The Mess We Left Behind

As we focus on Syria and Egypt and Afghanistan, let’s not forget the mess we left behind in Iraq, where Sunni-Shiite violence just gets more intense.

There have been almost 3,000 deaths from sectarian attacks this year, with more than 500 so far this month.  This weekend, car bombs in Baghdad have killed almost 40 people.

Not to mention the rapprochement between Iraq and Iran that we created, which is a strategic disaster for us.

I hope that as Bush 43 assumes more of a public profile again, and as Dick Cheney campaigns for his daughter Liz in Wyoming, they will get asked, “WTF?”

Who Is Misha?

From “Boston Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Influenced by Mysterious Radical,” Adam Goldman, Eric Tucker & Matt Apuzzo, The Associated Press:

In the years before the Boston Marathon bombings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev fell under the influence of a new friend, a Muslim convert who steered the religiously apathetic young man toward a strict strain of Islam, family members said.

Under the tutelage of a friend known to the Tsarnaev family only as Misha, Tamerlan gave up boxing and stopped studying music, his family said. He began opposing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He turned to websites and literature claiming that the CIA was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Jews controlled the world.

“Somehow, he just took his brain,” said Tamerlan’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni….

They [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] were raised in a home that followed Sunni Islam, the religion’s largest sect. They were not regulars at the mosque and rarely discussed religion, Khozhugov [the Tsarnaev brothers’ ex-brother-in-law] said.

 

Then, in 2008 or 2009, Tamerlan met Misha, a slightly older, heavyset bald man with a long reddish beard. Khozhugov didn’t know where they’d met but believed they attended a Boston-area mosque together. Misha was an Armenian native and a convert to Islam and quickly began influencing his new friend, family members said.

 

 

 

As time went on, Tamerlan and his father argued about the young man’s new beliefs.

 

“When Misha would start talking, Tamerlan would stop talking and listen. It upset his father because Tamerlan wouldn’t listen to him as much,” Khozhugov said. “He would listen to this guy from the mosque who was preaching to him.”

 

Anzor [the father] became so concerned that he called his brother, worried about Misha’s effects.

 

“I heard about nobody else but this convert,” Tsarni said. “The seed for changing his views was planted right there in Cambridge.”

 

Khozhugov said Tamerlan did not know much about Islam beyond what he found online or what he heard from Misha.

 

 

 

 

If Saddam Hussein Were Still in Power…

Secretary of State John Kerry went to Iraq to beg Prime Minister Maliki to stop the flow of weapons and soldiers from Iran to President Assad in Syria via Iraqi air space and land.

Maliki told him to take a hike.

If Saddam Hussein were still in power in Iraq, Iran wouldn’t be allowed to do this.

When we removed Saddam, a Sunni, we removed a powerful bulwark against Shiite Iran.  Maliki, a Shiite, has been close to Iran since the 1970’s when he was in exile there.

We lost all those lives and limbs in Iraq to help Iran extend its sphere of influence, to turn an enemy into an ally for them.

The Iraq War may be over, but the consequences of it stupidity continue.

 

New Maps for a New Middle East

I have long believed that there should be a Kurdistan.

From “Letter from Syria,” Thomas Friedman, NYT:

“Syria is the keystone of the Middle East.  If and how it cracks apart could recast this entire region.  The borders of Syria have been fixed ever since the British and French colonial powers carved up the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.  If Assad is toppled and you have state collapse here, Syria’s civil war could go regional and challenge all the old borders — as the Shiites of Lebanon seek to link up more with the Alawite/Shiites of Syria, the Kurds of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey try to link up with one another and create an independent Kurdistan, and the Sunnis of Iraq, Jordan and Syria draw closer to oppose the Shiites of Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.”  Emphasis added.

Certainly a messy and difficult process, but one that’s worth going through to try to get it right a hundred years later.

Mitt’s Foreign Policy Is As Dumb And Dangerous As Bush’s

Thomas Friedman slams Mitt’s shallow and simplistic foreign policy speech.  From “What Romney Didn’t Say,” NYT:

“Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech on Monday that could be boiled down to one argument: everything wrong with the Middle East today can be traced to a lack of leadership by President Obama. If this speech is any indication of the quality of Romney’s thinking on foreign policy, then we should worry. It was not sophisticated in describing the complex aspirations of the people of the Middle East. It was not accurate in describing what Obama has done or honest about the prior positions Romney has articulated. And it was not compelling or imaginative in terms of the strategic alternatives it offered. The worst message we can send right now to Middle Easterners is that their future is all bound up in what we do. It is not. The Arab-Muslim world has rarely been more complicated and more in need of radical new approaches by us — and them.

Look at the real trends in the region. In Iraq and Afghanistan, sadly, autocracy has not been replaced with democracy, but with “elective kleptocracy.” Elective kleptocracy is what you get when you replace an autocracy with an elected government before there are accountable institutions and transparency, while huge piles of money beckon — in Iraq thanks to oil exports, and in Afghanistan thanks to foreign aid.

Meanwhile, in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and Libya, we have also seen the collapse of the “Mukhabarat states” — Mukhabarat is Arabic for internal security services — but not yet the rise of effective democracies, with their own security organs governed by the rule of law. As we saw in Libya, this gap is creating openings for jihadists.

At the same time, the civil war between Sunni Muslims, led by the Saudis, and Shiite Muslims, led by Iran, is blazing as hot as ever and lies at the heart of the civil war in Syria. In addition, we also have a struggle within Sunni Islam between puritanical Salafists and more traditional Muslim Brotherhood activists. And then there is the struggle between all of these Islamist parties — who argue that “Islam is the answer” for development — and the more secular mainstream forces, who may constitute the majority in most Mideast societies but are disorganized and divided.

How does the U.S. impact a region with so many cross-cutting conflicts and agendas? We start by making clear that the new Arab governments are free to choose any path they desire, but we will only support those who agree that the countries that thrive today: 1) educate their people up to the most modern standards; 2) empower their women; 3) embrace religious pluralism; 4) have multiple parties, regular elections and a free press; 5) maintain their treaty commitments; and 6) control their violent extremists with security forces governed by the rule of law.

But when we’re talking to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the new government in Libya, we cannot let them come to us and say: “We need money, but right now our politics is not right for us to do certain things. Give us a pass.” We bought that line for 50 years from their dictators. It didn’t end well. We need to stick to our principles.  Emphasis added; italics in original.

Mitt’s foreign policy speech is one more reason why I’m voting for Obama no matter what, even if he spends the next two debates singing the theme song from “Sesame Street.”  Mitt, like Bush 43, lacks not only a background in foreign policy, but also any interest in it.  He’d just be led by the nose by the neo-cons on his team.  He’s got Liz Cheney now!  If she wants to shoot her ignorant mouth off on Fox, that’s fine, but I don’t want her anywhere near actual policy-making authority.