Archive for the ‘Arabs’ Category

Obama’s strong-willed national security team

November 30, 2008
With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views.
By Paul Richter
The Los Angeles Times
November 30, 2008
Reporting from Washington — President-elect Barack Obama says he wants to lead an administration where strong-willed senior officials are ready to argue forcefully for differing points of view.

It appears that in two months, he’ll get his wish, and then some.

Obama’s new national security team is led by three veteran officials who have differed with each other — and with the president-elect — on the full menu of security issues, including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear weapons and Arab-Israel conflict.

The president-elect is expected on Monday to begin introducing a team that includes Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), whom he has chosen as secretary of State; retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones Jr., tapped to be the new national security advisor; and Robert M. Gates, who has agreed to stay on as Defense secretary.

Clinton, Gates, Jones

Carolyn Kaster / AP; Roslan Rahman / AFP/Getty Images; Dennis Cook / AP
THE TEAM: No longer a rival, Clinton and Obama hold similar positions on many issues. Gates, center, is admired by the Obama team despite significant differences over nuclear weapons policy. Jones has separated himself from the Obama playbook on a few issues, including troop withdrawal.

Their collaboration isn’t likely to be as contentious as the first-term Bush administration battles between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Clinton, Gates and Jones have worked smoothly, with the only visible clashes coming between Clinton and Gates’ deputies over Iraq.

But Obama will have some clear choices among their views, which differ in nuance in some cases and more starkly in others. Obama appears to be determined to keep them in line; advisors say he believes the Pentagon has become too strong in the Bush years, and he wants to reassert White House control.

Some American supporters of Israel have already been buzzing over the potential for conflict between Clinton and Jones on Arab-Israeli issues.

Jones, an admired former Marine commandant and supreme allied commander of NATO, was appointed last November as a Bush administration envoy charged with trying to improve the often dysfunctional Palestinian security forces. As part of that assignment, he drafted a report that caused a stir in Israel by criticizing the Israeli Defense Forces’ activities in the Palestinian territories.

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Arabs lament lack of dialogue on Iran nuclear crisis

November 9, 2008

Arab diplomats complained on Sunday about a lack of dialogue with the West over Iran‘s nuclear ambitions during a briefing on the crisis by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh alongside French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and their counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

“The Arab countries wanted to be informed of the state of negotiations” between Iran and six major world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — said an official who attended the talks.

Another participant said the Arab diplomats expressed “deep concerns” at the meeting and complained of “insufficient dialogue” between Arab countries and the six world powers on the standoff over Iran’s nuclear drive.

Western nations led by the United States accuse Tehran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons but Iran vehemently denies the charges, saying its programme is solely aimed at generating electricity.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Salah Bashir told the meeting that “the nuclear crisis became a crisis (for the West) but for us the Iranian surge for hegemony has become a crisis,” according to the participant who asked not to be named.

Sunni Arab governments like Egypt, Jordan and the six oil-rich Gulf monarchies have repeatedly expressed concerns over what they see as the growing influence of Shiite Iran in the region, namely in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Iran is under three sets of UN sanctions for failing to heed international demands to halt uranium enrichment but the major powers have offered Tehran technological, economic and political incentives if it suspends the process.


The Next U.S. President and the Middle East

October 20, 2008

By Patrick Seale
The Middle East Times

PARIS — The Arabs should be aware that pressure is mounting in the United States to reduce dependence on Middle East oil – in other words to reduce oil imports. Whoever wins next month’s U.S. presidential election, whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain, is bound to want to shape a new national policy, less dependent on imported oil, for energy and climate change. Both candidates have vowed to do so.

At the  same time, several major car manufacturers – Nissan, Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, Chevrolet, Renault – have announced plans to launch electric cars in the coming two or three years in response to increasing world-wide concern about carbon emissions. Pre-production models of electric cars are the talk of the current Paris motor show.

The Arabs  same time, several major car manufacturers – Nissan, Volkswagen, Daimler, BMW, Chevrolet, Renault – have announced plans to launch electric cars in the coming two or three years in response to increasing world-wide concern about carbon emissions. Pre-production models of electric cars are the talk of the current Paris motor show.

The Arabs should heed these early warnings that their current oil bonanza will not last forever – perhaps, at best, for another decade or two. Already, the expectation that the oil price would soar to $200 a barrel has turned into a mirage. Oil prices have dropped 55 percent since July, demonstrating the extreme volatility of the market.

