Archive for May, 2011


May 30, 2011

Robert D. Kaplan on May 27, 2011, in Foreign Policy Magazine says that Pakistani officials have announced that the Chinese look favorably on taking over the operation of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar close to the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, and perhaps building a naval base for the Pakistanis there as well.

The Chinese have according to Kaplan already invested $200 million in building a modern port in Gwadar. The reason for the Chinese interest is what has been called a “Malacca dilemma.” China is too dependent on the narrow and congested Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia for its oil and natural gas shipments from the Middle East to Chinese ports.

Engagement in port-building projects in Pakistan and Burma is part of the Chinese geostrategy: may be linkinking roads and energy pipelines directly to China.

Once China has developed a blue-water navy to protect its sea lines of communications, it will require port access along the global energy interstate that is the Indian Ocean. For Pakistan’s part, a robust Chinese presence at Gwadar would serve to check India’s own strategic ambitions, as Islamabad leverages Beijing against New Delhi.

However, the security situation is indeed fraught with peril in the area. The Chinese know that a pipeline network from Gwadar into Central Asia and China must await the political stabilization of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Pakistanis want to use China as a bulwark against India. China is expanding elsewhere building or upgrading ports not only in Pakistan and Burma, but in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well. India already feels surrounded by China and has greatly enlarged its own naval base at Karwar, in the country’s south, partly in response to Chinese construction work in Gwadar.

Gwadar is important: not for what it is today, but for what it will indicate about Beijing’s intentions in the coming years and decades.


May 28, 2011

The first U.S. Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous spacecraft for the military is in orbit on May 7, 2011, and is performing as required as reported by UPI on May 25.

Lockheed Martin, which built the spacecraft said the U.S. Air Force/Lockheed Martin SBIRS ground team executed a series of six engine burns to position the spacecraft to its geosynchronous orbital slot.

The team deployed the satellite’s solar arrays, light shade and antenna wing assemblies in preparation for activating its infrared sensors and the start of early orbit testing.

SBIRS GEO-1 is the most technologically advanced military infrared satellite ever developed and will enhance early warning of missile launches around the globe, support the nation’s ballistic missile defense system, greatly expand technical intelligence gathering capability, and bolster situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

The spacecraft includes highly sophisticated scanning and staring sensors that will deliver improved infrared sensitivity and a reduction in area revisit times over the current constellation of surveillance satellites.


May 27, 2011

Leaders at the G 8 Summit May 26 – 27, 2011, in France are considering providing aid for Tunisia and Egypt to foster freedom and democracy. The war in Libya will also take up much of the discussions.

Leaders may also agree to seek United Nations Security Council action on Yemen, where the refusal of veteran President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in the face of mass protests may cause a civil war.

It seems certain, according to officials, that the group will condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters according to officials.

On May 27 Leaders of the Group of Eight nations said that international development banks could give more than $20 billion to Egypt and Tunisia to support countries that overthrew dictators this year and are trying to establish free democracies.

G-8 leaders meeting in France said in a final statement that their countries will also “mobilize substantial bilateral support to scale up this effort.”

They encouraged other countries, including rich Arab world nations, to contribute as well to shoring up economies in Egypt and Tunisia, where uprisings this year overthrew dictators:

In the short term, our collective aim is to ensure that instability does not undermine the process of political reform, and that social cohesion and macroeconomic stability are both sustained.

The more than $20 billion in aid from multilateral development banks is aimed at “suitable reform efforts” from now through 2013, the statement said, without elaborating. Some euro3.5 billion would come from the European Investment Bank.

After meetings with the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia the G-8 leaders launched a partnership program aimed at supporting the countries’ fragile political leadership and fighting corruption and stabilizing the economies.

G-8 laid out a plan for refocusing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — created to help eastern European economies after the collapse of communism — to help Arab democracies.

The G-8 leaders are also worried that fighting in Libya and violence against protesters in Syria could derail the pro-democracy movement that has swept around the Arab world since Tunisian protesters rose up against an autocratic regime and forced out their longtime president.

In their final statement, the G-8 leaders said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi “must go” and are pressing Syria’s regime to “stop using force and intimidation” against its people.

Leaders meeting in France say Gadhafi and his government have failed to fulfill their responsibility to protect Libya’s people “and have lost all legitimacy. He has no future in a free, democratic Libya.”


May 26, 2011

On a visit to Texas on May 25, 2011, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (Fox News, May 26, 2011) discussed President Obama’s desire to cut the defense budget by $400 billion over the next 12 years. Rumsfeld said Obama and those in Congress who back up that idea should learn from the slip-ups of other administrations:

About every 20 years some presidential administration afterward decides they’re going to cut back on defense. And every time they do it, they’re wrong.

The defense budget was cut back after World War II, as well as the Korean and Cold Wars. Now, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Obama has proposed drastically cutting defense spending in his 2012 budget.

“Every time they do it, they have to go back and fix it,” Rumsfeld stated.

