Arabia is the place to go. Perhaps the King just wanted to hear a tiny tinge of a French accent pronouncing Arabic and have a croissant once in a while but the French people and the French culture were just a buzz kill for the King, a ruination of what could have been a great vacation. So he had his bags packed early and went to Morocco. Tres Fanstastique! Now the beach of Golfe-Juan Vallauris, except for the soon to be removed temporary elevator, is like the King was never there and the King is like he was never there too.