January 16, 2012 § 3 Comments
When is a terrorist not a terrorist? When, apparently, he is ‘our’ terrorist.
Last week Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a professor at Tehran’s technical university, and deputy director of commerce at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was blown up by a bomb attached to his car. He was the fourth Iranian nuclear scientist to be killed in the past two years, part of what appears to be a concerted assassination campaign against people deemed key to Teheran’s nuclear ambitions.
It is still unclear who carried out the attacks. Israel is high on the list of most informed observers. A number of well-connected journalists, including Ron Ben-Yishai and Richard Silverstein, claim that their sources in the Israeli military confirm it as a Mossad operation, though none has so far provided any proof. Silverstein and others, including Juan Cole, speculate that it may have been a joint operation between Mossad and MEK, or Mujahedin-e Khalq, a Marxist Islamist group that has been fighting the Teheran regime and which in the past has claimed to have provided Washington with information about Iran’s nuclear programme. Last week the journal Foreign Policy carried a report about Mossad operatives posing as CIA agents to recruit fighters from the Pakistani jihadi group Jundallah for terrorist operations in Iran. Twenty-four hours before the assassination, Israel’s military chief of staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz told a parliamentary meeting that Iran should expect ‘continuing and growing pressure from the international community and things which take place in an unnatural manner.’
The identity of perpetrators may still be uncertain. What is without doubt, however, is the international response to the assassinations – or, rather, the lack of it. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 2, 2011 § 2 Comments
For much of this morning, as the media pored over the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, BBC newscasters seemed intent on asking one question to any US official they happened to be interviewing. ‘Are you not disturbed’, they wanted to know, ‘by the jubilation shown by the American public at bin Laden’s death?’ How else, one might wonder, did they expect Americans to respond to the death of the man who engineered the wanton slaughter of 9/11, and whom they had been pursuing for almost a decade?
But while American jubilation is understandable, it is also, in a sense, misplaced. As a symbolic act, bin Laden’s death is highly significant. But in terms of changing the reality on the ground, it is relatively meaningless. Far from being the grand orchestrator of a worldwide jihad, as he has come to be perceived, bin Laden has for most of the past decade been a marginal figure. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 21, 2011 § 9 Comments
The brutal, blood-soaked response of Arab rulers, especially those in Bahrain and Libya, to the revolts engulfing their nations exposes the desperation of old tyrants clinging to the past. But the revolts themselves reveal the extent to which the Arab political landscape has irrevocably changed.
The ‘strong man’ model of rule that has held sway over much of the Arab world for the past half century has rested primarily on two props: the ability to constrain opposition at home, and willingness of a Great Power, America in particular, to shore up dictatorship. Both the internal and external props of autocracy have become fatally weakened. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 7, 2011 § 4 Comments
How can Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak be eased out of office without causing too much turmoil, or without providing a political opportunity for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood? That’s the question with which many Western leaders are now grappling. The growing consensus seems to be that what Egypt needs is, in the words of Hillary Clinton, an ‘ordered transition’ to a post-Mubarak Egypt and that vice-president Omar Suleiman is the man to manage this.
The idea of an ‘ordered transition’ that could depose Mubarak without unnecessary violence and turmoil would seem to be something to be unreservedly welcomed. Yet we should be skeptical about the proposals being drawn up in Washington, London and Brussels - not least because they are being drawn up in Washington, London and Brussels and not in Cairo.
The question that the idea of ‘ordered transition’ raises is this: for whose benefit is the revolt now taking on the streets of Cairo? For the benefit of Western nations? Or for that of the people of Egypt? « Read the rest of this entry »
February 5, 2011 § 11 Comments
MICHAEL PORTILLO: ‘I want to put a moral issue to you. If you feel what might come instead of Mubarak might be worse, for them, for Israel, for us, would it be the right thing to crush [the democracy movement in Egypt]?’
DAVID CESARANI: ‘That is certainly a moral dilemma… If you were to take the wholly pragmatic view, the expedient view of those sitting in the White House and possibly here in Whitehall, stability, the outcome of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown is desirable and is predictable. If you allow this popular, democratic movement to run unchecked you cannot predict what’s going to happen. But you can predict probably that after a short, sharp massive clampdown, at huge human cost, there will be a sullen stability.’ « Read the rest of this entry »
February 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
The dream of a democratic Egypt is sure to produce a nightmare… Majority rule is a worthwhile idea. But so, too, are respect for minorities, freedom of religion, the equality of women and adherence to treaties, such as the one with Israel, the only democracy in the region… Those Americans and others who cheer the mobs in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, who clamor for more robust anti-Mubarak statements from the Obama administration, would be wise to let Washington proceed slowly… America needs to be on the right side of human rights. But it also needs to be on the right side of history. This time, the two may not be the same.
What Cohen fails to mention is that one of the reasons there has been such disregard for democracy and minority rights is that the USA has for decades propped up regimes that have denied democracy and ignored rights (often at the behest of Washington). And Cohen’s solution to such tyranny? To continue to disregard democracy and rights, and to prop up authoritarian regimes, because he thinks it is still in America’s interests to do so. « Read the rest of this entry »
HOW IRONIC IF FEAR OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD SHOULD LEAD TO POLICIES THAT ENHANCE ITS CLAIM TO POWER
January 31, 2011 § 5 Comments
The spread of the contagion of protest across North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt and beyond, has not just been exhilarating. It has also given the lie to one of the great myths about the Muslim world – the belief that people in Muslim countries have a different mindset to those in the West, that democracy and secularism are ‘Western’ concepts alien to the political culture of Egypt or Jordan or Yemen. What the demonstrators in Cairo and Tunis have been demanding is not an Islamic state, but a more open, democratic society, with freedom of expression and the protection of individual liberties.
For many, however, the worry remains that the fall of Hosni Mubarak may lead not to a secular, democratic Egypt but to one in thrall to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood; the fear, in other words, that Egypt in 2011 could go the way of Iran in 1979. The outcome of change – especially change as dramatic and anarchic as in Egypt – can never be certain. It could be that the Muslim Brotherhood grasps the reins of power in a post-Mubarak Egypt. But if it does so, it is as likely to have been because of the bad faith of secular politicians as of popular support for Islamism. « Read the rest of this entry »