Tuesday, June 20


Extracted from Stratfor Blog. Historians love anniversaries, and this year we're having a lot of them. In an earlier column I looked back exactly 100 years to April 1917, when Lenin made his famous journey from Zurich to Petrograd. This laid the foundation for a distinctive kind of illiberal modern state that now seems to be making a comeback. But in this column, I want to consider a second set of events in 1917 that arguably played an even bigger role in creating today's world: the invention of a new way of fighting wars. 

Military leaders began exploiting the fact that modern states had effectively created a new kind of human being — the educated, independent-minded citizen who could do much more than just follow orders — without whom modernity would look very different indeed. The archaeological record shows that humans have been fighting since we evolved, but for the first 95 percent or so of our time on Earth, our war-making was a ragged business. 

Putting together what we can excavate with what anthropologists observed among the surviving Stone Age societies of the 20th century, it seems that there were few real battles. After all, battles are dangerous: It takes fierce discipline — or even fiercer belief in some cause — to make men get close to other men who are trying to kill them, and Stone Age societies lacked the institutions able to instill such discipline or inspire such fanaticism. 

Consequently, pitched battles tended to take the form of long-range skirmishes — with bows, slings or javelins — that often broke off if anyone was seriously hurt (or even if it started raining). This did not, however, mean that prehistoric warfare was some kind of harmless ritual. Rather, the real killing went on in ambushes, where half a dozen men might jump out and attack a single enemy, beating him to death, or the young braves from one clan might storm a sleeping enemy village in the hours before dawn, spearing and scalping defenseless men, women and children. 

Archaeologists have dug up the remains of such massacre sites dating back to 11,000 B.C. When farmers created the first proper states, with governments led by godlike kings who had the power to coerce others to do as they were told, one of the first things rulers did was to use this force to turn warriors into soldiers. The distinction between the two is that a warrior is a wild young man who will kill when his mad blood stirs but will run away when the odds look bad, while a proper soldier is a disciplined professional who will stand his ground and would rather die than disgrace his regiment. 

Depictions of spearmen advancing in formation and descriptions of standing armies suggest that this revolution in military affairs was underway in the Middle East (particularly in what we now call southern Iraq) by 2500 B.C., and over the next 2,000 years it spread or began independently from China to the Mediterranean. By the first millennium B.C., this vast area was dominated by mass armies of iron-armed infantrymen, fighting in serried ranks. There were differences among geographic regions, of course: Indians used elephants, while Iranians and other peoples living near the steppes made greater use of horses than did Europeans and societies farther away. 

But every civilization developed two surprisingly similar dimensions in how it fought. The first concerned command and control on the battlefield, provided by officers who bullied their men to stay in formation, maneuvering in formations tens of thousands strong, protecting one another's flanks while seeking out the enemy's weak points. This took a lot of doing, because fighting face-to-face with iron weapons and without much in the way of medicine meant that battles could be very bloody indeed. 

It was normal for two men to be wounded for every one who was killed; and when troops were properly trained, confident in their leaders and expected to win, they would typically maintain order until about 10 percent of their number had been killed and 20 percent had been wounded. Though there were exceptions, such as the 300 Spartans who fought to the last man against Persia at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. (this is no legend; you can still find the occasional bronze or iron arrowhead on the battlefield today), panic would overwhelm even the toughest soldiers by the time a third of their comrades had fallen. 

 This was the point at which the second dimension of fighting came to the forefront. If terrified troops ran away fast enough, they might well escape, regroup and live to fight another day, forcing the victors in the first battle to risk everything yet again. The real measure of victory, then, was the ability to pursue enemies once they broke, chasing them down so they never had a chance to regain order. From Alexander the Great to Napoleon — from the Battle of Gaugamela (331 B.C.) to the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) — it was cavalry that turned a tactical success into a decisive victory, riding down foot soldiers as they ran for their lives. 

 For a New Society, a New Strategy Carl von Clausewitz, the greatest of military theorists, argued that in war every kind of action has a "culminating point," beyond which "the scale turns and a reaction follows with a force that is usually much stronger than that of the original act." For the 5,000-year-old method of fighting wars by massing together as many men as possible, bludgeoning the enemy and then hunting down survivors, that culminating point came 100 years ago. In the First World War, Europe's governments put tens of millions of men into uniform, mobilized their entire economies for violence and hammered their enemies on a scale never seen before. 

But by the time they had done so, mass warfare had passed its culminating point, and its old rules had ceased to work. The slaughter that ensued between 1914 and 1917, generating millions of dead and wounded but failing to produce a decisive victory, is often blamed on barbed wire, trenches and machine guns. These were of course major tactical innovations, but the real issue, as the generals understood well, was that mass warfare had passed its culminating point. Contrary to the legends, armies in the First World War could (and several times did) beat their way through the enemy's front line. 

The real problem was that with millions of men fighting on battlefields dozens of kilometers wide and deep, their systems of command and control — which were not so very different from those Napoleon had used a century earlier — could not identify where the breakthroughs were happening in time to rush in reinforcements to exploit them. All they could do was keep bludgeoning on a broad front, pushing forward more and more men in the hope of grinding their way through line after line of defenses. By the summer of 1917, it was clear that things could not go on as they had. 

Between April and November, huge French and British offensives left hundreds of thousands dead on each side without coming close to breaking through the German position; in July, a Russian offensive fared even worse. Despite the millions of men called up, casualties were so high that some French divisions mutinied and the Russian army began falling apart. 

