The War On Islam Is Over, But...

In a clear break from former president George Bush's two national security strategies issued in 2002 and 2006 which endorsed unilateral military action and spoke of the threat posed by "Islamic extremism," President Obama has unveiled a new national security strategy which calls for more global engagement and aims to downplay fears that the U.S. is "at war" with Islam.

President Obama also expressed his desire to break away from the unilateral military approach of "either you are with us or against us" established in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.


"While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction," President Obama said.

Not since Mr. Obama addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds from a podium at Cairo University on June 4, 2009, pledging "to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims," did the U.S. president send a clear and powerful message that America's foreign policy towards 1.5 billion Muslims across the globe has changed.

The 52-page document, entitled National Security Strategy, distanced the administration of President Barack Obama from the Bush-era doctrine of preemptive war and emphasized global cooperation and robust diplomacy to make the use of military force less likely to be updated every four years. The document omitted some of the most controversial language from the Bush administration, like the phrase "global war on terror" and references to "Islamic extremism".

"Yet this is not a global war against a tactic - terrorism, or a religion - Islam. We are at war with a specific network, al-Qaeda, and its terrorist affiliates."

Earlier on Saturday, the President, while offering a glimpse of his new national security doctrine to the West Point 2010 Cadets, reiterated his administration's position towards Islam and that of the actions of extremists and terrorists.

"Extremists want a war between America and Islam, but Muslims are part of our national life, including those who serve in our United States Army. Adversaries want to divide us, but we are united by our support for you soldiers, who send a clear message that this country is both the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Obama's National Security Strategy has been read carefully across the globe, and he has been widely credited with improving the tone of U.S. foreign policy towards the Arab and Muslim worlds. However, with unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear standoff with Iran, and no progress on peace between Palestinians and Israelis, his words remain just words. We understand that the war on Islam is over, but war should end in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine as well.

Article originally published on the Huffington Post
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Iraq: Elections But No Stability

With close to 90% of the votes tallied in Iraq's parliamentary elections, the coalition headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has taken a slim lead over the bloc led by his main challenger, Iyad Allawi. A day ago, it was the latter.

Since March 7, Iraqis have been glued to their television screens looking for clues for the direction their seven-year-war ravaged country might be heading in the next few years. Similarly, residents in neighboring countries have been closely monitoring the Iraqi elections through the many satellite television networks operating in the region. After all, elections are not a daily happening in the Arab world, and a number of those countries, such as Jordan and Syria, permitted Iraqi refugees to cast votes in their territories.


Meanwhile, one does not have to spend a lot of time watching Iran's Arabic-speaking Al Alam TV or the Saudi-financed Al Arabia TV in order to figure out who are the regional stake holders in the Iraqi elections. At times the Iraqi elections seem to take the shape of a battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as both countries have been overtly and covertly supporting the two heavyweight contenders. Iran supports Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, while Saudi Arabia has been rooting for former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Both al-Maliki and Allawi are Shiites, so why does Saudi Arabia want Allawi to win?

Al-Maliki's "cozying up" to Iran has been alarming many Arab countries. The Iraqi Prime Minister, whose Dawa Party is backed by Iran, has been flashing the sectarian card during his election campaign. With more than 500 candidates accused of links with the Ba'ath Party banned from running in the March elections, Al-Maliki's government has been accused of using the hated former regime to intimidate Sunnis in particular and opposition in general.

Iyad Allawi, although a Shiite, leads the al-Iraqiyya list, which proposes a secular agenda for the country. Many of its leading members are Sunnis or Arab nationalists who share the goal of bringing Iraq back to its Arab roots. Allawi's campaign ads have been airing on several Arab television stations, some say courtesy of Saudi Arabia.

But does this really matter to the average Iraqi citizen?

Not according to Kazem al-Dari, an Iraqi social scientist.

"What we need is stability," he says. "We've had elections before, we've tried Allawi before and now al-Maliki. Neither one brought stability and security to Iraq."

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. In 2003, the architects of the war envisioned that the toppling of Saddam Hussein would lead to the birth of a democratic Iraq. They told us that elections in Iraq would help spread democracy and liberalism across the Middle East, but this could not have been further from the truth.

The Middle East is more chaotic than ever, and the vast majority of its citizens are leaning politically towards Islamic theocracy and not liberal democracy. Iraqis are still searching for stability.