The former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also commented on Obama’s recommendation to the Middle East of bringing back the 1967 borders involving Israel:

It is unthinkable to try and re-instate the 1967 borders of Israel. It’s not defensible, it shouldn’t be done, and it won’t be done because no Israeli leader can permit it.

He was in Fort Bliss, Texas, to sign copies of his memoir, a New York Times best seller, “Known and Unknown.”


May 25, 2011

As reported on May 25, 2011, President Barack Obama in his Westminster speech lauded the American-British special relationship:

I come here today to reaffirm one of the oldest and strongest alliances the world has ever known. It has long been said that the United States and the United Kingdom share a special relationship.

What started on the British Isles would inspire millions throughout Europe and the world:

But perhaps no one drew greater inspiration from these notions of freedom than your rabble-rousing colonists on the other side of the Atlantic.

As Winston Churchill said:

The “…Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

The American president also paid homage to NATO:

And with the founding of NATO — a British idea — we joined a transatlantic alliance that has ensured our security for over half a century.

Together with our Allies, we forged a lasting peace from a cold war. When the Iron Curtain lifted, we expanded our alliance to include the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, and built new bridges to Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union. And when there was strife in the Balkans, we worked together to keep the peace.

The rising of developing nations in Asia and Latin America, the president declared:

Will [not] accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed.

That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now. It was the United States, the United Kingdom, and our democratic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive.

It was important that it in the speech was underlined that the rise of the BRIC will not mean decline of the West. The time for Western leadership is now. It was the West that shaped the world in which new nations and individuals could move forward.

The United States and the rest of the West remain the greatest catalyst for global action, in the words of the president, who also paid homage to Western economic leadership:

Adam Smith’s central insight remains true today: there is no greater generator of wealth and innovation than a system of free enterprise that unleashes the full potential of individual men and women. That is what led to the Industrial Revolution that began in the factories of Manchester. That is what led to the dawn of an Information Age that arose from the office parks of Silicon Valley. And that is why countries like India are growing so rapidly — because in fits and starts, they are moving towards the market-based principles that the United States and the United Kingdom have always embraced.

That gives nations like the United States and the United Kingdom an inherent advantage. From Newton to Edison we have led the world in our commitment to science and cutting-edge research; the discovery of new medicines and technologies. We educate our citizens and train our workers in the best colleges and universities on Earth. But to maintain this advantage in a world that’s more competitive than ever, we will have to redouble our investments in science and engineering, and renew our national commitments to educating our workforces.

The American president also reminded his listeners at Westminster of the threats in the 21st century:

Terrorists have taken the lives of our citizens in New York and in London. And while al Qaeda seeks a religious war with the West, let’s remember that they have killed thousands of Muslims — men, women and children — around the globe.

Obama also brought up the longing for freedom in the Mideast:

But make no mistake: what we saw in Tehran, Tunis and Tahrir Square is a longing for the same freedoms that we take for granted at home. It was a rejection of the notion that people in certain parts of the world don’t want to be free, or need to have democracy imposed upon them. It was a rebuke to the worldview of al Qaeda, which smothers the rights of individuals, and would thereby subject them to perpetual poverty and violence.

Now we must show that we will back up these words with deeds. That means investing in the future of those nations that transition to democracy, starting with Tunisia and Egypt — by deepening ties of trade and commerce; by helping them demonstrate that freedom brings prosperity. And that means standing up for universal rights — by sanctioning those who pursue repression, strengthening civil society, and supporting the rights of minorities.

Unlike most countries in the world, we do not define citizenship based on race or ethnicity. Being American or British is not about belonging to a certain group; it’s about believing in a certain set of ideals — the rights of individuals and the rule of law. That is why we hold incredible diversity within our borders.

What lacked in the presidential speech was a recognition that it was President George W. Bush who during his terms in office initiated the American policy of support for freedom and democracy in the Mideast.


May 24, 2011

AP on May 24, 2011, reported on the Israeli Prime Minister’s vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers and American Jews. Benjamin Netayahu vowed that his country would not return to mid-1967 borders.

He said:

This conflict has raged for 100 years because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept a Jewish state.
A peace agreement, he said, must assure Israel’s security:

Israel cannot return to the indefensible 1967 borders.


May 23, 2011

UPI on May 22, 2011, reported that Europe’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had left for Libya to establish official ties with Libyan rebels.

She came to Benghazi to open a liaison office, the opposition’s National Transitional Council said:

Opening an EU office is an important signal of our unfaltering support for the Libyan people, It is the EU putting words into action.

Ashton said: “I bring the commitment of the EU 27 member-states and all of the institutions in support of the people of Benghazi and the people of Libya. … We don’t just come for today. … We’re here for the long term. … We will be here to support you every step of the way.

But she said it is for Europe’s member states to decide individually whether to recognize the council as Libya’s legitimate government


May 21, 2011

Over the weekend May 20 to May 22, 2011, a Fox News’ specials unit will present a TV program with shocking news. The team has uncovered new and overwhelming evidence that the American cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, the first U.S. citizen on an American kill or capture list, was an overlooked key player in the 9/11 plot.

Criminal PENTTBOM (FBI’s codename for the 9/11 case) investigator Jimmy Bush told Fox News in his first television interview:

It was my feeling that they had to have a network. There was a mosque and the imam of that mosque was Anwar al-Awlaki, which raised my suspicions.

Former FBI Agent Bob Bukowski said:

The evidence strongly suggested Awlaki and his mosques on the East and West coasts were at the center of a network of helpers that enabled the hijackers to find apartments and obtain fake ids.

The investigation at the time obviously was very suspicious. Knowing and proving are always two different things.

Multiple sources have told Fox News that the contact between Awlaki and hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdar and Hani Hanjour, three of the five hijackers who flew into the Pentagon, was not casual or coincidental but rather evidence of a purposeful relationship. Thus there was a high probability that they (the hijackers) had shared with Awlaki what they were planning to do.

Fox News has reviewed hundreds of newly declassified documents to identify, for the first time, the network of helpers who allowed the hijackers to stay under the radar.

For the first time, Fox News reveals how those in the alleged 9/11 support network are still living in the U.S.

One of the Fox News team, National Correspondent Catherine Herridge’s first book The Next Wave: On the Hunt for al Qaeda’s American Recruits will be published by Crown on June 21st. It draws on her reporting for Fox News into al-Awlaki and his new generation of recruits.


May 19, 2011

Amir Taheri, NYP columnist on May 17, 2011, says in an article that it is doubtful today if there really is an “Arab world”. The Israel-Palestine conflict today is no longer on the top of the agenda.

A planned Arab League summit for 2011 has been postponed until March, 2012, and it is doubtful if it even will take place. It had the Israel-Palestine conflict on the top of the summit program.

Instead of an Arab bloc of despotic regimes there is a “broken crescent” split in several groups.

1.There are the countries that have toppled their despots and are on the way to democratization, Iraq possibly emerging as the leader. Joining the group are Egypt and Tunisia, which will soon follow Iraq’s example by choosing their governments through free elections.

2. Then there are the petro-monarchies, led by Saudi Arabia, deploying immense resources to prevent change. Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait belong to this group.

Last week, the group (acting through the Gulf Cooperation Council) invited the other two Arab monarchies, Jordan and Morocco, to join — ostensibly to “resist negative forces,” in fact to fight the pro-democracy contagion.

Jordan and Morocco have already introduced elements of a constitutional system and don’t share the strict traditionalism of Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Within the group, Kuwait is halfway toward democracy and couldn’t turn back if tried.

3. The third group consists of Libya, Syria and Yemen, where despotic regimes are waging war against the people. Whatever the outcome of the current struggles, these regimes don’t seem to have much of a future.

With change in Syria, Lebanon might be able to shake off Iran’s domination and join the new Arab democracies. Change may also come to Algeria, with a new generation of the military allowing the development of a genuinely pluralist system.

4. Just three despotic Arab regimes — in Sudan, Eritrea and Mauritania — have managed to keep the lid on popular revolt, forming a fourth group for now. The key source of support for all three is China, which is pursuing a 19th century-style imperialist agenda in the “developing world.”

These dramatic changes in the Arab world have happened without much input by any other major power — including the United States.

It seems urgent for the United States to create a new policy in the Mideast. It won’t be enough with just another speech by President Obama.

Amir is of course correct. It is time for the West, not only the United States, to say to the dissidents: “We are with you”. A start should be made with Syria.


May 18, 2011

In an article published in NYT (“A Moment of Moral Clarity”, May 17, 2011) the former Soviet political prisoner Natan Sharansky calls for more understanding in the West of the calls for liberty in the Mideast. He asks:

How many protesters must a regime murder before it is no longer fit for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council? How many thousands of dissidents must it jail? How many acts of internation terrorism must it instigate?

Sharansky also wonders what the blood-soaked regimes in the area are doing on a human-rights body in the first place.

The author firmly declares that what is happening now in the Arab-Muslim Middle East is very important. The peoples have decided that they no longer want to live in fear. They are risking their lives and limbs to get rid of autocracy.

It is therefore time for the free world, led by the United States, to choose between the two alternatives of engagement and disengagement. When President Ronald Reagan pronounced the Soviet Union to be an “evil empire” he brought courage to the disidents and hope to hundreds of millions desperate to escape Soviet subjugation. There may, so Sharansky, be no “evil empire” in the Mideast of today, but there are many evil regimes:

To those millions crossing, or waiting to cross, the line into freedom, we can send a simple but thrilling message of support and solidarity: We are with you…At this moment of moral clarity, when the free world is being challenged to cease turning a blind eye to tyranny, surely it is not too much to affirm full-throatedly the aspirations of the Arab and Muslim peoples to live in freedom, to choose their own governments, to be protected in their right to dissent, and no longer be ruled by guns.