 The Germans hit back in September. But rather than responding with more of the same, pushing even more infantry into confined spaces, they unleashed an entirely new approach to fighting. The strategist Stephen Biddle, in his outstanding his book Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle, calls this the "Modern System" of war. 

The Ancient System was all about top-down control, with troops massed closely together so that officers could get them to obey orders; but what if battles could be run from the bottom up, with soldiers deciding for themselves what to do? Instead of driving forward entire divisions and corps to bludgeon the enemy, the idea was, battles would now dissolve into countless small actions, with clusters of men moving forward wherever the opposition was weak and skirting places where it was strong. 

Rather than trying to kill everyone in their path, squads just half a dozen strong could work their way deep into the gaps and cracks in the enemy position, paralyzing it by overrunning its vulnerable command posts and supply dumps. For most enemies, the first sign of trouble would be shooting coming from behind them. Cut off, with no orders and no sure idea of where the real battle was happening, defenders with any sense would simply surrender. In a way, the Modern System dismantled the Ancient System by looking back to the Prehistoric System. 

The Modern System dissolved the huge, rigid formations that had dominated battlefields for over 4,000 years and freed up individuals to act as they thought best. It could afford to do this because instead of prehistoric warriors, who tended to think about self-preservation first and winning battles only a very distant second, it made use of an entirely new kind of man. This individual was a unique product of 20th-century nation-states, with their systems of mass education and nationalist ideals. Industrialized societies also needed their citizens to identify their own well-being with that of the state, handing over far more of their incomes in taxes and allowing themselves to be conscripted on unprecedented scales. 

These modern men were rarely keen to go into battle, but once there, they could — with training — be persuaded not only to put their lives on the line without being reduced to cogs in a machine but also to take the initiative in the process. Hints of this kind of citizen-soldier can be seen in the American Civil War of 1861-65, and the British learned the hard way during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) how vulnerable old-style armies were becoming to modern men. However, in 1914 all of Europe's armies went to war with plans that took little notice of these developments. 

By 1916 several were experimenting with some kind of Modern System, but the Germans were the first to make it work. They called it Auftragstaktik, or "mission tactics," with senior officers formulating plans but trusting junior officers and enlisted men to be smart enough to figure out for themselves the best ways to make them work. German staff officers began encouraging this way of thinking by forming special assault groups (Sturmabteilungen) in 1915, but it seems that much of the initiative in fact came from the ordinary "storm troopers" (Stosstruppen). The first time assault groups were given the lead, in September 1917, the Russians opposing them simply ran away after three days of fighting. 

The next attack, at Caporetto six weeks later, was even more dramatic. Almost the moment the Stosstruppen struck, the Italian army that had fought bravely and doggedly for two years descended into blind panic, powerfully described by Ernest Hemingway in his novel A Farewell to Arms. German and Austrian forces surged forward about 97 kilometers (60 miles), taking a quarter of a million prisoners. At one point a young Lt. Erwin Rommel, backed by just five men, bluffed 1,500 Italians into surrendering. At both Riga and Caporetto, handfuls of Stosstruppen achieved results vastly disproportionate to their numbers, but when the Germans applied the Modern System on the primary front in France in 1918, the small numbers of elite storm troops available proved to be its undoing. 

The entire British Fifth Army collapsed in the face of German infiltration, but over several weeks of fighting, attrition gradually blunted the German attacks. And much more conventional French, British and American counterattacks in the late summer broke the German army with the time-honored tools of bludgeoning and pursuit. The Revolution Isn't Over Since the revolutionary days of 1917, the trends have all run in one direction — toward greater reliance on well-trained, highly motivated Auftragstaktiker. 

In the Second World War, numbers and resources proved decisive only when used properly, spearheaded by armored and air forces trained in the new ways; and in the past 40 years, most major armed forces have moved toward smaller, nimbler and more elite militaries. Even Russia, long the last holdout of the top-down mass army, has moved since 2007 toward smaller, better-paid and more intelligent forces. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, officers in the Israel Defense Forces regularly joke that their men are constitutionally incapable of obeying orders without trying to find their own way of putting them into practice. Stratfor founder George Friedman has often suggested that the next great war will be global but not total, meaning that it will touch every part of the planet but will not be fought by mobilizing entire populations. 

Very small, highly trained elites with astonishingly expensive and destructive weapons are likely to decide the issue long before old-fashioned mass armies can be conscripted, trained and put into battle. Thus, the revolution in warfare that began 100 years ago is likely to keep shaping geopolitics well into the 21st century.

Monday, June 12


UNODC's work covers some of today's most pressing concerns: from drug abuse prevention, drug dependence treatment and criminal justice reform; to tackling organized crime and terrorism; through to addressing corruption and economic crime. However, responding to ever-growing needs in assisting countries across the globe to counter these threats requires stable resources.

Sunday, June 11


From ECOR Libya has been in the news over the past week, for grim reasons. The Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, was a Brit of Libyan descent.  He is suspected to have been radicalized by ISIS in Libya, and went there just days before the attack. In Egypt, the government has alleged that last Friday’s deadly attack against Christians in Minya, south of Cairo, was carried out by militants who trained in Libya, and ordered retaliatory airstrikes against camps there. 

Meanwhile, in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, recent fighting between rival militias has left dozens dead. The country’s severe instability and ongoing conflicts continue to have local, regional, and international ramifications.

Increasingly, many Western capitals see Egypt as a key component to a diplomatic solution in Libya. But while Egypt may deliver its Libyan proxies, it will be a challenge for the United Nations to keep them under the same tent as those who backed its mediation from the start—and which Cairo, incidentally, considers to be by and large too Islamist.

