Tarheeltalker

The Future of Europe?

This is a subject that   I have been pondering for quite  awhile and  is probably just an initial effort at expressing  some opinions. To me the subject is at once complicated, disturbing and perhaps  a view of  our ( United States ) future.

I am a great fan of political novels, especially those set in our era. Those that depict events similar  to those that are occurring and make reference to actual people and places in the course of their books. I have referred before to Daniel Silva whom I thoroughly enjoy and I have just finished a book by Michael Walsh, Hostile Intent, that addresses some similar issues but from a  quite different perspective. Factored in to my post is a challenging nonfiction book that I have just begun to read. It  is by British author Melanie Phillips  and it its premise dovetails nicely with my fictional reading.

These slightly disparate works all have one word common to them that struck me quite forcefully. That word is Londonistan, which is the title of Ms Phillips book. Walsh mentions and I am fairly certain that Silva does also. Both fictional writers speak heavily of the concept as well.

What is the concept of which they speak? Ms Phillips says it best in the intro to her book. She begins her intro with the London subway suicide bombings of July 7. 2005 and  its implications . She asserts that  it reveals London as the  epicenter ( good Joel Rosenberg word) of Islamic militancy. She uses the word ” Londonistan” which is  a mocking play of the names of London and state sponsors of terrorism such as Afghanistan. You can think of others. She added this chilling detail that one could argue that al-Qaeda actually began in London in the 1980s and 90s. She continues to  talk about Britain in essence turning on itself and attacking its own historical values.

And this next may be the most troubling. There is underway an attempt to establish a separate Muslim identity in the country. This is  in  a country approximately 5% Muslim . So there is a  minority attempting and succeeding in many ways to impose its values on the host country. A tiny but illustrative example is that piggy banks are banned from British banks lest Muslims be offended. Funny, maybe, but not ha-ha funny by any means. British Muslims actually insist they are under Western attack  and blame any wrongdoing by Muslims on others. One more thought before part #1 closes.

 British liberals fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic so Muslim extremism goes somewhat  unchecked and  criticism is against the so-called bigot. The London train bombings were, by this logic, caused by American , Israeli or British policies.

My intent is to refer to Ms Phillips book  again in part #2 as well  as some fictional  references from Walsh and perhaps Silva. As I alluded,  her book is a difficult read for me but I hope to plow through  a bit further.

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August 11, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Other Nuclear Summit

The President hosted a nuclear summit last week in Washington last week. Not to be outdone, another country on the other side of the world, hosted one just a couple of days ago. This event was spearheaded by that noted peace- loving country of Iran. Can you imagine  having something called  a nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran? It would almost be  amusing if it were not true.

And to make things even more interesting, 3 Arab leaders expressed their support for Iranian  nuclear rights. Now that’s a new one  on me, the concept of nuclear rights. The Syrian  Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, is quoted as saying that ” We support Iran’s pursuit of peaceful  nuclear technology.”

Now, just for  a minute think why Iran wants or needs nuclear technoogy. Do they intend to use it to generate electricity? When you are sitting on as much oil as they are, why on earth would you do that?  Wonder what other purpose they might have in mind for  their nuclear knowledge? Weaponry, surely  not, must be missing something here, I guess.

Well   let us hear from 2 other Arab leaders who were at the summit and no Israel wasn’t at this  meeting other. First we hear from Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Ali al-Shami who said that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and they are certainly not violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Our thirdArab spokesman’s comment should  really get our attention. This is true partly to what he said and partly due  to where he is from. He is Iraqi, yes Iraqi, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Our Iraqi friend said that “we reject any threat against Iran and insist on Iran’s right( there   is that word, right, again) to use peaceful nuclear energy.” Reckon he cleared those comments with  Obama?

The other thing on which these three agreed may very well the biggest news from the conference. They  all agreed that Israel must dismantle its nuclear  weapons and allow its nuclear facilities to undergo  IAEA inspection. You might say that Israel  has no intention of dismantling anything based on an Arab nuclear summit. And you would be correct. What if these  guys are just stalking horses, so to speak, for someone else and the comment are just the ground work for  stronger demands  by more prominent nations?

Joel Rosenberg described just such an event in his 2005 work of fiction, The Ezekiel Option. In that book, it was, guess who, Russia, who made a dramatic call for Israel’s nuclear disarmament at a U  N session. In the book it was quite well received by virtually everyone. Just wondering.

April 19, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

About that Iranian Thing…

…..wasn’t it supposed to be over and done by now? Something about December and deadlines and agreements  and how Russia has smoothed it all over  and wasn’t all the Arab world going to fall in love  with us? You remember the speech in Egypt that  was so great, do you not?

