Archive for January, 2011

FREEDOM DEFICIT IS THE MAIN PROBLEM IN THE MIDEAST

January 31, 2011

On Saturday 29, 2011, Elliot Abrams commented in Washington Post that the freedom deficit in the Arab states was the reason for the problems in the Mideast and quoted President George W. Bush, who in November 2003 asked three questions:

Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?

Comment: What lessons will Arab regimes in North Africa, Syria and Iran learn for the coming decade? Will they undertake the steady reforms that may bring peaceful change? Will the U.S. government learn that dictatorships are never truly stable in any tyranny?

Mubarak took the same tack for three decades. Ruling under an endless emergency law, he has crushed the moderate opposition while the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has thrived underground and in the mosques. In effect a two-party system was created: the ruling National Democratic Party and the Brotherhood.

For three decades Hosni Mubarak and his cronies have left Egypt with no reliable mechanisms for a transition to democratic rule.

All these developments seem to come as a surprise to the Obama administration, which dismissed Bush’s “freedom agenda” as overly ideological and meant essentially to defend the invasion of Iraq. In reality President Bush foresaw what lack of freedom would mean.

When the Iranian regime stole the June 2009 elections the Obama administration feared that speaking out in their support might jeopardize the nuclear negotiations.

Mr. Abrams recommends looking at the world map to see the forgotten millions of people suffering under and beginning to rebel against those rulers.

One can only agree with Mr. Abrams: now is the time to say that the peoples of the Middle East are not “beyond the reach of liberty” and that the United States will assist any peaceful effort to achieve it – and oppose and condemn efforts to suppress it.

A final question is: can one really negotiate with tyranny?

IS CHINA THE NEXT EGYPT?

January 31, 2011

In Forbes the China expert Gordon Chang argues that the regime in Peking stands a good chance of becoming the next Egypt. Officials in the capital, he said:

know that every resentment felt by Tunisians and Egyptians is shared by those they rule.

Comment: The Chinese regime is also attempting to block Internet reporting on Egypt’s revolution. One should not disregard Chinese nationalism and feeling of superiority. Discontent is however growing and the tyrants in China have every reason to censor the Internet. Reporting of revolutions against dictatorships around the world make the communist bureaucrats jittery.

FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS IN EGYPT

January 30, 2011

The Working Group on Egypt in the U.S. on Saturday January 29, 2011, released this statement:

Amidst the turmoil in Egypt, it is important for the U.S. to remain focused on the interests of the Egyptian people as well as the legitimacy and stability of the Egyptian government.

Only free and fair elections provide the prospect for a peaceful transfer of power to a government recognized as legitimate by the Egyptian people.

We urge the Obama administration to pursue these fundamental objectives in the coming days and press the Egyptian government to:

– call for free and fair elections for president and for parliament to be held as soon as possible.
– amend the Egyptian Constitution to allow opposition candidates to register to run for the presidency.
– immediately lift the state of emergency, release political prisoners, and allow for freedom of media and assembly
– allow domestic election monitors to operate throughout the country, without fear of arrest or violence.
– immediately invite international monitors to enter the country and monitor the process leading to elections, reporting on the government’s compliance with these measures to the international community
– publicly declare that Mr. Mubarak will agree not to run for re-election.

We further recommend that the Obama administration suspend all economic and military assistance to Egypt until the government accepts and implements these measures.

AMBASSADOR BOLTON’S TAKE ON EGYPT

January 30, 2011

Former U.N. Ambassador of the U.S. John Bolton as published by Fox News said on January 28, 2011:

I think after the Friday (January 28) prayers the Brotherhood brought its people out. That’s why the protests are even more extensive today. That constitutes no doubt about it a direct threat to the military government…

Let me be clear here, this is not just the Mubarak-family government. The military has ruled Egypt since Gamal Nasser and they over through King Farook.

It’s the military that is the real government and they are not going to go peacefully.

Ambassador Bolton also said that the government could hold but in that case blood would be spilt:

There is no evidence yet that these demonstrations are necessarily about democracy. You know the old saying, “one person, one vote, one time.” The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t care about democracy, if they get into power you’re not going to have free and fair elections either.

If the Islamists came to power the minority Coptic Christian population, about 10% of the population would be worried.

Obama and Clinton statements have been mush. With such statements they ought better be silent.

I think everybody, including leaders of the opposition, was caught off guard by the strength of the protests

The regime is under enormous pressure, there is no doubt about it, but I don’t think that just because you have people climbing onto tanks you can assume that they are friendly to democratic values.

Finally Ambassador Bolton asked if anybody would like the Suez Canal to be in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.

OVERTHROW OF IRAN REGIME DEMANDED IN BRUSSELS

January 28, 2011

The Mujahedin-e Khalq, Iran’s opposition group known by its initials MEK on January 25, 2011, met in Brussels. They demanded that pressure should be continued on the regime of the mullahs.

WSJ on January 26, 2011, reported MEK packed a conference hall with over 1,000 enthusiastic supporters who came to watch a panel with their heroes, an all-star cast of Iranian dissidents and foreign policy exports, headlined by Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The team included former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton and former U.S. National Security Advisor director James Jones.

Mr. Bolton said:

The policy of the United States must unequivocally be the overthrow of the regime in Tehran. We are here to celebrate the great American tradition of disagreeing in front of a foreign audience.

He drew a standing ovation.

FBI PROBING PRO-WIKILEAKS CYBER ATTACKERS

January 28, 2011

A group calling itself “Anonymous”, allegedly active supporters of WikiLeaks, has for somed time carried out attacks targeting major companies. As reported by Fox News on January 28, 2011, the alleged attackers are part of a group. FBI agents have executed 40 search warrants throughout the United States.

In the United Kingdom additional search warrants were executed and five people were arrested for their alleged role in the attacks.

Late 2010 the group launched take-down campaigns against organizations that have shunned the site WikiLeaks. Under the banner “Operation Payback,” the Anonymous group successfully crashed MasterCard.com and strained the websites of Visa and PayPal.

Anonymous allegedly makes its attacks not through hacking, but merely by directing a giant traffic surge to the targeted website. That is a distributed denial-of-service attack, and it is hard for most websites to defend against.

FBI said in a statement that:

The attacks were facilitated by software tools the group makes available for free download on the internet. Facilitating or conducting such attacks is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

NEW PROTESTS IN EGYPT

January 27, 2011

WSJ on January 27, 2011, reported that demonstrations continued for a second day on Wednesday, January 26, 2011. The result could be the shaking of authoritarian regimes around the Mideast. Police responded with redoubled force.

Early in the day police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the largest gathering of demonstrators, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Police arrested around 860 protesters. Additional two people died in Cairo in connection with the protests according to AP.

More actions are scheduled for Friday, January 28, 2011.

In the city of Suez, a 1,000-strong mob gathered outside a municipal morgue to demand the body of one of three protesters who died earlier. Several hundred protesters later tried to attack a police station and the local headquarters of Mr. Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party.

The response by Mr. Mubarak’s regime to the protests—whether it will squelch them, allow for limited political or economic reforms, or, in the unlikely extreme, collapse—will color reactions far beyond Egypt.

One unusual feature during the demonstrations was the presence of thousands of middle-class citizens who rarely demonstrate or even publicly voice unhappiness with the regime.

Protests have been joined by opposition groups, including many who fall under an umbrella group called the National Association for Change, founded in February 2010. The group initially galvanized around the return of Mohammed ElBaradei, a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Antigovernment activists met on January 26, 2011, to discuss how to carry forward the momentum.

In the dense, lower-middle-class neighborhood of Boulaq, groups of young men lobbed bottles at policemen. As tear-gas canisters began to fall, protesters scurried into back alleys, where many residents sought refuge.

Comment: The big question is of course if protests will reach the totalitarian regimes of Syria and Iran. That would have a growing influence on the balance of power in the Mideast.

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN THE MIDEAST

January 26, 2011

Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police across Egypt on January 25, 2011, to demand the ouster of the president.

Three deaths were reported by WSJ on January 26, 2011. As many as 50,000 demonstrators in turned out in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and other Egyptian cities.

The protests marked the greatest upsurge of anger so far inspired by the Tunisian protests. In some 10 days since then, demonstrations have broken out in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen.

Any major shift in the foreign policy of Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, would have lasting impact for American interests, in matters from the Arab-Israel peace process to the fight against al Qaeda.

Tuesday’s protests fell on Police Day, an annual holiday meant to commemorate a police-led uprising against British colonialists in 1952. Many Egyptians have remained angry over allegations that police officers beat a young man to death last summer in Alexandria.

Demonstrators were met in Tahrir Square by an almost equal number of state security officials, who used clubs, water cannons and tear gas to subdue the crowd. Protests devolved by late afternoon into riots, with stone-throwing youth forcing police to retreat several blocks. Baton-wielding officers charged back, beating demonstrators and also throwing stones.

Security forces dispersed protesters early Wednesday, the state news agency reported.

For all the inspiration protesters drew from Tunisia, the demonstrations underscored important differences between the two countries.

Egypt’s interior ministry said some of the most violent rioting involved “a large number of those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.” That could not be independently confirmed.

Nobel Prize-winner Mohammed elBaradei, a pro-democracy advocate some Egyptians would like to see succeed Mr. Mubarak in elections set for later this year, said he supported the protests but didn’t participate.

Mrs. Clinton on Tuesday downplayed the idea that Mr. Mubarak’s government was being destabilized, even as she called for his security forces to show restraint:

Our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.

EMBASSY BOMBER AHMED GHAILANI GETS LIFE IN PRISON

January 26, 2011

A New York District judge on January 25, 2011, sentenced the first Guantanamo detainee to have a U.S. civilian trial to life in prison, saying anything he suffered at the hands of the U.S. and others “pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror” caused by the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

The judge called the attacks “horrific” and saying the deaths and damage they caused far outweighs “any and all considerations that have been advanced on behalf of the defendant.” He also ordered Ghailani to pay a $33 million fine.

Kaplan denounced the attacks and said he was satisfied that Ghailani knew and intended that people would be killed as a result of his actions and the conspiracy he joined:

This crime was so horrible,” he said. It was a cold-blooded killing and maiming of innocent people on an enormous scale. It wrecked the lives of thousands more … who had their lives changed forever. The purpose of the crime was to create terror by causing death and destruction on a scale that was hard to imagine in 1998 when it occurred.

Ghailani, a Tanzanian, was captured in Pakistan in 2004 and later interrogated overseas. He was moved to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2006 before being transferred to New York for prosecution in 2009.

Evidence at trial showed that Ghailani helped purchase bomb components prior to the attacks, including 15 gas tanks designed to enhance the power of the bombs, along with one of the bomb vehicles.

The FBI also said Ghailani was trained by al-Qaida after the twin 1998 attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and became a bodyguard and cook for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before becoming an expert document forger for the terrorist organization.

Ghailani is the fifth person to be sentenced. Four others were sentenced to life in prison after a 2001 trial in Manhattan federal court. Bin Laden is charged in the indictment, as well.

CHINA TECHNOLOGY ESPIONAGE IN THE U.S.

January 25, 2011

AP reported on January 25, 2011, that a former B-2 stealth bomber engineer was sentenced to 32 years in prison for selling military secrets to China in the latest of several high-profile cases of Chinese espionage in the U.S.

Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway said about the spy Noshir Gowadia:

He broke his oath of loyalty to this country. He was found guilty of marketing valuable technology to foreign countries for personal gain.

Prosecutors said Mr. Gowadia helped China design a stealth cruise missile to get money to pay the $15,000-a-month mortgage on his multimillion dollar home overlooking the ocean on Maui. They say he pocketed at least $110,000 by selling military secrets.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson, the lead prosecutor, had asked Mr. Mollway to sentence Mr. Gowadia to life in prison.

Mr. Sorenson after sentencing said:

We’re confident the message is sent that when you compromise U.S. national security, when you disclose national defense secrets, when you profit by U.S. national defense information, that you will be punished, you will be pursued, you will be convicted

Gowadia was also found guilty of attempting to sell classified stealth technology to the Swiss government and businesses in Israel and Germany.

The case follows other high-profile convictions of people accused of providing secrets to China.

Last March, Chinese-born engineer Dongfan “Greg” Chung was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after he was convicted of six counts of economic espionage and other federal charges.

A defense contractor engineer, Chi Mak, was sentenced in 2008 to 24 years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to export U.S. defense technology to China.

Mr. Gowadia’s sentencing came just weeks after China conducted a flight test of its new J-20 stealth fighter during a visit to Beijing by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

The engineer helped design the propulsion system for the B-2 bomber when he worked at Northrop Corp., now known as Northrop Grumman Corp., between 1968 and 1986.

Comment: The sentencing of Gowadia is of special interest after media reports that China may have stolen U.S. stealth technology from a plane shot down in Serbia in 1999.