Article first published on the Huffington Post

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Taliban: If You Can't Beat Them, Buy Them!

The story the New York Times published this week on Hamid Karzai's drug-dealing brother Ahmed Wali and his ties to the CIA is very revealing, considering it comes just few days before Afghanistan's run-off election; however, it is not the real news. It has been rumored for years that Wali has been involved in opium trafficking and has been receiving payments from the CIA. The big story is the United States' government plan to buy out the Taliban -- officially, so to speak.


Taliban On Wednesday, President Obama signed a $680 billion defense appropriations bill, which is supposed to cover military operations in the 2010 fiscal year. The bill includes a Taliban reintegration provision under the Commander's Emergency Response Program. Don't you love the terminologies used by government bureaucrats? Call it buyout, bribes, protection money, but please don't call it integration.

The idea, according to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is to separate local Taliban from their leaders, replicating a program    used to neutralize the insurgency against Americans in Iraq. If you can't beat them, buy them!

Afghanistan though, is not Iraq. Unlike al-Sahwa in Iraq (the Sunni Awakening), when Iraqi tribe members took up arms against al-Qaeda and foreign insurgents, the Taliban are an integral part of Afghanistan, and they are not foreign fighters. They are the brothers, cousins and neighbors of ordinary Afghans. The US government might be able to temporarily buy out some Taliban members from attacking its troops but it will not be able to buy loyalties.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on President Obama to authorize the sending of more troops to Afghanistan. According to a recent Associated Press report:

"There are already more than 100,000 international troops in Afghanistan working with 200,000 Afghan security  forces and police. It adds up to a 12-to-1 numerical advantage over Taliban rebels, but it hasn't led to anything close to victory."

The Taliban rebels are estimated to number no more than 25,000 according to the same report. Yet, we have witnessed their devastating attacks in Kabul and other areas. The number of American deaths in Afghanistan has reached a record for the third time in four months. Some military experts say that an increase in US troops is no guarantee to reduce US fatalities and that it might only work in a negative way. The US army is not equipped to fight guerrilla warfare.

The new US strategies to be implemented in Afghanistan are nothing new; they are basically a redux of Iraqi ones. Their success rates are both short term, with the surge in Iraq only working temporarily, as the recent attacks in the country show. Paying for protection can only work against foreign insurgents and will only work as long as you keep paying.

In the meantime, on the news, I keep watching those who are gung-ho for sending more troops to Afghanistan insist that the U.S. has learned from the Soviets' mistakes. No one asks if it has learned anything from its mistakes in Iraq.


Original article published in the Huffington Post.
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Israel vs. Iran: The Writing Is On the Wall

Iran has agreed to allow international nuclear inspectors to view its recently revealed uranium enrichment plant near the city of Qom, and President Obama has called talks between U.S. diplomats and their Iranian counterparts about the country's nuclear program a "constructive beginning."

However, recent events and heated rhetoric concerning Iran's nuclear program are reminiscent of the final days that lead to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 when then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the United Nations Security Council on February 5th of that year with what he called "solid" evidence that showed Iraq had still not complied with resolutions calling for it to disarm and was maintaining a secret WMD program. It seems that history is repeating itself.

Unlike what happened to Iraq in 2003, an invasion of Iran is not on the horizon; however, the prospect of targeting its nuclear facilities is more real than ever. More so than during the Bush Administration. The reason is simple: no amount of pressure or sanctions will force Iran to ab2009-10-02-israelijet.jpg

andon what it perceives as its "unalienable right" to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

In an article in June, I outlined the drive behind Iran's nuclear ambition, and this has not changed. But most importantly the Obama Administration, although pursuing diplomatic means, seems to be convinced that the Iranians are conducting a clandestine nuclear program parallel to the public one. The aim of this, though of course not admitted by the Iranians, is clearly the acquisition of nuclear weapons. This position is shared by Israel, which will most likely get the green light to attack Iran's nuclear facilities by spring of 2010 when all negotiations with Iran will have hit a dead end.

Since April of this year, the Israeli military has been preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. The United States and Israel have recently conducted their most complex military exercise ever, jointly testing three ballistic missile defense systems. Among the steps taken to ready Israeli forces for what would be a risky raid requiring pinpoint aerial strikes are the acquisition of three Airborne Warning and Control (AWAC) aircraft and regional missions to simulate the attack.

The Israeli Air Force has recently been conducting training exercises involving F15 and F16 jets, helicopters and refueling tankers flying to distances of more than 870 miles: the distance between Israel and Iran. Among recent preparations by the air force was the Israeli attack of a weapons convoy in Sudan allegedly bound for militants in the Gaza Strip.

A recent article in the British Daily Express reported that Israeli fighter jets have been allowed to use Saudi airspace to launch go-it-alone air strikes on Iranian nuclear installations. The issue has been discussed in a closed-door meeting in London, where British Intelligence Chief Sir John Scarlett, his Israeli counterpart Meir Dagan, and a Saudi official were present. According to the report, Scarlett has been told that Saudi airspace would be at Israel's disposal should Tel Aviv decide to move forward with his military plans against Iran. The Saudis have denied such claims; however, for the past few weeks Saudi-sponsored media has been raising concern over the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. No mention of Israel's 200 plus nuclear warheads.

A survey just released by the American Jewish Committee reports that for the first time ever, a majority of American Jews support using military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Fifty-six percent of American Jews think U.S. should strike Iran, while sixty-six percent of Israeli Jews back such an attack.

How many Americans support an attack on Iran?

Fifty-seven percent of American voters say Israel would be justified in attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, given that Iran has publicly threatened to annihilate Israel, according to a McLaughlin poll conducted on May 8-9.

I am not being an alarmist, but the writing is on the wall.


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Article first published in the Huffington Post.


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9/11: Good War, Bad War, No War

Eight years have passed since the horrific events of September 11, 2001, and the U.S. government is still waiting to pay the $25 million reward it has offered to anyone who provides information leading to Osama bin Laden's capture.

Meanwhile, almost eight years have passed since the U.S. has launched Operation Enduring Freedom, less than a month after the attacks of 9/11, in order to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban government that harbored the group. It was supposed to be a swift and decisive victory until the U.S. botched an effort to nab bin Laden in late 2001 in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region. His trail has since gone cold, and everything has gone wrong.Bin Laden's Wanted Poster


George W. Bush shifted his attention to Iraq. We were told that the Land of the Two Rivers was ruled by a horrible man who was stockpiling WMDs and was bent on setting the region on fire. We were told that he also had something to do with 9/11. We found out that we were duped:

"Never mind," they said, " he is still a bad man." And Saddam was hung.

We were also told that democracy is contagious, and once we plant it in Iraq, it will spread all over the Middle East. They then showed us the "purple fingers," and we rejoiced. But now Iraq has become the "bad war"; it has been deemed a "war of choice." The "good war" we are told is in Afghanistan, "a war of necessity" in Obama's own words.

Today, America mourns the memory of those who perished eight years ago. But today America needs to reassess what has been done in the name of the victims of 9/11: two horrible and unwinnable wars. This is the reality of the situation.

No Afghans or Iraqis have been directly involved in the attacks of 9/11. All 19 hijackers were Arabs, mostly from Saudi Arabia, and their leader is in hiding. Exacting revenge for 9/11 was and still is a job most suited for the CIA, anti-terror units, and other international security agencies.

However, President Obama has already ordered the deployment of 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by the end of the year, bringing the U.S. total to 68,000 and the coalition total to 110,000. This is despite the fact that now, for the first time, a majority of respondents (51 percent) in a recent Washington Post-ABC poll said the war was not worth the fight.

This past August was the deadliest month for US troops since the start of the war in October 2001, according to the Pentagon. Taliban forces have gained ground, and coalition troop casualties have steadily risen; therefore, an increase in American troops on the ground in Afghanistan will only lead to more casualties. You do not have to be a military general to figure this out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has done a mediocre job on the intelligence side in the hunt for bin Laden. According to a recent article in the Times Online "the fruitless search [for bin Laden] has essentially been outsourced by the U.S. to a network of Pashtun spies run by the Pakistani intelligence services."

One of the former CIA agents, called Mr. Keller, interviewed for this article "spoke no Middle Eastern languages, and was not an expert on al-Qaeda or Pakistan."

Now we know why the reward for bin Laden's head remains unclaimed!

There is no "good war" and "bad war" in the aftermath of 9/11...there is bad strategy...and it has been bad all along.


Originally published on the Huffington Post


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