What seems clear is that the Arabs – and indeed other oil producers – cannot hope to benefit indefinitely from the colossal wealth transfer of recent years. They should spend the coming years preparing for the day when oil may not be in such great demand.

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Success in Iraq has Made Afghanistan the Mecca of Terrorists

October 14, 2008

By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer 

KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. military successes in Iraq have forced sophisticated and well-trained insurgents to pour into Afghanistan instead, part of the reason violence has spiked in Afghanistan, the Afghan defense minister said Tuesday.

File photo shows a US Marine standing watch in Kandahar, Afghanistan. ... 


In a demonstration of the increasingly deadly attacks, a roadside blast in the east where U.S. soldiers operate killed three NATO troops, while two separate roadside bombs in the south killed 16 Afghan civilians, officials said.

The Afghan defense minister, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, said terrorists who would have once fought in Iraq have been “diverted” to Afghanistan.

“The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighboring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters,” Wardak told a news conference. “There is no doubt that they are (better) equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their coordination is much better.”

The top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, told The Associated Press last month that he is seeing a spike in the number of foreign militants — including Arabs and Chechens — flowing into Afghanistan. He said militant Web sites have been encouraging fighters to go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq.

“I can’t prove they are coming from Iraq to Afghanistan, but I’ve seen it on Web sites that that’s what they’re being told to do,” Schloesser said.

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Many Arabs fear McCain would continue Bush policy

March 24, 2008
By Nadim Ladki

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Arabs keen to see the end of George W. Bush‘s presidency fear that a win for likely Republican candidate John McCain will bring little change to U.S. policies they blame for destabilizing the Middle East.

For Arab politicians who have gained from U.S. policy in countries including Iraq and Lebanon, continuity may be a good thing.

But Bush’s many critics in the Arab world worry that McCain will continue current U.S. policies, which they fault for unleashing chaos in Iraq and providing unflinching support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

McCain wants to keep troops in Iraq until it is more stable, setting him at odds with Democratic rivals who want to withdraw from a country which has been wracked by violence since U.S.-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein five years ago.

During a Middle East tour this month, McCain’s statements on Israel also sounded alarm bells for Arabs who have long criticized Washington for not exercising enough pressure on the Jewish state to withdraw from occupied Arab land.

“The first time McCain started to catch attention was when he visited … Israel and committed himself to recognizing Jerusalem (as its capital) and not pressuring Israel,” Mohamed al-Sayed Said of Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies told Reuters in Cairo.

“This confirms the natural inclination of Arabs to think that whatever the next administration is, it will be a tool of the Israelis.”

But while Arabs see little difference between candidates when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict — with all repeatedly committing themselves to Israel’s interests and security — Iraq is seen as a different story.


The 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which was opposed by Washington’s Arab allies including Egypt, empowered Shi’ite factions such as the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council — a group with longstanding ties to Shi’ite Iran.

Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a cleric and senior member of the group, said a McCain presidency would be a good thing. “I believe it is a positive matter if the Republican candidate wins in the coming election. We know now how the Republicans think.”

“McCain is so close to the Bush administration and they both adopted the same policy.”

McCain, speaking during a visit to close U.S. ally Jordan, said that a premature withdrawal from Iraq would enhance Iran and Sunni Islamist militant group al Qaeda — both foes of America — and endanger the region.

But Mudhafer al-Aani, a senior member of the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq’s parliament, urged a correction of “the great mistakes of the administration.”

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Arabs doubt prospects for peace parley

November 26, 2007

By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Despite deep doubts back home about what they can accomplish, senior Arab officials from countries like Saudi Arabia and Syria agreed to sit down here with Israel to show their commitment to an Arab peace initiative, shore up the Palestinians and, in some cases, simply because they felt they could not say no.

Israel has said that Arab countries need to “get off the fence” and back Mideast peace negotiations, something Arabs heading into Tuesday’s Annapolis conference insist they have long been ready to do. The problem, they contend, is that Israel won’t commit to making concessions.

Among Arab governments and the public, the big fear is that Annapolis will only be a new piece of theater. They point to the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ failure to agree on terms for negotiations that will come out of Annapolis. They also cite the size of the gathering — more than 40 countries and organizations — saying it’s built more for style than substance.

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