A year and a half since the signing of the U.N.-backed Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in Skhirat, Morocco, the political process in Libya needs a reboot. The LPA sought to create a single national unity government for all of Libya—but after five years of conflict following the fall of Gadhafi, three governments compete for dominance. 

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Prime Minister Fayez Serraj, is recognized by the U.N. and the international community. It has so far proven highly ineffective. In the east, the House of Representatives and its allied strongman, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, never approved the LPA, while an interim government headed by Abdullah al Thinni keeps operating in this part of the country. Finally, a third government is based in Tripoli: the National Salvation Government, which represents the more radical anti-Gadhafi militias loyal to the country’s mufti.

Egypt and the UAE have been backing Haftar militarily and financially since the beginning of the conflict. Despite their general distaste for the strongman, the United States and Europe have finally acquiesced over the last year to the fact that given that backing, Haftar has to be part of a solution, or there will be no solution. And almost inevitably, they have been looking to Egypt as the country that—in cooperation with its UAE backers—can deliver Haftar.

In parallel with the decline of the U.N. mission to Libya, Egyptian diplomacy has gained momentum and is now seen in many Western capitals as the key to a new settlement. In conjunction with soft power diplomacy, Egypt has also showed that hard power is firmly on the table. The second wave of airstrikes against militants, regardless of whether they were involved in the Minya attack or not, mark an escalation of the Egyptian military’s now-open involvement in Libya.

If Egyptian involvement is key in Libya, the inverse is also true: Libya is pivotal to Egypt’s security and economic interests. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said in his recent Riyadh speech that the disintegration of state institutions has benefitted terrorist organizations and that Egypt fully supports efforts to maintain the “unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of states in the region. One could tell that Libya weighed heavily on his mind, and Cairo has been working hard to achieve favorable outcomes. But does the road to stability in Libya pass through Cairo?

On security, Egypt is set on avoiding the breakup of the Libyan state and fighting extremist elements there, including al-Qaida and ISIS affiliates. Egypt’s long border with Libya has been porous since 2011, with weapons, militants, and drugs passing back and forth. 

As Egypt is fighting its own ISIS affiliate in the east of the country, the stability and security of its western border is paramount. The wide open border, which runs 1,115 kilometers, has been increasingly difficult to police: In 2015, eight Mexican tourists who were on safari in the Western desert were killed when an Egyptian army helicopter mistook their group for militants and fired on them.

On economics, an estimated 750,000 Egyptians live and work in Libya. While this is a sizable drop from the 2 million Egyptians who resided in Libya before Gadhafi was toppled, it is still a significant number. In addition, Egyptian oil companies are planning to resume operations in Libya, including the large-scale importation of hydrocarbons.

Cairo’s third motivation is ideological. Following the ouster of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government in 2013, Cairo declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and has aimed to suppress the movement in Libya as well. Cairo fears that if the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups gain a stronger governing foothold in Libya, the country might become a safe haven for the Egyptian Brotherhood (much like Turkey and Qatar have been). Especially on this last point, Haftar, who recently cited Egypt’s 2013 coup as a source of inspiration, has been a natural ally. From start, he has construed the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood within the broader fight against terrorism.

Haftar rose to prominence by waging war on Islamists of all stripes in eastern Libya. Because of their ideological alignment, Egypt and the UAE have bet on Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). Haftar also provides some prospect of stability, so despite being weary of his unpredictability, Cairo has had no better choice than to support him.

Thanks to Egyptian and Emirati support, Haftar’s military fortunes improved in 2016. The LNA took control of most of Benghazi and made headway in the Oil Crescent, the crucial resource-rich region just east of Sirte. Egypt tried to capitalize on this new balance of forces through diplomacy by convening a meeting of Libyan members of parliament in December 2016.

The resulting “Cairo Declaration” contained the main elements of what could soon become the U.N.-endorsed road map for Libya. It called for delegations from the House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based Council of State to agree on shrinking the Presidency Council from nine members to three, accelerating the approval of a new constitution, and holding parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2018.

For his part, Haftar refused to sit with Serraj in Cairo in February 2017, despite heavy pressure from Egypt. A so-called breakthrough came on May 2 in Abu Dhabi when the two finally met. Both Egypt and the UAE hailed this as evidence that a new agreement was at hand. Many in Western capitals want to believe it, too.

The election of Donald Trump has contributed to the shifting balance of power in Libya. He brought to power a group of advisers committed to fighting Islamists above all other concerns in the region. That, in turn, has given hope to Haftar and many members of his camp that the Libyan Field Marshal could be the focus of a new convergence between Egypt, the UAE, and the United States in the name of the fight against Islamists of all persuasions, both militant and moderate.

Members of President Trump’s inner circle, such as Steve Bannon, viewed the Muslim Brotherhood with hostility for years, suspecting it of being a Trojan horse to turn the United States into the “Islamic States of America.” An executive order to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group had gathered steam in the White House—while it has been put aside for now, as it risked alienating regional allies, the administration has viewed Islamist political actors and their backers with increased hostility.

Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, has been trying hard to rebrand and move away from its Egyptian counterpart. Nonetheless, it has found itself also in the line of fire. A new bill was introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives threatening to impose sanctions on Hamas’ international backers, such as Qatar. 

At a recent conference in Washington, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that Qatar risked U.S. sanctions if it continued its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Overall, there is a hardening of the U.S. position towards all Islamists, which means that on Libya, there is an alignment of interests between the United States on one hand, and Egypt and the UAE on the other.

Furthermore, the Manchester attack is likely to accelerate this Western move toward seeing Haftar’s LNA as a dependable partner in the fight against terrorism. The new French administration has already signaled that its priority will be building a Libyan army, and that this will have to include Haftar. Whether this pro-LNA shift will be combined with a new, inclusive political agreement is an open question.

While raising high hopes internationally, the Haftar-Serraj meeting in Abu Dhabi received mixed reactions in Libya. Militias from the city of Misrata, key to supporting Serraj and fighting ISIS in the past, are now divided. Some are increasingly siding with the rival National Salvation Government in Tripoli, a coalition of radicals supported by the Mufti Gharyani. It is now clear that this coalition will oppose any move forward by Serraj in the dialogue with Haftar, threatening the fragile balance of power in Tripoli.

For almost all the forces in Western Libya, where the majority of Libyans live, there are two red lines in the current talks. First, the army needs to be under civilian oversight and the army cannot only consist of Haftar’s LNA. Second, and less explicit, the agreement will need to include also forces that Haftar and the Egyptians consider “too Islamist.” International pressure on Tripoli and Misrata to eliminate these red lines is unlikely to work.

It is up to the United Nations to navigate this minefield. Egypt has laid the groundwork for a new diplomatic initiative, but now the United Nations must turn it into a stabilizing factor and not the trigger of a new conflict in the relatively peaceful western half of Libya. 

The challenge is to include Haftar without losing the majority of Misrata and Tripoli. Ultimately, U.N. Secretary General  António Guterres and the new Special Representative he will soon have to appoint will have to expand the base of support for the Cairo Agreement to include eastern Libya, not shift its core from Tripoli to Marj, where Haftar’s headquarters are.

Ultimately, the road to stability in Libya does pass through Cairo, but also through New York, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Washington, and Moscow—and most importantly through Tripoli and Misrata. Regional and international buy-in for a new settlement is important, but Libyan buy-in is key. 

An agreement built around the “independence” of the military from the civilian government (as Haftar insists) and the exclusion of the forces that Cairo considers “too Islamist” is unlikely to get the support of key factions in Western Libya. Ultimately, these ambiguities in the Egyptian plan risk jeopardizing a core agreement between the local powers in Tripoli, Misrata, and Marj, making any deal external actors hammer out fragile at best.

While the meeting in Abu Dhabi may have raised hopes of a breakthrough in many Western capitals, the Egyptian (and Emirati) mediation is unlikely to work, unless these countries and their Libyan proxy Khalifa Haftar are ready for a real compromise. This will need to include crucial issues such as the inclusion of all actors in the political framework and civilian oversight of the military. Absent this, instability, and possibly escalation could still be part of the picture in Libya.


President Donald Trump has twice tried to institute a travel ban on all refugees from six or seven Muslim-majority countries. During the presidential campaign, Trump called for atotal and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” slated to last “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” His Muslim ban has been struck down by two courts of appeals and may be headed to the Supreme Court. 

With his mean-spirited bans, Trump aimed to capitalize on fear of Muslims fueled by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and exacerbated since by the U.S. government and the corporate media. This anti-Muslim sentiment is a continuation of long-standing prejudice against Arabs that reached its zenith during the last third of the 20th century. 

In her provocative book, The Rise of the Arab American Left: Activists, Allies, and Their Fight Against Imperialism and Racism, 1960s-1980s, Pamela Pennock traces the trajectory of Arab-American leftist activism in the United States over a series of key decades. Pennock writes about the enduring portrayal of “Arabs as variously exotic, erotic, savage, uncivilized, and incapable of autonomy.” 

Indeed, media critic Jack Shaheen’s book and 2007 film, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People, document negative stereotypes of Arabs depicted in American movies. “All aspects of our culture project the Arab as villain,” Shaheen says in the film. He includes lyrics from the opening music of the Disney film “Aladdin”: “Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels grow, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” 

“Aladdin” has been seen by millions of children around the world. Anti-Arab prejudice has also been fueled by Hollywood’s depictions of Arab women as “highly sexualized belly dancer[s] … inspired by early images of the Orient as the place of exoticism, intrigue and passion,” Shaheen notes. More recently, however, “this image has dramatically changed: The Arab woman is now projected as a bomber, a terrorist.”

Israeli occupation. Controversial maps showing the shrinking territory available to the Palestinians. Hardline Israelis insist that there are no Palestinian people, that all the land belongs to Israel and that it therefore inaccurate to show any “Palestinian lands.” 

These stereotypes are racist, sexist and patently false. Many Arabs came to the United States to study. Once here, they were moved to activism primarily by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. As Pennock observes, the single biggest factor that galvanized Arab-Americans was the dispossession of Palestinian Arabs occasioned by the creation of the state of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories. In order to establish Israel as a Jewish state in 1948, nearly 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes and their land. They call it the Nakba, which means “catastrophe” in Arabic. 

1967 Israeli occupation. Golan Palestinian Refugees Camp. By Marjorie Cohn
A second catalyzing event occurred in June 1967, 50 years ago this month. Israel, with help from the United States, invaded Egypt, Jordan and Syria and seized the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. Later that year, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 242, which refers to “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and calls for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Nevertheless, Israel continues to occupy Palestinian territories it acquired in 1967. 

1967 Golan, Palestinian Refugees Camp
In addition, the 1967 war stoked anti-Arab sentiment in the United States. “While anti-Arab prejudice became especially pervasive and damaging after September 11, 2001, the stigmatization heightened in the aftermath of the 1967 war when many Americans increasingly grouped people of Arab heritage together, regardless of their citizenship or whether they resided in Arab nations or in the United States, and viewed them as threatening and suspicious,” Pennock writes. 
Sirhan Sirhan
One event intensified anti-Arab prejudice in the United States and made it difficult for Arab Americans to “dissociate from stereotypes of terrorists,” according to Pennock: the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by Palestinian-American Sirhan Sirhan. Sirhan was 4 years old when he and his family were forced by the Israeli military to flee their home in Jerusalem. That trauma informed his perception of Israel. Sirhan was disturbed by U.S. support for Israeli policies. During the presidential campaign, Kennedy vociferously backed Israel. For the 24-year-old Sirhan, who suffered from mental illness, Kennedy’s words intensified his pain. Attorney Abdeen Jabara, a member of Sirhan’s defense team, told Pennock that this confluence of events supported a diminished-capacity defense to the murder charge. Sirhan ultimately was convicted of murdering Kennedy and condemned to death. His sentence was later converted to life without possibility of parole when the law changed in California. 
1972 the Massacre of Munich Olympics Games
Four years later, in an attempt to free Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, the Black September faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization murdered Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. As a result of the 1972 massacre, the Nixon administration increased surveillance and investigation of Arab-Americans, in a program called “Operation Boulder.”  Because the Arab visa checks and investigations of Arab Americans were publicized in the American media as constituting the U.S. government’s reaction to the Munich massacre,” Pennock observes, “the government had in effect stigmatized all Arabs as suspect in the public’s mind.” 

But the investigations “never detected a single case of terrorist or espionage activity among Arabs living in the United States,” she reports. Operation Boulder, which officially ended in 1975, lasted only two years. But the U.S. government continued to monitor Arab-Americans for many years thereafter. 

Many leaders in the Arab-American community thought the real aim of Operation Boulder was “to suppress Arab Americans’ legal political expression, particularly their pro-Palestinian activism … it was a program of political intimidation” that “also sought to ‘divide and conquer’ Arab American communities by making them suspicious of one another,” Pennock writes.

Jabara, one of those investigated during Operation Boulder, later wrote that the program could “only be understood against the background of the definite pressure that [has] been brought to bear by Israel and its supporters in the U.S.” Jabara told Truthdig, “The matrix of the prejudice was part and parcel of the ‘unswerving commitment’ by the U.S. and its allies to Israel despite its gross violation of Palestinian rights. In short, there was an organic connection between the prejudice that was promoted in American popular culture as a support mechanism to a foreign policy that enabled Israeli aggression and colonization. 

Both the Americans and Israelis wanted to crush any resistance, regardless of what forms it took.” In the wake of 9/11, in another racist operation, the George W. Bush administration rounded up and incarcerated hundreds of Arab-Americans who had committed no crime. Bush also instituted his Terrorist Surveillance Program to spy on people without judicial review. That program was codified by Congress and continued during the Obama administration. In 2011, Wired uncovered FBI training materials that described how agents were taught to consider “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism. 

In 2011, Wired uncovered FBI training materials that described how agents were taught to consider “mainstream” Muslims as supporters of terrorism. The Intercept reported in 2014 that documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the FBI and the National Security Agency covertly read emails of prominent Muslim-Americans, including lawyers, academics, civil rights activists and a political candidate. 

Jabara was a founder and past president of the Association of Arab American University Graduates (AAUG), the first national organization of Arab-American peace and civil rights activists. Founded in 1967, AAUG was the most visible and active Arab-American organization in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It had chapters in most U.S. cities and universities. AAUG was “a select group of Arab Americans [college graduates] who formulated a sense of ethnic identity, fostered community solidarity, and practiced progressive and transnational politics,” Pennock writes. 

This group was committed “to an anti-racist, anti-imperialist analysis of Arab world problems” and was ideologically aligned with the global left. It aimed to demonstrate to Americans that “Zionism was a form of colonialism rather than a legitimate expression of Jewish nationalism.” Significantly, AAUG “helped elevate the Palestinian struggle to the status of a premier universal human rights issue,” AAUG member Ghada Hasem Talhami later observed. AAUG’s scholarly analysis, published in the Arab Studies Quarterly and other papers and monographs, “was usually critical not only of Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East but also of conservative Arab states,” Pennock notes. 

Following the 1967 war, Egypt and Syria had “demonstrably retreated from their commitment to pan-Arabism and Palestinian independence,” she adds. Thus, Jabara notes, AAUG provided a forum for Arab intellectuals, artists, activists and political figures who may not have had such opportunities to meet in their home countries. Jabara saw a natural alliance between the issues facing Arab-Americans and the struggles of “Black Americans, Chicanos, Oriental Americans, young people and civil libertarians,” all of whom were “excluded from any meaningful participation in the American decision process.” 

Most in the African-American community had traditionally formed alliances with Jews. But by the 1980s, many became increasingly critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, which they equated with South African apartheid. The most significant factor driving U.S. foreign policy, according to Jabara, was not the Zionist lobby, but rather “America’s definition and pursuit of its economic interests in the region.” Arab students, many of them members of the Organization of Arab Students (OAS), likened the struggle of the Palestinians to the Vietnamese fight for self-determination.  

By the 1980s, the Muslim Student Organization supplanted OAS as the leading organization of Arab-American students, who were increasingly becoming Muslims. In 1980, Jabara helped form the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) with former Sen. James Abourezk and Arab American Institute founder James Zogby. Jabara also served as president of ADC, which is still a significant organization. Jabara told Truthdig that the 1973 oil embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries led to an “uptick” in prejudice against Arab Americans. 

“That led to the creation of the ADC in 1980,” he added. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the nation’s oldest and largest progressive bar association, was the first in the United States to be racially integrated. From the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, Jabara played the central role in convincing NLG to take up the issue of Palestine and the rights of Palestinians to self-determination. No issue has ever been as divisive in NLG. Some Jewish members left the organization, but it continues to oppose the Israeli occupation. 

In 1977, Jabara led the first NLG delegation to Israel, Palestine, Syria and Jordan, and contributed to the delegation’s groundbreaking 1977 report on conditions in the occupied territories. That report was widely circulated within the then-young human rights network and is largely credited with paving the way for other organizations to break with the pro-Israeli orthodoxy and issue their own reports critical of Israeli human rights abuses. Jabara was also a key participant in the lawsuit filed by NLG and the Center for Constitutional Rights against the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith for spying on NLG and other Arab-American and progressive groups. 

In 1975, the U.N. General Assembly, by a 2-to-1 margin, passed a resolution equating Zionism with racism. It drew parallels between Israeli Zionism and apartheid South Africa. The United States voted against the resolution. Beginning in the mid-to-late 1960s, people critical of Israel’s policies were accused of anti-Semitism, a characterization that persists to this day. Indeed, those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are often labeled anti-Semitic. Following in the tradition of the Arab-American call for the United Auto Workers to divest its Israeli bonds in the early 1970s, the BDS movement was launched by representatives of Palestinian civil society in 2005. 

They appealed to “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era … [including] embargoes and sanctions against Israel.” This call for BDS specified that “these non-violent punitive measures” should last until Israel fully complies with international law by 
1) ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the barrier wall; 
2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;  
3) respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their land as stipulated in General Assembly Resolution 0194. 

Students for Justice in Palestine, which focuses predominantly on the BDS movement, has been tarred as anti-Semitic by Zionist groups on campuses throughout the country. But Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, says, “The BDS movement is opposed, as a matter of principle, to all forms of discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.” 

In 2014, Palestinian human rights activist Omar Barghouti wrote in The New York Times, “Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and ‘the Jews’ are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.” 

Any criticism of Israeli policy is labeled anti-Semitism, even though many Jews - including members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Jewish Center for Nonviolence and IfNotNow- oppose the occupation. Israel has invaded Gaza three times in the last seven years, killing thousands of Palestinians, including large numbers of women and children. 

The Black Lives Matter movement sees similarities between the police killings of African-Americans in the U.S. and Israel’s oppression of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. As the struggle against the Israeli occupation continues, Pennock’s compelling book is a must-read for progressives and all interested in a comprehensive history of Arab-American activism. The parallels it draws with current events will inform today’s activists in our struggles for freedom and equality.


è un collaboratore molto vicino a Muhammad Dahlanconsiderato l'uomo che ha aperto la strada agli investimenti arabi in Serbia e MontenegroE' lui ad aver creato i legami tra i primi ministri Aleksandar Vučić e Milo Đukanović con la famiglia reale al-NahyanI media arabi hanno pubblicato una fotografia che vede ritratti, assieme Mohamed Dahlan, Aleksandar Vučić e Milo Đukanović, scattata nella casa a Belgrado del Primo ministro serbo.

Quando al-Fatah controllava senza problemi l'Autorità palestinese, Muhammad Dahlan era uno degli uomini più potenti di Gaza. Dopo l'arrivo di Hamas al potere ha dovuto lasciare la Palestina. E' entrato in conflitto col suo vecchio alleato politico, Muhmoud Abbas, attuale presidente palestinese ed è stato espulso da Fatah nel 2011. E' anch'egli accusato di aver sottratto risorse ai fondi pubblici.

Muhammad Dahlan è inoltre considerato vicino alla CIA ed è stato pubblicamente accusato in Palestina di traffico d'armi a favore di Israele. Mahmoud Abbas ha recentemente accusato Muhammad Dahlan di aver fatto imprigionare Yasser Arafat e di aver rubato 300 milioni di dollari di aiuti americani.

Questo denaro è stato ripulito in Montenegro, come affermano i media arabi? Secondo un articolo pubblicato la scorsa estate da Middle east eye, Mohammed Dahlan ha utilizzato il Montenegro per riciclare denaro guadagnato illegalmente negli Emirati arabi uniti

Muhammad Dahlan è titolare di due società registrate a Podgorica la cui attività è piuttosto oscura. Numerose fonti confermano che Muhammad Rashid sarebbe l'uomo di Muhammad Dahlan in Montenegro.

Nello stesso momento in cui Muhammad Rashid è ricercato dalle autorità palestinesi, le sue quattro società registrate in Montenegro hanno ottenuto un prestito di 12,8 milioni di euro dalla Prva Banka, banca di proprietà dei fratelli Đukanović, senza lasciare alcuna traccia su quale sia stata l'attività finanziata con quel denaro.

Per quanto riguarda la società Monte-Mena Investment, quest'ultima ha ottenuto invece un finanziamento di 5 milioni di euro da Hipo Banka, controllata da Petar Ivanović, ex-ministro dell'Agricoltura. 

Petar Ivanović sta attualmente gestendo un altro progetto di Milo Đukanović e dei suoi partner arabi: numerose decine di milioni di euro provenienti dagli Emirati Arabi Uniti che l'ex-ministro  ha presentato come un prestito di un Fondo di sviluppo di Abu Dabi (ADFD) che però non sono ancora arrivati agli agricoltori montenegrini. Il governo non avrebbe ancora firmato il contratto o un altro documento che definisca i dettagli dell'affare.

I fondatori della società Monte-Mena Investment, con sede a Panama, sono Muhammad Rashid, Samih Saviris – che ha costruito il complesso di Luštica – e alcuni collaboratori di Milo Đukanović: Veselin Vukotić e Vojin Vlahović.
L’Associated Press ha pubblicato un articolo nel quale si afferma che le Autorità Palestinesi avevano ufficialmente richiesto al Montenegro, alla Giordania, all'Iraq, agli Emirati arabi uniti e all'Egitto di congelare i beni di Mohammed Rashid

Muhammad Rashid ha acquistato altro terreno per 42 milioni di euro nel 2007, mentre il valore stimato attualmente dell'area va dai 10 ai 14 milioni di euro. Non è la prima volta che l'uomo investe in Montenegro senza alcuna logica economica apparente. Ha ad esempio acquistato un terreno municipale a Budva per 3,2 milioni di euro, tre volte più del suo valore di mercato.In Montenegro la richiesta non ha avuto seguito.

Numerose fonti indicano che il terreno di Kraljičina plaža è stato venduto a Muhammad Dahlan. Secondo il quotidiano Vijesti, quest'ultimo controllerebbe alcune società del gruppo Royal, che ha annunciato un investimento di 180 milioni di euro nel complesso turistico che dovrebbe essere costruito. L'opposizione e una parte della società civile considerano il progetto come pericoloso e contrario alla legge vigente.

La rete per l'affermazione del settore non-governativo – MANS – ha invitato il governo a bloccare il progetto e il parlamento nazionale a proteggere l'interesse pubblico. “Le disposizioni del contratto sottoscritto prevedono che il futuro acquirente avrà agevolazioni che non sono mai stata accordate ad alcuna azienda in Montenegro. 

Alcune parti del testo del contratto sono in violazione di leggi esistenti. Noi riteniamo che contratti del genere non sarebbero possibili senza elementi di corruzione all'interno del governo o, più precisamente, all'interno dell'DPS (Partito di Milo Đukanović, ndr)”, sottolinea Dejan Milovac di MANS.

Se le promesse fatte dal governo e da alcuni investitori arabi fossero state rispettate la costruzione di un complesso turistico nella area di Skočiđevojka, nei pressi di Sveti Stefan, avrebbe già trasformato il Montenegro in una Monte Carlo! Un progetto faraonico, con 220 camere, 23 ville, un casinò, un club per mega yacht, un centro commerciale, una spa e ristoranti su una superficie complessiva di 66.000 m2. 

Il tutto doveva essere pronto da anni, almeno secondo quanto dichiarato dagli investitori, la Joud Real Estate Fond e la Monte-Mena, società appartenente al palestinese Muhammad Rashid, partner d'affari del controverso ex-primo ministro montenegrino. Nella realtà nulla è stato fatto

Mentre Muhammad Rashid acquistava terreni in Montenegro, strapagandoli per poi lasciarli fermi, è divenuto oggetto di un mandato d'arresto internazionale. Le autorità palestinesi lo ricercano accusandolo di sottrazione di ingenti fondi pubblici. 

Secondo l'Associated Press la Giustizia palestinese lo ha condannato nel 2012 a 25 anni di prigione per aver sottratto 33,5 milioni di dollari da un Fondo di Investimento palestinese.


Thursday, June 8


BalkanInSight:. Not everything about Donald Trump is unpredictable. At least towards the Balkans, his policy so far has be­en entirely consistent in its general indifference.

Not only is the region irrelevant to his political programme, it’s also of marginal interest to the country he leads. No doubt Trump wants the best for the Balkans. But as the EU’s backyard, he would no doubt argue it’s a place where Europeans must take the lead.

So Florian Bieber shouldn’t be surprised that American policy toward the Balkans has not changed discernibly since Trump took office.

It’s business as usual on the ground as ambassadors press ahead with their civilising mission bringing democracy, justice and prosperity to the natives, guiding the region towards the sunlit uplands of the European Union, and clamping down on the nationalists who threaten to return the region to barbarity.

However, it would be wrong to conclude from all this that American policy towards the Balkans is set in stone. On the contrary, an important debate is beginning in the media and the political institutions about the United States’ approach to the region.

Bieber cites dissenting comments by the congressman and Chairman of the House’s Europe, Subcommittee Dana Rohrabacher and the security analyst John R. Schindler. He could have added those of the former Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Balkan Task Force, Steven Meyer. 

In my own country, the UK, an ex-ambassador to Belgrade, Ivor Roberts, has suggested a land swap between Serbia and Kosovo and another, Charles Crawford, has written about the ‘existential instability’ of the current regional settlement.

These comments have received extensive scrutiny from defenders of the current policy, generating a loud and vigorous online discussion.

The debate is also taking place outside the media glare. Various think tanks have been holding seminars that invite ‘blue skies’ thinking about international policy towards the Balkans. 

And after setting out my views in Foreign Affairs, I received a plethora of mail from individuals in the US who question its approach.

Florian Bieber dismisses those who advocate a change in policy as pipe-dreamers. But to do so is to misunderstand how foreign policy evolves over time.

As I discovered during my time as a diplomat, there is no document lying in a drawer which permanently defines a government’s policy towards the Balkans or any other region. 

Instead, policy is the product of a continuous dialogue within a specialist community encompassing officials, special advisers, intelligence analysts, parliamentarians, academics, think tankers, journalists and lobbyists who are actively monitoring and responding to events on the ground.

When the dialogue between these people begins to change, so, eventually, does the policy. Why, then, is the dialogue now changing?

It is not, I would suggest, because of the ‘void of no discernible Balkan policy’ created by Trump. In the absence of new instructions, the institutions are continuing to run with the policy from the Obama era: nationalist politicians have been sanctioned and sidelined, Montenegro has joined NATO, and so on. 

More precisely, the debate about the Balkans is changing because it’s increasingly clear to many observers that Western policy towards the region is just not working.

In its simplest form, the West has tried to nurture a durable peace in the Balkans by offering it the prospect of integration with NATO and the EU. This, it was hoped, would stabilise the region by guaranteeing its security and prosperity, and allowing divided nations to be reunited in a borderless Europe.

Twenty years on, however, reality falls far short of this ideal. Sometime during the last decade, the basic goal of peace in the region got lost as the EU insisted that weak and economically handicapped states meet an impossible number of political and technical conditions before they could be accepted as members.

Now the politics have turned against enlargement as the EU languishes in a state of apparently permanent crisis created by the intractable contradictions of the euro zone, differences over migration policy, and much more besides. In most EU countries, public opinion is hostile to further enlargement into the Balkans, whose problems can only add to the EU’s own.

This is having perverse effects in the region, where the failure of ‘Europeanisation’ is plunging almost every state into a political crisis of some kind, manifest in institutional paralysis, unrest on the streets, alienation from the political process and growing cynicism towards Western officials who appear to support any local leader who endorses Euro-Atlantic integration, regardless of their fitness for office.

As the promise of EU membership dies, people are instead investing their hopes and dreams in the nation, encouraged by corrupt politicians who are happy to champion nationalism to stay in power. Albanian leaders talk openly about the possibility of unifying their territory if they cannot join the EU. Macedonian protestors demonstrate against enhanced Albanian rights. 

A Serbian president threatens to go to war in Kosovo. Croatian politicians sing songs to Herzeg Bosnia.

Those who know the recent history of the Balkans should not be surprised by any of this. In different circumstances, the region is simply replaying the events of the 1980s when the failure of another ideological project, Titoist-style socialism, encouraged people to take refuge in the nation.

Not everyone, of course, has abandoned the European dream. Significant numbers still believe – in a triumph of hope over experience - that the mechanism of European integration can yet be made to work, just as many in the eighties believed that socialism could be revitalised.

But this belief relies on so much changing – a revival of the EU and eastward enlargement, an unprecedented drive at reform in the region, a decisive re-engagement by the United States and Russia’s willingness to stay out of the Balkans – that the chances of success are severely limited.

Since the existing policy is not working, and because the actual consequences are an uncontrolled rise in nationalism and civil unrest, various commentators are naturally coming forward with new suggestions for upholding stability in the Balkans that get beyond European integration.

For many, that means revisiting the question of borders. This is not because borders are the only problem in the region but because illegitimate borders - and everything that follows from them in terms of power, security, rights and opportunities - are the casus belli for any renewed inter-ethnic violence.

My own view is that the West should recognise the inevitability of a collapse of the ‘Post-Yugoslav settlement’ and switch its focus from trying to uphold something that cannot be preserved to managing its orderly undoing, with the end goal of establishing legitimate nation states.

This doesn’t mean the United States should charge in and carve up ostensibly peaceful countries in the manner of a nineteenth-century colonialist.

But it does mean that Western policymakers should generally support demands by minorities for greater devolution along national lines; accept closer cross-border cooperation between national kin; and stop promoting the ‘principle’ of multi-ethnicity, the main beneficiaries of which are opportunistic politicians who enrich themselves on the backs of people’s fears of what another national group will do to them.

Of course, nothing sufficiently dramatic has happened in the Balkans since Donald Trump came to power to compel the White House to take up these suggestions.

As I stated at the outset, policy continues to be run by local ambassadors who promote a theoretical process of European integration and leverage this to involve themselves in the nooks and crannies of their host countries’ domestic politics.

When things get out of control, as they did recently in Albania when the opposition boycotted the elections, or in Macedonia, where the president refused to give a mandate to a winning coalition, their superiors from the State Department fly in to bang local heads together.

All this is broadly in the American interest. For as long as these ambassadors and officials can keep a lid on things in the Balkans, they free up the president and the Secretary of State to focus on more urgent international problems such as Syria and North Korea.

However, this approach will be difficult to sustain into the next decade given the breakdown of the process of EU enlargement – the lynchpin of Western policy towards the Balkans – and growing instability in the region.

Whether a Serbian annexation of northern Kosovo or the de facto secession of minority groups like the Macedonian Albanians or Bosnian Serbs, some crisis will eventually become unmanageable by means of illusory enticements and emergency diplomacy.

At that point, unless the White House is willing to risk renewed conflict, it will be forced to re-engage with the Balkans, to think again about what the US is trying to achieve and how best to achieve it.

Will it insist forever on the preservation of arbitrary borders determined decades ago by a communist dictator in the face of profound local resistance? Or will it use its immense resources and diplomatic clout to engineer a durable solution that reflects demographic realities on the ground?

For the moment, all this is a matter of abstract debate within foreign policy circles. But the old assumptions about what the Balkans must and mustn’t be are now being scrutinised and re-examined from first principles, changing the intellectual environment in which policy is formulated.

Events will eventually force senior American policymakers to devise a new approach that catches up with political reality. While that may not be for some years, a debate about how to prevent a relapse into violence is already under way. As this debate progresses, it will lay the groundwork for that eventual check with reality to happen.