And just the other day, Defense Secretary Gates held out hope for the sanctions to work. And now Hilary has given an interview that kinda says Iran is not the real problem since they don’t have a bomb,yet.

Don’t I remember somebody using the phrase “axis of evil” and being roundly  condemned for it. Why that cowboy diplomacy that makes the world hate us,how dare he!

And yet, today I read that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has told his atomic agency to significantly enrich the country’s  stockpile of uranium. And German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg  referred to the farce being played out  just like in the past. “The outstretched hand of the international community has not only been taken but pushed back.”

What did Herr Guttenberg mean do you think? We will agree with the UN plan maybe says Iran. If more sanctions were imposed it would a  4th round, if you’re counting, and neither Russia nor China seems  all that excited about it.

I just feel that I have written all of this before and yet here we are again. Wonder what Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel think about it all? Are they watching closely?” Bet your sweet bippy” they are. In fact he is in Russia as  we write on a “long-planned trip.” Wonder what they will discuss?

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who’s Fighting Whose Wars?

Seems that a former senior CIA agent, Michael Scheuer, thinks we have some misplaced allegiances in the Middle East. Mr Scheuer was on  a C-Span call-in show  last Monday which degenerated into  an anti-Semitic gab fest.

Scheuer, with a number of callers agreed, thinks Israel is of no strategic importance to the United States. He also said that  American soldiers are dying in Iraq for the sake of Israel. He had this telling quote, ” Their association with us is a negative for the United States. Now that’s a fact. What you want about that fact is entirely different.” One more tidbit from Mr Scheuer. We should somehow “persuade”  Islamic terrorists who threaten us to” focus their anger” on Israel (as if they already do not)  and oppressive Middle Eastern regimes.

Wonder who he thinks is our most staunch ally in the Middle East, as well as the only thing country even close to having a freely elected government. Uh, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. None seem to ring a bell. As for the part about our troops dying for Israel, may we return briefly to Desert  Storm in 1991. If memory serves, we fought that war to liberate Kuwait and by extension keep Hussein away from Saudi Arabia. Israel suffered the indignity of repeated scud missile attacks without provocation. I also seem to remember our asking them to hold off on retaliation ( defend  themselves) which they did. Not sure of Mr Scheuer’s thoughts on that matter.

Add the above to this next Obama administration maneuver. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is heading over to do some tough talking to the Israelis( must have been reading from the playbook of the Palestinian from Plains) about restarting peace negotiations. He threatened a freeze in U S aid to Israel if  satisfactory progress is not made. No wonder that polls indicate  a large majority of Israelis are nervous about the state of relations with us.

Wonder if the letters Mitchell is bringing with him bring instructions about the division of Jerusalem as well as the two-state solution. Methinks Israel is right to be ill at ease. For greater discussion of  the issues and insight as to why we should have a strong relationship with Israel, visit   Joel Rosenberg’s blog .It  gives one  a good perspective on Israel in particular as well as the Middle East as a whole.

Shalom!

January 9, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Goldstone Report and Israel

Today, the United Nations approved, by a narrow vote of  114-18, with 44 nations abstaining, an Arab supported resolution that endorses the Goldstone Report. This paves the way for the UN Security Council to consider the matter. What did we do, voted no, along with Canada and obviously  only a handful of other countries.

The aforementioned report calls on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate the allegations of war crimes during last winter’s Gaza  incursion.( The report is named for South African jurist and UN investigator Richard Goldstone.) Deputy US ambassador to the UN, Alexander Wolff, called  the report”deeply flawed”. His main concerns were  the lack of attention or  mention of Hamas and the unbalanced focus on Israel.

Doubtless, the US would veto any Security council action. So, why is Israel concerned enough to say, via its UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalav, that granting any legitimate status to the report would essentially deny Israel “the right to defend ourselves.”  That is quite important to them, existing as they do in the world’s toughest neighborhood, as its most isolated member.

Perhaps they watch events and listen to statements with increasing nervousness, some of these from their heretofore staunchest ally.

What do Israelis think about us and them? Prior to January, 2009, some 88% of  them  believe Bush wa s pro-Israel. In May, a Jerusalem Post poll discovered that 31% of  them believed that about  Obama. A similar poll  just 3 months later showed  a figure of  4%. Quite  a precipitous drop. Joel Rosenberg referred to US Israel relations  as a coming “train wreck”, just 7 months ago. Now, he thinks the situation has only worsened. Even if one is not very pro Israel, the above numbers represent a significant concern. Are we tending to tilt more Arab, seems to be so. Is  that a good thing? I wonder.

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Foreign Policy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NAMESTAN

The World's Toughest NeighborhoodThe above acronym is often used by Joel Rosenberg in his political/religious thrillers which have been quite successful and eerily prophetic. The  letters described a division of the CIA known as North Africa, the Middle East and the stan countries; Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. Fictional or not, the phrase almost epitomizes tough neighborhood in a geopolitical sense.

Look at a map of the area some time and then look at major news headlines from any source of your choosing. While not always the top story, the are seems to carry a weight far beyond its size. This weekend was a real case in point. There  were some major suicide bombings in what was considered a relatively secure part of Iraq. Baghdad was the site of two bombings whose death toll approaches 200 with many more injured. And it may have damaged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki even more.

Travel a relatively short distance to the west to Jerusalem and what do you discover? Israeli police with stun grenades. Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and who knows what else outside the holiest site in all of Israel, the Temple Mount in the center of Jerusalem. What sparked the clash? Probably no one  knows. David Cohen, Israel’s national police chief laid blame on Muslim extremists. Muslim leaders claimed there were plots  to damage the sites. Israel has controlled the site since 1967 but in a situation that only makes sense in the Middle East allows a Muslim clerical body, the Waqf, to handle day-to-day administration. Tourists and Israelis can only visit at certain times.

And  we have Iran, who virtually lives on the front page. Nukes or not, selling enriched uranium to Russia or not ? Will there be talks? What part will Russia play? That is another Big factor when one looks at Russia’s position geographically versus the Middle East.

One more  factor is of course Afghanistan. It was the site for deadly helicopter crashes  just a few days ago, killing a number of American troops. Will Obama send troops, how many and when? Whose advice is better, Sen Kerry or Gen. McChrystal? Remember that during the campaign,the Afghan war was the one we should be fighting.

It seems that the are is a dominant feature of every president’s foreign policy, from probably Truman through Obama and rightfully so. One thing that is quite easy for us to overlook, given our Western tendency to take a short term view, is that the problems  that are there far predate our involvement; by a long time. No, make that a very long time.

My woeful lack of knowledge and historical perspective point up once again my need for te historical study of  a region whose importance can hardly be overstated. Try these phrases from your long ago study of history: Mesopotamia, Tigris-Euphrates, pyramids; there are many more and there is much history from which to learn.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | History, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Aboard For Babylon,Iraq

With all we here about Iraq and have heard for the last several years, one place we that somehow flies under the radar is Babylon. This blog made its most recent “visit” to Babylon about 4 months ago and so it seemed time for an update. Today was a day for major celebration in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities as Iraqi forces took over significant responsibilities that had been held by American forces for some time.

So in consideration of these events, what is happening in the former capital city, that was once the most important city in the world? Once again, we start with Joel Rosenberg and move to an article in yesterday’s Stars and Stripes which gives some truly fascinating detail.

Seth Robson wrote an article entitled U.S.,Iraqi experts developing plan to preserve Babylon, build local tourism industry. The article discusses how soldiers of the 172nd Infantry Brigade are exploring the ruins of the ancient city as part of a joint U S -Iraqi effort to preserve the are and prepare it to be a tourist destination. US tourism experts  Gina Haney and Jeff Allen just made their first visit  in their capacity as the State Department’s  site managers/developers. Numbers in the millions of  visitors per year are envisioned. Admittedly this will take time and money, of which the latter is poised to return to Iraq in a big way. There has even  been a recent story from Taiwan about tours that have already begun in  order to  to watch the city’s rebuilding up close and personal.

Very, very interesting stuff and well worth keeping an eye on. I cannot help but wonder what the Old Testament prophet Daniel would have thought of this.

U S soldiers guarding the ancient city

U S soldiers guarding the ancient city

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June 29, 2009 Posted by | Christianity, History | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

So said Jesus in Matthew 23:37-39 in the days just before his crucifixion. it was the center of Israel in the days when He was on earth as it had been for many hundreds of years before. Located about 40 miles inland from the Mediterranean Sea, it has often been described as the center of the world. Today, there are about 800,000 inhabitants or  about 10% of Israel’s population.

Those are some facts about the city. But, there seems to be much more to disagree about than to agree with when it comes to a city considered holy by so many. Jewish people claim it as their own, some dating their claim to the Biblical patriarch, Abraham. In 1967, after 20 years of division, Israeli military forces reunited the city, tearing down many physical boundaries. Today, over 40 years later, the furor has really not subsided. What to do about Jerusalem seems to lie dead center in any ” peace”  negotiations between Arab and Jew. It’s mine, no mine and on it goes.

American presidents from Eisenhower on to Obama have had to focus on Israel and Jerusalem in varying degrees in an attempt to be a mediator. Now Mr Obama has his opportunity to reverse what many(particularly Arabs) seem as a blatant United States bias towards Israel. Some Palestinian leaders even say that the President has promised a new Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Further , a senior adviser ( Nimer Hamad)to the Palestinian president says that the Obama administration says that this is in the American national and security interest. To add fuel to the debate, if such were necessary, Mr Obama is due to make a major speech aimed at the Arab world on June 4. It will given at  Cairo University  amid speculation as to what he will or will not say and what are the implications of his speech, its locale etc. Many  will applaud the effort and say it is high time reverse the excessively pro-Israel tilt under Bush. Geo politically, they are probably correct. But if Joel Rosenberg is correct( and he has been numerous times before )  the coming train wreck of United States-Israeli relations will resound far beyond the political.

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

The peace of Jerusalem- Psalms 122:6

Shalom!

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Bible study, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Netanyahu and Obama

A very important first meeting is coming up nest week between the leaders of the United States and Israel. The stakes are high, aren’t they always in  the Middle East or the Epicenter as Joel Rosenberg puts it so well. How will they get along, what will one propose to the other, what about Iran, what about the two state solution( see Pope Benedict) and on it goes.

Mr Netanyahu is aptly described as  a rightist and unlike Obama is not in favor of a two state solution. He is doubtless more concerned about Iran and what they might do or whether they will get an atomic bomb or not  than is the United States.

Just ahead of his trip here, CIA Director Panetta went to Israel and basically said, don’t preemptively  attack Iran without U S knowledge( read as approval). In other words, don’t repeat the attacks of 1967.

Given the fact that Obama has already met  with some Arab leaders and will meet with President Hosni Mubarak of  Egypt and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas within a week or so, you  could say he tilts more Arab than Israeli.  A more definitive answer could very likely come in Obama’s speech in Egypt next month to the Muslim world. I , as others, would expect more substance in that speech than in their  meeting tomorrow.

One comment on the Obama/ Netanyahu meeting that I really liked came from  Daniel Levy, an adviser to former Israeli PM Ehud Barak.

“Short of the two men coming out of the White House bearing physical scars on their faces, the meeting will be judged a success.”

Now, Joel Rosenberg( a one time Netanyahu adviser) is not so sanguine. He fears a”train wreck”  in U S -Israeli Relations due to the aforementioned issues of Iran and the two state solution. Netanyahu has himself met with Mubarak, Pope Benedict and  Jordan’s King Abdullah II. No doubt those meetings will be a factor as well in what happens here.

One closing item, Obama received 75% of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election. Don’t you wonder why?

Shalom!

( Psalm 122:6)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
President Barack Obama

May 17, 2009 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ancient City Returning to Iraq

Sometimes there can be a real dearth of things that either I feel a need to write about or just want to for the fun of it. Today seems to be the polar opposite with an embarrassment of good stuff. So, I will save a few things for later and write about an ancient city that is coming back to life.INTERNATIONAL-US-IRAQ-BABYLONSeen above is a Reuters photo from January 13, showing a a replica of the Ishtar gate of Ancient Babylon.

The rebuilding project was begun by our old nemesis, Saddam Hussein and has obviously been on hold for a while. But not anymore.There was a project launched recently called “The Future of Babylon” to develop a plan for the conversation, study and development of tourism in this ancient city.Says Marion Omran Musa, head of a government inspection team;”it depends on funds .I hope that Babylon can be reborn in a better image.”

Old Testament scripture in Isaiah,Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well as Revelation in the New Testament indicate that the city would be rebuilt and become the most powerful city  in the world. Obviously, few have believed this or given much credence to it. But, lo and behold, it is coming. The United  States has even kicked in $700,ooo for these studies referred to above.

The city, some 85 miles south of Baghdad has been fertile ground for looters for centuries and  has suffered much damage since the US led invasion in 2003.But things are changing. Our “prophetic” friend,  author Joel Rosenberg, wrote of this possible rebuilding in fictional terms and then from a non-fiction perspective in Epicenter 2.0 in 2006.

Truth once again is proving stranger than fact thus confirming one again  proving the exquisite accuracy of Scripture. So, keep watching.

Shalom!

February 18, 2009 Posted by | Bible study, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment