Archive for the ‘Revolution’ Category


Special Report: Hamas In Transition | STRATFOR

After more than five years of existing in political stalemate, Hamas is now trying to manage a worsening relationship with Iran and Syria and exploit the political rise of its Islamist parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Without a clear vision on how to proceed, Hamas is likely to undergo serious internal strains that could raise the potential for a splintering of the heretofore most tightly run organization of the Palestinian territories.
Six years ago, Hamas unexpectedly swept parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories and won the right to form a government. But the idea of a self-professed Islamist militant organization running the Palestinian government did not sit well with Israel and much of the West or with Hamas’ rival, Fatah. Sanctions on Hamas immediately intensified, and a civil war broke out between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas was driven into political isolation after it forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in mid-2007.
Hamas then entered a long period of political stagnation. As a heavily sanctioned political pariah, the group’s financial stresses rose. This provided Iran an opportunity to deepen its financial links with the Hamas regime. Though weapons and supplies still flowed to Gaza, the Egyptian regime of then-President Hosni Mubarak maintained a tight security grip over the Sinai-Gaza border to keep Hamas under control. When Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Hamas was able to both resist and garner international sympathy, but the two-month operation still dealt a blow to Hamas militarily and did little to ease the group’s political constraints. Apart from a rampant smuggling trade via Gaza tunnels, Hamas had little space to exercise its political authority.
But regional events in 2011 brought about large changes in the challenges and opportunities faced by Hamas. Political demonstrations in Egypt led to the fall of Mubarak. After decades of being repressed by the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian MB entered the political mainstream. Though the military, which remains Egypt’s ultimate authority, wants to keep Hamas confined in Gaza, the MB’s rise has raised international acceptance of Islamists as political players. When Arab unrest reached Syria, Hamas’ refusal to publicly support the regime of President Bashar al Assad cost its exiled politburo its footing with the regime in Damascus; Hamas had to start seeking an alternative base. Meanwhile, as demonstrations continued to spread throughout the Arab world, Iran’s growing assertiveness in the region put the spotlight on Hamas, a Sunni entity, for its substantial ties with the Shiite Islamic Republic.
The group now finds itself at a turning point. Hamas has to balance deteriorating relationships with longtime patrons Iran and Syria, establish a new political vision, identify proper sources of funding and manage growing internal disagreements.

Picking Sides

When al Assad’s Alawite regime began resorting to more violent crackdowns against a growing, Sunni-dominated opposition, Hamas leaders in Damascus, led by politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, had reason to be nervous. Damascus has served as the exiled leadership’s main hub of operations since 2001, and it is the main channel for funding to reach Hamas. When unrest in Syria began, Hamas’ best option was to try to not appear involved in Syria’s internal affairs; the group could not risk its credibility by standing behind an Iranian-backed Alawite regime against Sunni resistance. Because of the overwhelming support in the Arab world for the Sunni-led uprising, Hamas could no longer ignore, as it did in the past, the al Assad regime’s intolerance of its comrades in Syria’s branch of the MB.
In August and September, Syria and Iran tried to pressure Hamas into organizing pro-Assad demonstrations in the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria. It was time for Hamas to decide whom it would support. Hamas had two choices: It could follow orders and showcase its close alignment with the Iran and Syria, or it could create some distance from the Iranian-led coalition, use that distance to reinforce its relations with its Sunni Arab neighbors and, most critically, seize the opportunity to follow the MB’s lead out of political isolation.
Hamas chose the latter and refused to stage the demonstrations. The group could not afford to side against a wave of Sunni opposition without absorbing a hit to its legitimacy. Yet beyond the ideological discomfort it was experiencing, Hamas had a bigger vision in mind.

Hamas’ Political Vision

Hamas formally was created in 1987, largely as the result of two factors. First was public dissatisfaction with the secularist and corrupt Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The second was an effort by the MB to respond to the first intifada in a way that allowed it to remain politically insulated. The creation of a separate Gaza group that could engage in armed resistance answered the MB’s dilemma. However, Hamas’ original leadership still viewed militancy as a means to a political end. Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the MB and of the Islamic Center in Gaza, argued that Hamas was basically a political movement: It would fight for the rights of Palestinians, with the objective of eliminating Israel. The violent means Hamas has used make it highly controversial as a political player, but it is important to note that Hamas has held political ambitions since its inception.
Hamas’ core struggle is over how to proceed along that political path while presiding over a stateless entity — especially when its reputation has been primarily built on militant resistance, not on political credentials. As the organization learned after the 2006 election, even a sweeping political victory in the Palestinian territories yields limited results for an organization widely recognized as the premier Palestinian militant group. In other words, if Hamas was not prepared to abandon its militant arm and change its charter to recognize Israel, it needed to undergo a serious rebranding effort.
That opportunity came with the fall of Mubarak. The spread of unrest provided an opening for Islamist groups throughout the region to raise their political voice and force a wider acceptance of their growing role in the political affairs of the Arab world. The rise of the Egyptian MB in particular created an opening for Hamas to publicly reassert itself as a legitimate political player operating in the same league as its parent organization.
However, Hamas must make several difficult political decisions to achieve such a transition.

Coping with Finances

Hamas is highly secretive about its finances, but it has been unable to fully conceal the financial stress it has experienced over the past several months. It has been widely rumored that Iran began curtailing its monthly payments to Hamas after the group’s refusal to demonstrate on behalf of the Syrian regime. According to multiple sources, Iran had directed $25 million per month to Hamas; to put that in perspective, Hamas’ stated annual budget for administering the Gaza Strip is about $700 million.
In addition to the decline in Iranian financing, Hamas may also have reason to be concerned about the status of its investments in Syria. A number of Hamas members have business partnerships with members of the Syrian business community, including those close to the regime. Though the value of these assets is unknown, much of Syrian investment linked to Hamas is in real estate, resorts, food imports and olive oil exports.
Hamas may also be seeing less income from Islamic charities. Though a significant amount of funding is still likely earmarked for Hamas, a Stratfor source linked to the group said the rise of the MB and other regional Islamist opposition groups has attracted a major influx of money from donors looking to sustain the effects of the Arab Spring, making Hamas a lower priority.
These are not the only sources of Hamas funding. Hamas is believed to make about $50 million per year by taxing trade that runs through the Gaza Strip’s extensive tunnel system. The group also reaps an unknown amount of profits from local businesses in which it holds a significant stake, including the Gaza Strip’s only shopping mall and sea resorts and businesses spread throughout the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Asia.
Nonetheless, there are indications that Hamas is experiencing significant financial pain because of its worsening relationship with Iran and Syria. Meshaal and Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh have been taking tours throughout the region in recent weeks to meet with leaders from Jordan, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Hamas has allegedly sought financing from these states to compensate for the drop in Iranian support. Due to the uncertainty faced by the Syrian regime, Meshaal’s faction also has reportedly been gauging these states’ willingness to provide a new base and office space for the group’s exiled leadership.

The Costs and Benefits of a Relationship with Hamas

Hamas can make a compelling offer to these states. With concern growing in the region over how to check Iran’s power, Hamas’ move to distance itself from Iran and its allies in Syria could significantly undermine Tehran’s influence in the Levant region. Additionally, these countries, particularly Egypt and Jordan, see a strategic interest in bringing Hamas closer. They can build leverage with the group — creating another mechanism to balance Israel’s power — but also use that increased influence to keep Hamas in check. However, the strict condition these states are attaching to any deal are giving Hamas pause.
Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey share an interest in keeping Hamas hemmed in Gaza. These states frequently express their support of the principle of Palestinian statehood, but Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in particular are most concerned by the idea of a Palestinian polity emerging that could threaten their national security. Egypt, dealing with an emboldened MB, does not want Hamas to break free of its isolation and meddle in Egyptian affairs. The Egyptian military elite is already on alert for Hamas attempts to instigate a crisis between Egypt and Israel; such a crisis could rally Egyptians and Palestinians alike and provide the Islamist opposition with the means to discredit the military’s authority. In Jordan, where Palestinians constitute a majority of the population, the ethnically distinct Hashemite regime is facing a vociferous opposition led by the Jordanian MB and does not want to embolden its Palestinian population. Saudi Arabia has long had a tense relationship with Hamas and remembers well its past brushes with Palestinian militancy.
Building leverage with a militant group comes with risks. If any of these states agreed to start or increase funding for Hamas or host a Hamas office, they would not want to be held accountable for renegade actions by the group, especially by the United States and Israel. At the same time, they know Hamas is not ready to disarm, recognize Israel and make a full political transition.

Sending Mixed Signals to Tehran

These states also understand that Hamas is unlikely to completely sever its ties with Iran. Beyond the money, weapons and training it has received from Iran and its allies, Hamas needs to maintain a decent working relationship with Iran to avoid creating greater complications for itself in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a much smaller militant outfit than Hamas, has had a tight financial, ideological and logistical relationship with the Islamic Republic since the group’s inception in 1980. PIJ is firmly committed to its militant campaign. The group openly rejects building ties with surrounding Arab states due to their perceived hypocrisy toward Palestinian statehood and the Arab states’ alleged collusion with Israel. PIJ is thus the most likely Palestinian recipient of Iranian aid no longer destined for Hamas. PIJ and Hamas have long cooperated. Hamas is even suspected of occasionally relying on PIJ to carry out attacks, in an effort for Hamas to maintain plausible deniability in dealing with Israel. However, Hamas may have a decreased ability to control PIJ actions within Gaza if Hamas is no longer cooperating closely with PIJ’s main backer, Iran. So long as Hamas controls Gaza, Israel will likely hold Hamas accountable for any attacks that emanate from there. A significant loss of control over militancy in Gaza could thus leave Hamas in a much more precarious position with regard to Israel.
Hamas’ leadership seems to have been sending mixed signals to Tehran — rather than running the risks involved in an outright break — while waiting for agreements to come through with the Arab states. However, these states first want real assurances that Hamas will behave according to their standards and fundamentally shift away from the Iran-Syria axis. Indeed, according to the Palestinian Al Quds daily, Haniyeh was allegedly strongly advised by the leaders of Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait to cancel his upcoming visit to Tehran if Hamas is serious about making a deal. Haniyeh’s arrival in Tehran on Feb. 10, despite the demands of the Arab states, shows that Hamas still feels the need to keep its options open with Iran.
Hamas knows the opportunity the MB’s political elevation presents, but several complications apparently are preventing Hamas from making any clear, hard decisions.
While struggling to balance between Sunni states and Iran, Hamas is also trying to find a way to moderate its political position at home. Ongoing Hamas efforts to reconcile with Fatah and become part of the PLO are designed to insulate Hamas from the drawbacks of ruling Gaza alone. Hamas will not capitulate to Fatah for the sake of reverting to a more comfortable opposition posture. The group wants to share enough power – and present itself in enough of a pragmatic light – to resume financial flows and provide Hamas with some plausible deniability in dealing with Israeli military reprisals against the Gaza Strip.
However, this is placing a lot of pressure on the group. In trying to reintegrate itself with Fatah under the PLO umbrella and reinforce its relations with the surrounding Arab states, Hamas risks developing a crisis in legitimacy among Palestinians. The group already has accomplished little during its time in political office. Should a power-sharing government with Fatah fail to yield results, Hamas could be susceptible to the same criticism levied against its secularist rivals. Money is still sorely lacking in the Gaza Strip, and middle class members of Hamas who are making money are increasingly viewed as corrupt in the Palestinian territories. Hamas does not want to risk being put in the same light as Fatah and thereby seeing its credibility erode among its own supporters.

A Hamas Splintering?

Stresses within Hamas are already beginning to manifest in the form of public spats between the group’s Gaza-based leadership and its exiled leadership over which political course to take with Fatah, how to manage the group’s finances and what terms Hamas should agree to in dealing with foreign backers. Deep, personal rivalries have long existed within these factions, but the strains appear to be turning more severe. This dynamic was most recently illustrated the week of Feb. 6, when Meshaal signed a power-sharing agreement with Fatah leader and Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar. Haniyeh and his deputy Mahmoud Zahar did not attend the Doha summit, and their parliamentary bloc strongly rejected the deal two days later, citing a clause that said Abbas would remain both president and prime minister in a future government. Haniyeh has since denied any rifts within his movement, but the more Hamas insists on its unity, the more doubts are raised regarding its internal coherence.
Aside from questions about how to reconcile with Fatah, there is also the important question of who will handle Hamas’ finances if the exiled leadership moves from its financial base in Damascus. It appears that Hamas is looking to set up multiple offices in countries that agree to host Hamas and help fund the organization. This could see the exiled leadership spread across Cairo, Amman and possibly Doha. Meshaal, who has Jordanian citizenship, is likely to end up in Amman while Mousa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, has already reportedly moved with his family to Cairo. A scattering of Hamas’ exiled leadership to these capitals may serve to enhance the group’s ties with each of these states and encourage them to increase their funding to Hamas, but it also leaves the group beholden to the interests of multiple states that share a desire to keep the group contained. Moreover, the wider Hamas’ exiled leadership is spread, the more difficult these leaders will find it to coordinate and remain relevant compared to the Gaza-based leadership.

\Special Report: Hamas In Transition | STRATFOR

Share this|var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “The MasterBlog”}

________________________ The MasterBlog


Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officially registered Wednesday for the formation of a new political wing, paving the way for the establishment of the Freedom and Justice Party. With parliamentary elections scheduled in September, Freedom and Justice is expected to do well at the first polls of the post-Mubarak era. Just how well is the main question on the minds of the country’s ruling military council, which would prefer to hand off the day-to-day responsibilities of governing Egypt, while holding onto real power behind the scenes.

Leading MB official Saad al-Katatny, one of the founders of Freedom and Justice, said he hopes for the party to officially begin its activities June 17, and to begin selecting its executive authority and top leaders one month later. Members of Egypt’s Political Parties Affairs Committee will convene Sunday to discuss the application and will announce their decision the next day. They are expected to approve the request. Three and a half months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leading Islamist group is on the verge of forming an official political party for the first time in its history.

Following Mubarak’s ouster, MB wasted little time in seizing what it saw as the group’s historical moment to enter Egypt’s political mainstream. They announced plans to form a political party on Feb. 14. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took over administration of the country following the deposal of Mubarak, did nothing to hinder this development, despite the military’s deep antipathy toward Islamist groups. Political instability was (and is) rampant in the country, and the military sought to find a balance that would allow it to maintain control while appearing amenable to the people’s demands, and bring life back to normal. Opening up political space to Islamist groups, including at least two emerging Salafist parties, and announcing plans for fairly rapid elections, was seen by the military as the most effective way to achieve this balance.

It bears repeating that what happened in Egypt in January and February did not constitute a revolution. There was no regime change; there was regime preservation, through a carefully orchestrated military coup that used the 19 days of popular demonstrations against Mubarak as a smokescreen for achieving its objective. Though a system of one-party rule existed from the aftermath of the 1967 War until Feb. 11 of this year, true power in Egypt since 1952 has been with the military and that did not change with the ouster of Mubarak. What changed was that for the first time since the 1960s, Egypt’s military found itself not just ruling, but actually governing, despite the existence of an interim government (which the SCAF itself appointed).

The SCAF wants to get back to ruling and give up the job of governing, but it knows that there has been a sea change in Egypt’s political environment that prevents a return to the way things were done under Mubarak. The days of single-party rule are over. If the military wants stability, it is going to have to accept a true multiparty political system, one that allows for a broad spectrum of participation from all corners of Egyptian society. The generals can maintain control of the regime, but the day-to-day affairs of governance will fall under the control of coalition governments that could never have existed in the old Egypt.


This opens the door for MB to gain more political power than it has ever held and explains why its leaders were so quick to announce their plans for the formation of Freedom and Justice in February. But the group has tempered eagerness with caution. MB is aware of its reputation in the eyes of the SCAF (and the outside world, for that matter) and is playing a shrewd game to dispel its image as an extremist Islamist group.

 It has been publicly supportive of the SCAF on a number of occasions, and has marketed Freedom and Justice as a non-Islamist party — it includes women and one of its founders is a Copt — based on Islamic principles. MB has also insisted that the new party will have no actual ties to the Brotherhood itself (though this is clearly not the case), while promising that it will not field a presidential candidate in polls due to take place six weeks following the parliamentary elections. In addition, MB has pledged to run for no more than 49 percent of the available parliamentary seats. This is designed to reassure the SCAF that it does not immediately seek absolute political power.

Focusing on whether the SCAF is sincere in its publicly stated desire to transform Egypt into a democracy misses the more important point, which is that the military regime feels it has no choice but to move toward a multiparty political system. The alternatives — military dictatorship and single-party rule — are unfeasible. But there are red lines attached to the push toward political pluralism, and MB is aware of these. Trying to take too much, too quickly, will only incite a military crackdown on the political opening the armed forces have engineered in the last three months. As for the SCAF, it is willing to give Freedom and Justice a chance in the new Egypt, so long as the underlying reality of power remains the same.
 

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously is republished with permission of STRATFOR.”



>

Looks like they fell for this one!!

Saudi king to buy Facebook to end the revolt: report

In what is being termed as pure Wall Street Gordon Gecko tactics, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has decided to make an offer of $150 billion to buy out Facebook. 

Inside sources within the kingdom suggest that the King is very upset with Mark Zukerberg for allowing the revolt to get out of control, Ahlul Bayt News Agency reported.

In a personal meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and King Abdullah on Jan 25, 2011, Zuckerberg had promised that he would not allow any revolt pages to be formed on Facebook even while he allowed Egypt and Libya revolt pages to be formed.

Left with no option, Abdullah advised by Goldman Sachs has decided to buy out Facebook and “clean out the weeds”. The offer on the table is $150 billion. Facebook balance sheet was shown to King Abdullah and his kingdom advisors had mentioned that it is not even worth $1 billion given that it generates no profit. But the King threw the report into the dustbin and fired his advisors and decided to hand over the investment banking mandate to Goldman Sachs who put the value at $150 billion. The deal will be all cash.

Most analysts believe that Zuckerberg will not take the offer and will wait for King Abdullah to up the offer to at least $500 billion. In the meanwhile king Abdullah has now logged on the Facebook and was busy profiling some of the models in the Goldman Sachs presentation.

Plans to provide cheap land for housing

In another development, minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour bin Miteb said the government is striving to make affordable housing plots available for citizens.

“The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has allocated 130 plots for the General Housing Authority,” said Prince Mansour, adding that the task of making land cheaper needs the efforts of many government departments.

The prince said the housing authority, which has many plots of land left over from older allocations, will strive to provide houses to as many citizens as possible in all provinces. He added that a few housing projects were implemented in an unscientific manner and had to be redesigned. 

Sent from my iPad


Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place.
It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.
But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.
A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus — first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan — had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

The Nature of Guerrilla Warfare
In thinking about Afghanistan, it is essential that we begin by thinking about the nature of guerrilla warfare against an occupying force. The guerrilla lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere else, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him.
The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. The occupier’s patience is calculated against the cost of the occupation and its opportunity costs, thus, while troops are committed in this country, what is happening elsewhere?
Tactically, the guerrilla survives by being elusive. He disperses in small groups. He operates in hostile terrain. He denies the enemy intelligence on his location and capabilities. He forms political alliances with civilians who provide him supplies and intelligence on the occupation forces and misleads the occupiers about his own location. The guerrilla uses this intelligence network to decline combat on the enemy’s terms and to strike the enemy when he is least prepared. The guerrilla’s goal is not to seize and hold ground but to survive, evade and strike, imposing casualties on the occupier. Above all, the guerrilla must never form a center of gravity that, if struck, would lead to his defeat. He thus actively avoids anything that could be construed as a decisive contact.
The occupation force is normally a more conventional army. Its strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. If it knows where the guerrilla is and can strike before the guerrilla can disperse, the occupying force will defeat the guerrilla. The occupier’s problems are that his intelligence is normally inferior to that of the guerrillas; the guerrillas rarely mass in ways that permit decisive combat and normally can disperse faster than the occupier can pinpoint and deploy forces against them; and the guerrillas’ superior tactical capabilities allow them to impose a constant low rate of casualties on the occupier. Indeed, the massive amount of resources the occupier requires and the inflexibility of a military institution not solely committed to the particular theater of operations can actually work against the occupier by creating logistical vulnerabilities susceptible to guerrilla attacks and difficulty adapting at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the guerrilla. The occupation force will always win engagements, but that is never the measure of victory. If the guerrillas operate by doctrine, defeats in unplanned engagements will not undermine their basic goal of survival. While the occupier is not winning decisively, even while suffering only some casualties, he is losing. While the guerrilla is not losing decisively, even if suffering significant casualties, he is winning. Since the guerrilla is not going anywhere, he can afford far higher casualties than the occupier, who ultimately has the alternative of withdrawal.
The asymmetry of this warfare favors the guerrilla. This is particularly true when the strategic value of the war to the occupier is ambiguous, where the occupier does not possess sufficient force and patience to systematically overwhelm the guerrillas, and where either political or military constraints prevent operations against sanctuaries. This is a truth as relevant to David’s insurgency against the Philistines as it is to the U.S. experience in Vietnam or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
There has long been a myth about the unwillingness of Americans to absorb casualties for very long in guerrilla wars. In reality, the United States fought in Vietnam for at least seven years (depending on when you count the start and stop) and has now fought in Afghanistan for nine years. The idea that Americans can’t endure the long war has no empirical basis. What the United States has difficulty with — along with imperial and colonial powers before it — is a war in which the ability to impose one’s will on the enemy through force of arms is lacking and when it is not clear that the failure of previous years to win the war will be solved in the years ahead.
Far more relevant than casualties to whether Americans continue a war is the question of the conflict’s strategic importance, for which the president is ultimately responsible. This divides into several parts. This first is whether the United States has the ability with available force to achieve its political goals through prosecuting the war (since all war is fought for some political goal, from regime change to policy shift) and whether the force the United States is willing to dedicate suffices to achieve these goals. To address this question in Afghanistan, we have to focus on the political goal.
The Evolution of the U.S. Political Goal in Afghanistan
Washington’s primary goal at the initiation of the conflict was to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. homeland from follow-on attacks to 9/11. But if Afghanistan were completely pacified, the threat of Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism would remain at issue because it is no longer just an issue of a single organization — al Qaeda — but a series of fragmented groups conducting operations in Pakistan, IraqYemenNorth AfricaSomalia and elsewhere.
Today, al Qaeda is simply one manifestation of the threat of this transnational jihadist phenomenon. It is important to stop and consider al Qaeda — and the transnational jihadist phenomenon in general — in terms of guerrillas, and to think of the phenomenon as a guerrilla force in its own right operating by the very same rules on a global basis. Thus, where the Taliban apply guerrilla principles to Afghanistan, today’s transnational jihadist applies them to the Islamic world and beyond. The transnational jihadists are not leaving and are not giving up. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they will decline combat against larger American forces and strike vulnerable targets when they can.
There are certainly more players and more complexity to the global phenomenon than in a localized insurgency. Many governments across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have no interest in seeing these movements set up shop and stir up unrest in their territory. And al Qaeda’s devolution has seen frustrations as well as successes as it spreads. But the underlying principles of guerrilla warfare remain at issue. Whenever the Americans concentrate force in one area, al Qaeda disengages, disperses and regroups elsewhere and, perhaps more important, the ideology that underpins the phenomenon continues to exist. The threat will undoubtedly continue to evolve and face challenges, but in the end, it will continue to exist along the lines of the guerrilla acting against the United States.
There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States.
Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.
Thus far, the United States has chosen to carry on fighting the war in Afghanistan. As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt.
Simply withdrawing from Afghanistan carries its own strategic and political costs, however. The strategic problem is that simply terminating the war after nine years would destabilize the Islamic world. The United States has managed to block al Qaeda’s goal of triggering a series of uprisings against existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. It did this by displaying a willingness to intervene where necessary. Of course, the idea that U.S. intervention destabilized the region raises the question of what regional stability would look like had it not intervened. The danger of withdrawal is that the network of relationships the United States created and imposed at the regime level could unravel if it withdrew. America would be seen as having lost the war, the prestige of radical Islamists and thereby the foundation of the ideology that underpins their movement would surge, and this could destabilize regimes and undermine American interests.
The political problem is domestic. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent. This is not unprecedented, but it means he is politically weak. One of the charges against him, fair or not, is that he is inherently anti-war by background and so not fully committed to the war effort. Where a Republican would face charges of being a warmonger, which would make withdrawal easier, Obama faces charges of being too soft. Since a president must maintain political support to be effective, withdrawal becomes even harder. Therefore, strategic analysis aside, the president is not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon — the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China andRussia freer rein.
The American Solution
The American solution, one that we suspect is already under way, is the Pakistanization of the war. By this, we do not mean extending the war into Pakistan but rather extending Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it.
In the past, the United States has endeavored to keep the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Pakistan separate. (The Taliban movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not one and the same.) Washington has not succeeded in this regard, with the Pakistanis continuing to hedge their bets and maintain a relationship across the border. Still, U.S. opposition has been the single greatest impediment to Pakistan’s consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and abandoning this opposition leaves important avenues open for Islamabad.
The Pakistani relationship to the Taliban, which was a liability for the United States in the past, now becomes an advantage for Washington because it creates a trusted channel for meaningful communication with the Taliban. Logic suggests this channel is quite active now.
The Vietnam War ended with the Paris peace talks. Those formal talks were not where the real bargaining took place but rather where the results were ultimately confirmed. If talks are under way, a similar venue for the formal manifestation of the talks is needed — and Islamabad is as good a place as any.
Pakistan is an American ally which the United States needs, both to balance growing Chinese influence in and partnership with Pakistan, and to contain India. Pakistan needs the United States for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Taliban want to run Afghanistan. The United States has no strong national interest in how Afghanistan is run so long as it does not support and espouse transnational jihadism. But it needs its withdrawal to take place in a manner that strengthens its influence rather than weakens it, and Pakistan can provide the cover for turning a retreat into a negotiated settlement.
Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India. It must have a stable or relatively stable Afghanistan to secure its western frontier. It needs an end to U.S. forays into Pakistan that are destabilizing the regime. And playing this role would enhance Pakistan’s status in the Islamic world, something the United States could benefit from, too. We suspect that all sides are moving toward this end.
The United States isn’t going to defeat the Taliban. The original goal of the war is irrelevant, and the current goal is rather difficult to take seriously. Even a victory, whatever that would look like, would make little difference in the fight against transnational jihad, but a defeat could harm U.S. interests. Therefore, the United States needs a withdrawal that is not a defeat. Such a strategic shift is not without profound political complexity and difficulties. But the disparity between — and increasingly, the incompatibility of — the struggle with transnational terrorism and the war effort geographically rooted in Afghanistan is only becoming more apparent — even to the American public.


September 18, 2010

Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together

CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela — The first scavengers one sees in Cambalache, a sprawling trash dump on this city’s edge, are the vultures. Hundreds drift through the veil of smoke that rises from the refuse each day at dawn.
The carrion birds vie with children and their parents for scraps of meat discarded by Ciudad Guayana’s more fortunate residents. Those toiling under the vultures’ wake mutter to one another in Warao, an indigenous language spoken in the nearby delta where the Orinoco, one of the world’s mightiest rivers, meets the Atlantic.
“I’m hungry, and my children are hungry,” said Raisa Beria, 25, a Warao who came here to scavenge for clothes and food.
In one outing this month, Ms. Beria found some rotting chicken still in the packaging from Arturo’s, a Venezuelan fast-food chain. Her daughter, Eugenia, 4, grasped a chicken wing. Flies circled around her small hand. “This is how we live,” Ms. Beria said in accented Spanish.
Such harrowing scenes of misery are supposed to be receding into Venezuela’s history. The country claims in figures it gives the United Nations that it vies with historically egalitarian Uruguay for Latin America’s most equitable income distribution, as a result of oil-financed social welfare programs.
Moreover, President Hugo Chávez has made empowerment of indigenous groups a pillar of his 12-year rule. He has financed indigenous health care projects, an indigenous university and a new ministry for indigenous peoples, who are estimated to number about half a million in Venezuela.
Officials said this year that Venezuela’s tribes had reasons to celebrate the “end of exclusion” because “equality, rights and peace now reign.” Still, if Cambalache’s squalor is any indication, some indigenous people still face a more vexing reality than his government’s words suggest.
Reflecting Venezuela’s political complexity, most of the Warao interviewed here expressed loyalty to Mr. Chávez, even as they ate out of Ciudad Guayana’s garbage. The people interviewed cited their access to some social programs, including literacy projects, as reasons for their allegiance, while others professed more visceral sentiments including pride that Mr. Chávez had affirmed that his own grandmother was a Pumé Indian.
Politics aside, about 300 Warao now live in shacks and tents on Cambalache’s edge, near the banks of the Orinoco. Most migrated from Delta Amacuro, an impoverished state of labyrinthine swamp forests that is home to thousands of Warao.
Scholars who study the Warao people say they put down stakes here around the early 1990s, when a cholera epidemic killed about 500 people in the delta. Many Warao there live in homes built on stilts and eat a diet based on a tuber called ure.
In the delta, oil drilling and demand for heart of palm, the vegetable harvested from the inner core of palm trees, put more pressure on Warao areas. Ciudad Guayana, a Brasília-like industrial city designed by planners from Harvard and M.I.T. in the 1960s, absorbed various Warao communities fleeing poverty.
Some Warao wander the broad avenues here, begging for food. Others sell wares like bracelets at intersections. Others subsist at Cambalache, located minutes from boutiques selling luxury goods and the headquarters of government factories adorned with huge photos of Mr. Chávez.
At Cambalache, the Warao scavenge for food, aluminum, copper wiring and clothing. The daily struggle they describe is a Hobbesian nightmare.
They say thieves prey on those who sell scrap metal to dealers. Some Warao women, they say, sell their bodies to outsiders, contributing to reports of H.I.V. infections in the community. Some perish under the trash-compacting trucks, including a 14-year-old boy who was crushed to death in July.
Faced with these conditions, the Warao here adapt. Adults carry knives tucked into their belts. They shrug at Cambalache’s stench and at the ash from its daily fires, which clogs the airways of those working at the dump.
Bands of Warao children sift through the piles of garbage. On a recent hazy morning, a girl plucked from the trash a half-consumed plastic bottle of Frescolita, a Venezuelan soft drink whose flavor resembles cream soda, and quenched her thirst with what remained inside.
Christian Sorhaug, a Norwegian anthropologist who has lived among the Warao, doing field work here during the past decade, said, “Cambalache is the worst place I have ever seen in my life.”
Entire families arrive at sunrise each day, chasing after trucks that unload fresh cargoes of trash. One truck that arrived at Cambalache this month had painted on its side the name José Ramon López, Ciudad Guayana’s mayor, under the words “Socialist Beautification Plan.”
The authorities know about the Warao who live at Cambalache. Their living conditions are a highly sensitive issue.
The mayor’s office, which refers to the area where the Warao live as “UD-500,” said in a statement that it was planning to build more homes for the indigenous families
Warao leaders and researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, informed federal health officials in 2008 of an outbreak of a rabieslike disease that killed dozens in Delta Amacuro, only to have the authorities refuse to see them, attack them in speeches, try to discredit their findings and open a criminal investigation into their report.
A Cuban doctor working for the government provides basic health care to residents, forwarding Warao with serious diseases like tuberculosis and measles to public hospitals. Wilhelmus van Zeeland, 69, a Dutch priest who works with the Warao at Cambalache, said health care programs had helped lower deaths from sanitation-related diseases since he arrived here in 1999. Corporación Venezolana de Guayana, a state-owned industrial conglomerate, recently donated 15 cinderblock houses to the Warao here.
Pedro La Rosa, 42, who is considered the leader of the Warao at Cambalache, said at least 30 more homes were needed. “We’re never going to leave this place,” he said in an interview. “We’ve claimed this land and made our life in this dump, and this is where our future rests.”
The Warao keep arriving at Cambalache, dividing themselves between squatters who stay and those who come for a few weeks to scavenge goods to sell back in the delta.
Sometimes it is hard to tell who belongs to which group.
As the smoke from Cambalache’s fires blew across the Orinoco, Ismenia La Rosa, 41 — unrelated to Pedro La Rosa — welcomed a visitor to her tent among those the Warao call “floaters,” for their urge to return home to the delta’s swamp forests.
She cradled her newborn son, merely six days old and still lacking a name. He was her fifth child, she said, with an exhausted expression that revealed neither happiness nor sorrow. “My son was born in Cambalache,” she said. “I think this is where he’ll stay.”

MasterBlog en Español: Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together: “and they still support their comandante!!! September 18, 2010 Left Behind in Venezuela to Piece Lives Together By SIMON ROMERO CIUDA…”

var addthis_config = {“data_track_clickback”:true, ui_header_color: “#000”, ui_header_background: “#F4F3EF”, services_compact: ‘ twitter, facebook, blogger, delicious, email, google, live, favorites, gmail, hotmail, yahoomail, digg, technorati, newsvine, myspace, googlebuzz, linkedin, more’}; var addthis_localize = {share_caption: “Compartir”};

Comparte esta pagina|var addthis_config = { ui_cobrand: “MasterBlog en Español”}

Caracas Journal

Building a New History by Exhuming Bolívar

CARACAS, Venezuela — The clock had just struck midnight. Most of the country was asleep. But that did not stop President Hugo Chávez from announcing in the early hours of July 16 that the latest phase of his Bolivarian Revolution had been stirred into motion.
Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Venezuelans waiting under a banner of Bolívar to buy reduced-rate food at a government office in Caracas.
Meridith Kohut for The New York Times
Museum visitors looking at the box that Bolívar had been buried in.
Marching to the national anthem, a team of soldiers, forensic specialists and presidential aides gathered around the sarcophagus of Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century aristocrat who freed much of South America from Spain. A state television crew filmed the group, clad in white lab coats, hair nets and ventilation masks, attempt what seemed like an anemic half-goose step.
Then they unscrewed the burial casket, lifted off its lid and removed a Venezuelan flag covering the remains. A camera suspended from above captured images of a skeleton. Insomniacs here with dropped jaws watched live coverage of the Bolívar exhumation on state television, with narration provided by Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami.
For those unfortunate enough to have dozed off, there was always Twitter.
“What impressive moments we’ve lived tonight!” Mr. Chávez told followers in a series of Twitter messages sent during the exhumation that were redistributed by the state news agency a few hours later. “Rise up, Simón, as it’s not time to die! Immediately I remembered that Bolívar lives!”
Even Venezuelans used to Mr. Chávez’s political theater were surprised by the exhumation, which pushed aside issues like a scandal over imported food found rotting in ports, anger over an economy mired in recession and evidence offered by Colombia that Colombian guerrillas are encamped on Venezuelan soil.
With all this going on, Venezuelans have been scratching their heads in recent weeks over the possible motives for Mr. Chávez’s removal of Bolívar’s remains from the National Pantheon.
The president offered his own explanation. It involves the urgent need to do tests to determine whether Bolívar died of arsenic poisoning in Santa Marta, Colombia, instead of from tuberculosis in 1830, as historians have long accepted. A commission assembled here by Mr. Chávez has been examining this theory for the past three years.
Their work is based on claims among some Bolivarianólogos, as specialists here on the history of Bolívar are called, that a long-lost letter by Bolívar reveals how he was betrayed by Colombia’s aristocracy. By deciphering the letter using Masonic codes, they suggest the conspiracy was even broader, including Andrew Jackson, then president of the United States, and the king of Spain.
Findings presented at a medical conference this year in the United States have encouraged Mr. Chávez further. At the conference, Paul Auwaerter, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said Bolívar likely died of arsenic ingestion, an assertion seized upon by state media here to support the claim that Bolívar was murdered.
It matters little that Dr. Auwaerter says his research has been misconstrued, since an ingestion of arsenic could have been unintentional through arsenic-containing medications common in that era or contaminated drinking water. “I do not agree with President Chávez’s theories,” he said by e-mail.
Undeterred, the government here says it will get to the bottom of Bolívar’s death. The attorney general attended the exhumation, making it clear that the authorities view the mystery of Bolívar’s bones as the equivalent of a crime scene and a matter of national importance.
The exhumation could serve multiple purposes. If Mr. Chávez can say Bolívar was murdered in Colombia, he could try to use that against Colombia’s current government, with which Venezuela’s relations are cold, while reinforcing his longstanding claims that Colombians and others are plotting to assassinate him.
It would also allow Mr. Chávez to rewrite a major aspect of Venezuela’s history. The president already closely identifies himself and his political movement with Bolívar, renaming the country the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, his espionage agency the Bolivarian Intelligence Service and so on. Portraits of Bolívar hang alongside Mr. Chávez’s in federal government offices.
This country’s intelligentsia fixates on Bolívar’s legacy and the use of Bolívar not just by Mr. Chávez but by rulers stretching back to the 19th century.
Slip into a bookstore and titles like “Divine Bolívar,” “The Cult of Bolívar,” “Thought of the Liberator” and “Why I’m Not Bolivarian” line the shelves. Scholars argue over how it was possible for one 20th-century dictator, Juan Vicente Gómez, to have conveniently shared the dates of his birth and death with Bolívar’s.
Some of Mr. Chávez’s top aides have begun using the exhumation as a method for attacking his opponents. Last month, the culture minister, Francisco Sesto, chastised Baltazar Porras, a Venezuelan archbishop, for “verbal desecration” for contending that Bolívar was, in fact, dead.
Political movements drawing strength from the remains of the dead are not new here or elsewhere in Latin America. One recent example came from Carlos Menem, Argentina’s former president, who returned the remains of the 19th-century warlord Juan Manuel de Rosas from England for burial in Argentina in 1989.
“Disputes over bodies are disputes over power, power over the past and power in the present,” said Lyman Johnson, a historian at the University of North Carolina who specializes in Latin America’s body cults. “These powerful meanings force new life into long-dead bodies.”
Mr. Chávez, with his removal of teeth and other bone fragments from Bolívar’s skeleton for DNA testing, may be taking the appropriation of the dead to new levels. The authorities here have ignored requests from descendants of Bolívar’s family (Bolívar himself is not widely believed to have had children) to leave the remains alone.
“The exhumation was one of the most grotesque spectacles I have ever seen,” said Lope Mendoza, 71, a prominent businessman here who is a great-great-grandnephew of Bolívar’s.
Still, the authorities here say they are far from finished. They plan to build a new pantheon for Bolívar to be completed by next year in which the bones will be deposited in a golden urn instead of a lead sarcophagus.
Next up for exhumation, said Vice President Elías Jaua, is Bolívar’s sister María Antonia Bolívar, whose remains lie at the Caracas Cathedral. Mr. Jaua said DNA testing must be done on her skeleton as well to determine whether the bones found in Bolívar’s tomb are actually Bolívar’s.
“Once we are certain that these are the Liberator’s remains,” Mr. Jaua said, “we will prepare a documentary in order to bestow testimony to history.”

María Eugenia Díaz contributed reporting.

Caracas Journal – Building a New History By Exhuming Bolívar – NYTimes.com

________________________
The MasterBlog





%d bloggers like this: