Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt and Stuxnet - Hold The Key To This Century?

There is always more than one way to 'skin a cat' as the saying goes and the same for looking at Obama.

One could argue he has been brilliant in getting his extreme 'Far Left' agenda passed but at a price that has yet to be determined and which could unravel many of those accomplishments.

The other approach could be that Obama is doomed to fail because, though he crammed through a lot of legislation during a difficult period, by ignoring voters and being actually arrogant, in the process, he has ruined any opportunity for accomplishing much going forward.

Another trite saying is 'the truth lies in the middle.' Events beyond Obama's control, as with most presidents, will have more to do with how history will record Obama's success or failure than matters under his own control.

Events are unfolding which, in my opinion, will shape this century.
Perhaps the biggest could be a nuclear explosion brought about by Stuxnet according to Russian warnings. (See 1 below.)
Has Mubarak begun discussions which will lead to his own demise?

Does Egypt's army hold the key? (See 2 below.)
Will this be the way of all flesh? (See 3 below)
Four other assessments of what the Egyptian riots portend. (See 4 - 4c below.)
Should what is happening in Egypt cause China's leader's angst?

Playing with fire can result in severe burns. (See 5 below.)
Meanwhile, US troops continue to die in Afghanistan while the media and news folks are chasing another story. Does anyone in the current administration care? (See 6 below.)
The issue of our dependency upon foreign oil is being resurrected by what is happening in The Middle East prove, once again, The Far Left are on the wrong side of both our own security and history.
1)Stuxnet returns to Bushehr reactor. Russia warns of nuclear explosion

Iran'satomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Jan. 29 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be connected to the national grid on April 9. He "forgot" about Tehran's promise to fully activate its first nuclear reactor Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Intelligence and Moscow sources reveal that on that day, Iran's hand on the switch was held back at the last minute by Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Rosatom (the Russian national nuclear energy commission which oversaw the reactor's construction. He came hurrying over to warn Tehran that Stuxnet was back and switching the reactor on could trigger a calamitous nuclear explosion that could cost a million Iranian lives and devastate neighboring populations. He complained to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Iranian nuclear and engineering staff were ignoring the presence of the malworm and must be stopped.

Kiriyenko told the Iranian president that the Russian engineers employed at the reactor notified Moscow that Stuxnet was again attacking the Bushehr systems after apparently taking a rest from its first onslaught last June. There was no telling which systems had been infected, because a key feature of the virus is that the systems' screens show they are working normally when in fact they have been fatally disarmed. Activating the reactor in these circumstances could cause an explosion far more powerful than the disaster at the Russian reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine in April 1986, which released 400 times more radioactive material than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The impression the Rosatom chief had gained from his staff at Bushehr was that the Iranian teams had been ordered to activate the reactor at any price to prove that the Islamic Republic had beaten Stuxnet. This concern overrode security. The consequences of ignoring this fearful hazard, said Kiriyenko, were unthinkable and would destroy the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran in their wake.

Kirienko began worrying when he heard the Iranian nuclear commission's spokesman Hamid Khadem-Qaemi claim on Jan. 17 that Bushehr had not been affected by Stuxnet.
Our Iranian sources report that, after seeing the Russian official off, Ahmadinejad ordered the reactor to stay shut down.

This week, Salehi, who is also Iran's foreign minister, hinted at the cause of the delay when he said: "The reactor has started its operation and the next step is to reach critical phase which will happen by the end of Bahman (February 20) in presence of Russians. We have said before that due to some tests, we may have to face delays but these delays are around a week or two." He added, "We aim at launching Bushehr nuclear reactor safely not to merely launch it."

In Jerusalem, Maj-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, the new head of IDF military intelligence - MI, who appeared before the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee for his first briefing on Jan. 25 said Bushehr could be quickly converted from producing electricity for civilian use to a military reactor and incorporated into Iran's weapons program.

The next day, Jan. 26, Moscow took the unusual step of demanding a NATO investigation into last year's computer attack on the Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said: T"his virus, which is very toxic, very dangerous, could have very serious implications," he said, describing the virus's impact as being like "explosive mines".

"These 'mines' could lead to a new Chernobyl," he said.
2)Mubarak to talk with opposition as 250,000 protesters gather in Cairo
Egypt president instructs new PM to start talks with opposition parties about their demands; army officers promise not to hurt protesters in Tuesday's massive demonstration.
By Anshel Pfeffer, Avi Issacharoff and Reuters

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has instructed his government to begin talks with the opposition parties who support the mass anti-government protests across the country, the pan-Arab satellite network Al-Arabiya reported on Monday.

Mubarak told his new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, to start talking to the opposition and find out their specific demands.

On Monday afternoon, more than 250,000 protesters have gathered again in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as well as in main centers in other Egyptian cities.

Protesters called for an indefinite general strike and said they are planning a "million man march" on Tuesday in order to mark one week since the start of the anti-government protests in the country.

Egyptian military officers and soldiers promised Monday that they will not hurt any of the protesters in Tuesday's "million man march".

An officer in Egypt's Signal Corps, who identified as Major Ahmed, said he was responsible for the deployment of troops in Cairo's center and that the army will not touch the Egyptian people.

"We are with the people, and they love us. We will never hurt the people," he said. When asked what orders the military received from the government, he said: "We don't know what is going on with the government."

Egyptian protesters were camped out in central Cairo on Monday and vowed to stay until they had toppled President Hosni Mubarak, whose fate appeared to hang on the military as pressure mounted from the street and abroad.

"The army has to choose between Egypt and Mubarak," read one banner in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where demonstrators shared food with soldiers sent to restore order after violent protests shook Mubarak's 30-year rule to its core.

By dawn, some hardy demonstrators were still camped in the Square, which was covered in early morning mist. They had already begun chants of "Down, Down, Mubarak".

Six days of unrest have killed more than 100 people but the two sides have reached a stalemate. Protesters refuse to go, while the army is not moving them. The longer protesters stay unchallenged, the more untenable Mubarak's position seems.

Protesters in Tahrir Square - epicenter of the earthquake that has sent shudders through the Middle East and among global investors - have dismissed Mubarak's appointment of military men as his vice president and prime minister.

His promises of economic reform to address public anger at rising prices, unemployment and the huge gap between rich and poor have failed to halt their broader calls for a political sweep out of Mubarak and his associates.

Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday and what they bill as a "protest of the millions" march on Tuesday, to press their demands for democracy which could spell the end for the military establishment which has run post-colonial Egypt since the 1950s.

The United States, an ally which has poured billions of dollars of aid into Egypt since Mubarak came to power, stopped just short of saying openly that it wanted him out. Officials including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about "an orderly transition".

A senior U.S. administration official, who declined to be identified, said the feeling among Obama's national security aides was that Mubarak's time had passed, but it was up to Egyptians to determine what happens next.

Mubarak, a former air force chief, has turned to his military commanders, meeting them on Sunday. They seem to hold his future in their hands. Egypt's defence minister spoke by phone to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and highest-ranking U.S. military officer, praised the "professionalism" of Egypt's armed forces as its troops refrained from a crackdown on protesters. Egypt receives about $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------3)Radical political religion will soon shape the Mideast
The parties will be myriad and fragmented, colorless and disappointing, left-wing and right-wing - and all of them hostile to Israel, of course.
By Ron Leshem

When the time comes for genuine elections in Egypt, the country's future will be determined not by university graduates in Cairo but by 70 million villagers. And also, for example, by the one million people living in the City of the Dead, the cemetery in northern Cairo. They will vote for the Muslim Brotherhood because no liberal party can give them the rapid change desperately longed for by the masses, who suffer from shortages of flour, clean drinking water, jobs and housing.

The parties will be myriad and fragmented, colorless and disappointing, left-wing and right-wing - and all of them hostile to Israel, of course. An unstable, rudderless transition period, a parliamentary democracy in the Turkish model, if not the Iranian, will give rise to a religious regime that within a few years will presumably be in control of the best-trained and best-equipped army in the Middle East.

Many urban, educated city dwellers will calmly accept the will of the people, seeing it as an alternative to the futile, fawning pursuit of the culturally hollow West, which gave birth to exploitative dictatorships. The people love Islam - the culture, the tradition. The proponents of sane and secular freedom will wake up too late, just like the socialists and liberals who took to the streets to bring down the Shah of Iran, only to be hanged in the city squares when the transition government in Tehran was replaced with darkness.

Those who believe that the fear of losing the U.S. lifeline will rein in this process underestimate the Egyptian people. Radical, political religion is what will shape the Middle East in the coming decades.

Even in states where a tiny, tired minority rules over an oppressed majority, like Syria, the alternative's day will come. Freedom, in our secular interpretation of the concept, will not easily represent an alternative. The Gaza Strip is already in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, which took the election decisively, and Lebanon will be controlled by Hezbollah. Islam is the solution, according to the slogan of the movement that was born in Egypt 90 years ago.

The masses in the dictatorships are losing their dread of the regime. For them, the new and relevant "leader," who rules and stirs the spirits, is freedom of information and of technology, the most effective manipulators of which and often its big winners are the fundamentalists. That is the case with the Al Jazeera television network, which is controlled by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood but which cynically benefits from the support of international human rights organizations, which see it as battling for freedom of expression in the Arab world.

The world does not necessarily move forward; it generally goes in circles. And progress does not necessarily lead to advancement. In late 1970s in Iran, too, it was audio cassettes of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's sermons that spread the revolutionary message. It is entirely possible that within a decade or two Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank will be part of the axis of political Islam.

In two decades or so, more than half of Israeli youth will be either Arab or ultra-Orthodox Jews. Most of the Arabs will presumably support the Islamic Movement. The Haredim, for their part, will join the workforce, even high-tech, but their support for political religion and for a justice system ruled by Jewish law will not change. People can become accustomed to anything, and we too, presumably, will gradually get used to religious edicts and a changing reality. Many of us, members of the productive, liberal public, will give up and flee in desperation. Others will remain optimistic. Or skeptical.
4)INSS Insight by Shmuel Even: The Uprising in Egypt: An Initial Assessment

In any case, a weakened Egypt preoccupied with internal affairs portends
poorly for the pragmatic camp supporting the political process and
encourages the radical camp, intent on Israel’s destruction.

President Mubarak is currently facing the biggest challenge to his regime
since taking office close to thirty years ago. On January
28, after several days of violent demonstrations throughout Egypt,
the 82-year old Mubarak called on the army to quell the unrest, announcing
he “would not allow anything to threaten the peace, law, and future of the
country.” On January 29, Mubarak appointed Omar Suleiman, head of Egyptian
intelligence, to the post of vice president, and charged Ahmed Shafiq, a
former Egyptian air force commander and the new prime minister, with the
task of forming a new government to undertake reforms and calm the masses.
At the time of this writing, the crisis is in full force and definitive
outcomes cannot be predicted.

The Crisis

Egypt has a population of 81 million; the annual growth rate of the
population is estimated at 2 percent, and the GDP is $6,200 (in terms of
buying power). The economic situation of the weaker classes, government
corruption, and the encouragement the population drew from the uprising in
Tunisia underlay the spontaneous eruption of the protests. While those close
to the Egyptian regime enjoy a lavish lifestyle, the weaker classes stagger
under the burden of the most basic subsistence and the middle class is
disappearing. Unemployment stands at close to 10 percent and the price of
basic foods is skyrocketing – in part because of the steep rise in food
prices worldwide, which despite the subsidies for basics goods has
affected prices on the local market. This phenomenon is also a
fundamental reason for the waves of protest in Tunisia, Yemen, and Algeria.

The standard of living of the lower class in Egypt is particularly low, at
the level of basic existence, because the average income is much lower than
the international average and because the country lacks advanced mechanisms
of social welfare available in developed nations. As a result of
urbanization, more than two-thirds of the Egyptian population work in
services, trade, and industry, and unlike in the past, have no access to
sources of food in the rural areas.

The protests are popular in nature and do not seem to be directed by the
Islamic opposition (although the protests were joined by Islamic elements).
The lack of a central organization responsible for the events makes it
difficult for the regime to identify targets to suppress. Opposition
leaders, such as Mohamed ElBaradei who sees himself as a candidate in this
year's presidential elections, have joined the protests, but they are not
directing the protesters. Thus far the army has deployed at key locations in
the cities but has not reined in the masses. At this point it seems that
military forces are concerned with protecting government edifices rather
than taking significant action to restore public order.

Mubarak’s difficulties are compounded by American pressure. On January 26
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “We support the universal
rights of the Egyptian people including the rights to freedom of
expression, association, and assembly. And we urge the Egyptian authorities
not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on
social media sites.” On January 28 President Obama made statements to the
same effect. The administration’s reserved stance towards the Egyptian
regime's self-defense efforts are reminiscent of the Carter administration's
attitude to the fall of the shah in Iran on the eve of the Islamic
Revolution in 1979; it is liable to affect the standing of the United States
among similar regimes in the region.

As in Tunisia, there has been widespread use of social media resources such
as Twitter and Facebook. Activists use the net not only for propaganda
purposes and reports on regime violence but also to recruit participants,
organize protests, and direct events. Therefore, the regime blocked access
to the internet and disrupted some mobile communications. An additional
challenge for the regime is the extensive presence of foreign media
broadcasting directly from the scene, which makes it hard for the regime to
act aggressively toward the protesters.

Historical Precedents

Mubarak is well aware of the risks of a shaky economy to internal stability.
In the so- called “Bread Riots” in January 1977, sparked by the steep
increase in prices of basic foods following the government’s attempt to cut
back on subsidies, 50 people were killed and some 600 were injured.
Then-Vice President Mubarak acted to quell the unrest but after three days,
the regime abandoned this attempt. In February 1986, riots were started by
soldiers from the central security units in Cairo and quickly spread to
other areas in Egypt. The Egyptian press reported that the riots rose from
the economic situation and the gap between a rich minority and a poor
majority, and that the riots were started by particularly embittered
soldiers who were joined by poor civilians. The rioters, who aimed their
fury at economic targets – stores, banks, and so on – were ultimately
stopped by the army.

Despite the similarity, it seems that the current crisis in Egypt is already
larger than those events, which the regime managed to suppress.

What Lies Ahead

The question of how deep the crisis will go and what the outcomes will be
depends on the ability of the protesters or the opposition to translate the
protest into a political force opposing the president’s power and the
apparatus at his disposal. The position of the generals is likely to be very
influential, as was evident in the deposal of Tunisian President Ben Ali. It
is not clear if there are any cracks in the military’s support for the
regime, but there seems to be no willingness on the military’s part to
confront the demonstrators. How much the military will be willing to act to
ensure the continuation of Mubarak’s regime is a critical question.

The outcome of the riots may not necessarily be connected to what or who
ignited them, rather to whatever power structure is created and those who
succeed in leveraging it for their own benefit. In such a power structure,
the Islamic opposition is liable to expand its influence. At the same time,
even if the regime succeeds in suppressing the uprising, it seems that Egypt
will not be able to go back to what it was and that the Mubarak regime will
end this year, one way or another.

Even if Mubarak remains in power, it seems that he will have to abandon his
attempt to crown his son Gamal as president in the 2011 presidential
elections. This will spell the end of a move seen by many Egyptians as an
attempt to restore the monarchy through the back door, as Hafez Asad did in
Syria by appointing his son Bashar as his successor. And should the crisis
expand, the regime leaders are likely to urge Mubarak to retire early and
appoint a temporary president to serve until the elections, thereby
preserving the regime, albeit in a different composition.

Alternatively, Egypt is liable to find itself in a period of instability,
highly undesirable by all sides. Under certain circumstances, undermining
the current power bases may generate an extremist Islamic regime, in part
because of the organizational capabilities of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.

The shockwaves of the events in Egypt and Tunisia may well spill over to
other Middle Eastern countries, as many of them suffer from similar
syndromes. The concern that the riots in Egypt will spread to other Arab
states caused the price of oil to spike by 4.5 percent already on January

The Israeli Context

For now, the crisis has no Israeli connection and Israel has not been
mentioned in the recent clashes. Nonetheless, Israel has excellent reason to
follow developments closely, in light of its interest in maintaining
the peace agreement, its growing dependence on Egyptian gas, and the
ramifications for regional stability (e.g., a radical change in Egypt is
liable to generate a dramatic change in the Middle East balance of power).

In any case, a weakened Egypt preoccupied with internal affairs portends
poorly for the pragmatic camp supporting the political process and
encourages the radical camp, intent on Israel’s destruction. Even if the
regime succeeds in suppressing the uprising, Egypt is in for a year of
difficult political challenges that threaten its stability. In the current
crisis, Israel has neither the capability nor a reason to intervene, and
Israeli senior figures would do well to demonstrate restraint. Still, the
possibility that Egypt might pursue a new direction is no longer
theoretical and Israel must consider the implications of the various
possible scenarios.

4a)The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context
By George Friedman of Stratfor

It is not at all clear what will happen in the Egyptian revolution. It is not a surprise that this is happening. Hosni Mubarak has been president for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is old and has been ill. No one expected him to live much longer, and his apparent plan, which was that he would be replaced by his son, Gamal, was not going to happen even though it was a possibility a year ago. There was no one, save his closest business associates, who wanted to see Mubarak's succession plans happen. As his father weakened, Gamal's succession became even less likely. Mubarak's failure to design a credible succession plan guaranteed instability on his death. Since everyone knew that there would be instability on his death, there were obviously those who saw little advantage to acting before he died. Who these people were and what they wanted is the issue.

Let's begin by considering the regime. In 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. In short, it was a statist regime dominated by the military. On Nasser's death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat's assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did. However their foreign policy might have differed from Nasser's, the regime remained intact.

The demands for Mubarak's resignation come from many quarters, including from members of the regime — particularly the military — who regard Mubarak's unwillingness to permit them to dictate the succession as endangering the regime. For some of them, the demonstrations represent both a threat and opportunity. Obviously, the demonstrations might get out of hand and destroy the regime. On the other hand, the demonstrations might be enough to force Mubarak to resign, allow a replacement — for example, Omar Suleiman, the head of intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed vice president — and thereby save the regime. This is not to say that they fomented the demonstrations, but some must have seen the demonstrations as an opportunity.

This is particularly the case in the sense that the demonstrators are deeply divided among themselves and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran's regime in 1979. More important, the demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition.

Western media has read the uprising as a demand for Western-style liberal democracy. Many certainly are demanding that. What is not clear is that this is moving Egypt's peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. Their interests have far more to do with the state of the Egyptian economy than with the principles of liberal democracy. As in Iran in 2009, the democratic revolution, if focused on democrats, cannot triumph unless it generates broader support.

The other element in this uprising is the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus of most observers is that the Muslim Brotherhood at this point is no longer a radical movement and is too weak to influence the revolution. This may be possible, but it is not obvious. The Muslim Brotherhood has many strands, many of which have been quiet under Mubarak's repression. It is not clear who will emerge if Mubarak falls. It is certainly not clear that they are weaker than the democratic demonstrators. It is a mistake to confuse the Muslim Brotherhood's caution with weakness. Another way to look at them is that they have bided their time and toned down their real views, waiting for the kind of moment provided by Mubarak's succession. I would suspect that the Muslim Brotherhood has more potential influence among the Egyptian masses than the Western-oriented demonstrators or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is emerging as their leader.

There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama's view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt's regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn't depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.

There are four outcomes possible. First, the regime might survive. Mubarak might stabilize the situation, or more likely, another senior military official would replace him after a decent interval. Another possibility under the scenario of the regime's survival is that there may be a coup of the colonels. A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might overthrow the statist model built by Nasser and proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. The fourth possibility is that Egypt will sink into political chaos. The most likely path to this would be elections that result in political gridlock in which a viable candidate cannot be elected. If I were forced to choose, I would bet on the regime stabilizing itself and Mubarak leaving because of the relative weakness and division of the demonstrators. But that's a guess and not a forecast.

Whatever happens matters a great deal to Egyptians. But only some of these outcomes are significant to the world. Among radical Islamists, the prospect of a radicalized Egypt represents a new lease on life. For Iran, such an outcome would be less pleasing. Iran is now the emerging center of radical Islamism; it would not welcome competition from Egypt, though it may be content with an Islamist Egypt that acts as an Iranian ally (something that would not be easy to ensure).

For the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Egypt is the center of gravity in the Arab world. This would not only change the dynamic of the Arab world, it would reverse U.S. strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Sadat's decision to reverse his alliance with the Soviets and form an alliance with the United States undermined the Soviet position in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world and strengthened the United States immeasurably. The support of Egyptian intelligence after 9/11 was critical in blocking and undermining al Qaeda. Were Egypt to stop that cooperation or become hostile, the U.S. strategy would be severely undermined.

The great loser would be Israel. Israel's national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt, signed by Menachem Begin with much criticism by the Israeli right. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel's southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. Israel fought three wars (1948, 1967 and 1973) where its very existence was at issue. The threat was always from Egypt, and without Egypt in the mix, no coalition of powers could threaten Israel (excluding the now-distant possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons). In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake.

If Egypt were to abrogate the Camp David Accords and over time reconstruct its military into an effective force, the existential threat to Israel that existed before the treaty was signed would re-emerge. This would not happen quickly, but Israel would have to deal with two realities. The first is that the Israeli military is not nearly large enough or strong enough to occupy and control Egypt. The second is that the development of Egypt's military would impose substantial costs on Israel and limit its room for maneuver.

There is thus a scenario that would potentially strengthen the radical Islamists while putting the United States, Israel, and potentially even Iran at a disadvantage, all for different reasons. That scenario emerges only if two things happen. First, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a dominant political force in Egypt. Second, they must turn out to be more radical than most observers currently believe they are — or they must, with power, evolve into something more radical.

If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.

Similarly, the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place if the military regime retained power — save for one scenario. If it was decided that the regime's unpopularity could be mitigated by assuming a more anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy — in other words, if the regime decided to play the Islamist card, the situation could evolve as a Muslim Brotherhood government would. Indeed, as hard as it is to imagine, there could be an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood designed to stabilize the regime. Stranger things have happened.

When we look at the political dynamic of Egypt, and try to imagine its connection to the international system, we can see that there are several scenarios under which certain political outcomes would have profound effects on the way the world works. That should not be surprising. When Egypt was a pro-Soviet Nasserite state, the world was a very different place than it had been before Nasser. When Sadat changed his foreign policy the world changed with it. If Sadat's foreign policy changes, the world changes again. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens.

Most of the outcomes I envision leave Egypt pretty much where it is. But not all. The situation is, as they say, in doubt, and the outcome is not trivial.

4b)How -- and why -- the Muslim Brotherhood's Egyptian strategy is succeeding
By Jeffrey Fleishman

The medical students marched and sweated in protest.

"The fear is broken," yelled Bahaa Mohammed. "We want freedom."

"And Islam," said his friend. "We need Islam."

"Yes," said Mohammed, hushing the young man. "But first freedom and the will of the people."

The exchange in the streets of Cairo between the students, both members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, is a telling glimpse into the Arab world's largest Islamic organization as it joins other opposition groups seeking to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak. The Brotherhood is muting its religious message.

The organization's strategy became more apparent Sunday when it announced support for opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei as a transitional president if the Mubarak government is toppled. The move was recognition that ElBaradei, a secularist with Western democratic principles, is the most potent symbol for change in a nation desperate for fresh voices.

Founded in 1928 by a teacher in the Nile Delta, the Muslim Brotherhood has had a history of bloodshed and intrigue in a nation where many have embraced its form of Islam while the government has labeled it a terrorist threat. Its radical wing was accused of attempting to assassinate President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954, and it has long supported Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"The Muslim Brotherhood has always been a concern for secular and even religiously devoted Egyptians because of fear that their Islamic ideology could damage the country's image and hurt tourism," said Emad Gad, a political analyst.

"The revolution does not belong to any one group," said Esam Shosha, a movement member. "We are one country. It's not just about the Brotherhood, at least not now; it's about all Egyptians."

Whether that attitude survives in a post-Mubarak era is uncertain, but it suggests that after a week of uprisings the Brotherhood understands the emerging dynamics of Egypt. The organization, which runs religious and social programs across the country, believes that backing ElBaradei for now is the best chance to further its political ambitions.

"They don't want to appear as if they're using this revolt to seize power," said Wahid Abdul Magid, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "What they want is free and fair elections to allow them to take power transparently. This would show their real popularity in the Egyptian street."

The question is whether the organization's religious agenda fits easily into an Egypt that is more tolerant and susceptible to Western-style liberalism and hip TV preachers. The Brotherhood's beliefs are moderate when compared with many of the world's more militant Muslim organizations. But it rejects the idea that a woman or a Christian could be president of a Muslim country, and would tilt the nation's laws toward stricter Islamic codes. And it would certainly ban alcohol and topless beaches at the resort of Sharm el Sheik.

Estimated to have 600,000 members, many of them educated and middle class, the Brotherhood said it rejected violence decades ago. Its social and health programs have filled gaps in the state's failing public services in this nation of 80 million people. During the 30 years under Mubarak's rule, thousands of its members have been arrested. It has been further weakened by internal divisions over its role between religion and politics.

In 2005, after then-President George W. Bush urged Mubarak to allow freer elections, the Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in parliament. The result worried Washington and Cairo that Islamic parties were on the rise across the region. The Egyptian government responded by purging the organization, culminating in Brotherhood's defeat in last year's legislative elections, widely regarded as rigged by the ruling party.

The organization, politically isolated, debated strategies. Then in mid-December, the Tunisian uprising started, which forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from office this month. A similar fervor ignited in Egypt, and the Brotherhood, careful not to officially endorse street protests for fear of another crackdown on its leaders, urged its young members into the streets alongside secular groups such as the April 6 movement.

It also asked its young rank and file to keep diaries of their thoughts on the gathering revolt. Their involvement in Tuesday's protest drew accusations from Mubarak's security forces that the Brotherhood was instigating violence and sedition. But by Friday, the organization, calculating that the president was vulnerable, sent thousands of its young and old members marching through Cairo, Suez and other cities.

"It was a revolution that started with young people with no political agenda. It was important for the Brotherhood to send its youth," said group member Shosha, whose cell phone holds videos of Egyptians who were beaten and shot during protests. "Our young members are probably more educated and more knowledgeable in demonstrations and how to handle police tactics."

Mohammed Bedeir, a 23-year-old member, said: "We've been told to take part in the protest to pile the pressure on the regime. We've been telling the soldiers in the streets, don't side with the government or at least don't attack us. We're asking them to stay in the middle and let us demonstrate."

What surprised the Brotherhood and other traditional opposition groups was a protest movement without slogans, news releases and position papers. It came from the people, students and middle class at first, then swelling across economic and social lines. It has forced the organization to recalibrate its message in a world where the old boundaries have shifted.

That may not be easy.

"A Christian Copt or a woman cannot be president of a Muslim nation," said Shosha, a broad-shouldered man, who sat in the Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo watching the protests on TV. "This is a religious point, not a political one. But it will be the Muslim leader's role to protect the rights of Copts and women."

Shosha said he was 12 when he befriended older Brotherhood members at a neighborhood mosque. Their message was to suffuse all aspects of life — job, family, politics — with Islam.

"Then I grew up and entered university, and I started thinking if the Brotherhood only wanted power it wouldn't have lasted so long after all the state oppression against it since 1950s," said Shosha, 31. "It's still here doing the work of G0d."

4c)U.S. secretly preparing for post-Mubarak era
By Paul Richter and Peter Nicholas

Even as the Obama administration maintained its cautious approach to the crisis in Egypt, suggesting that President Hosni Mubarak might be able to remain in power if he acts quickly on reforms, a former senior administration official said the White House also is preparing for a post-Mubarak era.

The Obama administration is trying to deliver a consistent public message on the fast-moving events in Egypt, dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a round of Sunday talk show appearances. Clinton hewed to the administration's talking points, pleading for restraint by Egyptian authorities and the protesters, while prodding the Mubarak government.

But although U.S. officials have publicly encouraged "managed change" under the entrenched Egyptian leader, the former senior adviser said that as early as Wednesday the administration recognized it could not try to save the Mubarak regime at all costs.

"They don't want to push Mubarak over the cliff, but they understand that the Mubarak era is over and that the only way Mubarak could be saved now is by a ruthless suppression of the population, which would probably set the stage for a much more radical revolution down the road," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could be more candid on sensitive diplomatic matters.

The former adviser said he had discussed the crisis with ex-colleagues still in the administration.

"They recognized that change was coming and they needed to be on the right side of history and not trying to keep Mubarak in power against all odds."

Obama tried to push Egypt in a pro-democratic direction soon after coming to power in 2009. In a much-publicized speech in Cairo, a city now engulfed in protests, Obama proclaimed that governments must reflect "the will of the people."

Having delivered such a speech, Obama is hard-pressed now to throw his support behind a repressive ruler at the expense of crowds clamoring for democratic rights.

Yet how the United States handles Mubarak is a tricky calculation for the administration, as he has been helpful on a range of issues important to Washington, such as fighting terrorism, Arab-Israeli peace talks and containing Iran.

Middle East allies are closely watching the American response to the crisis. If Obama summarily dumps an ally of three decades, other Middle East leaders might get antsy, wondering whether he would do the same to them should protests erupt on their streets, the former administration official said.

"It's a very difficult balance to be struck. Mubarak is, after all, a friend of the United States for the last 30 years," he said. "A lot of our allies in the region — the Saudis, Jordanians and Kuwaitis — will be particularly nervous if it looks like the U.S. is doing in one of their friends. The administration understands this.

"But the most important thing they understand is that they have to get in front of this and not behind it."

Obama administration officials have been careful not to abandon Mubarak in public statements, but they also have not aligned themselves with him, instead saying Egyptians should decide their own fate through competitive elections.

"The determination of Egypt will be done by the people of Egypt," White House chief of staff William Daley said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Clinton said, "I want the Egyptian people to have the chance to chart a new future. It needs to be an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy."

But Obama administration officials also do not want to see Mubarak's power preserved through a crackdown by the Egyptian military, a message U.S. military leaders reiterated to their Egyptian counterparts over the weekend.

Obama is keeping up with events through regular staff briefings and close consultation with allies in the region. On Saturday, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said.

In the course of those conversations, Obama urged "an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," the White House said in a prepared statement.

A current Obama administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that one thing is certain: Mubarak can no longer preside over an authoritarian government.

Even if Mubarak is able to withstand the protests, he can't continue the leadership style he had before the protests erupted, the official said.

But powerful voices inside Egypt insist that Mubarak must go. Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has joined the protesters, said in an interview Sunday that Mubarak can't be trusted to usher in new freedoms.

"The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years would be the one to implement democracy," ElBaradei told "Face the Nation."
5)Egypt Is the Next Tunisia. What Is the Next Egypt?

“The new wave of color revolutions has broken through Tunisia and swept into Egypt this year,” states The Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party newspaper, in an editorial released today. “Western-style democracy appears to be spreading, yet the affected countries are not comparable with Western society—these new revolutions are more controversial than those that happened in East Europe after the Cold War.”

Now that Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution has inspired Egyptians, autocrats in the region nervously watch for signs of unrest in their own countries. Most observers assume that the next Egypt is Yemen, Jordan, or Saudi Arabia. Yet as the Global Times editorial indicates, Middle Eastern despots are not the only ones worried. Beijing’s leaders are concerned that 1.3 billion enraged souls will rise up and tear down the People’s Republic of China.

China’s communists have every right to be concerned. In a world connected by optic fiber, revolutionary fervor not only crosses from one country to the next but from one continent to another. That is undoubtedly the reason why Chinese netizens cannot search the characters for “Egypt” on some Mainland sites and the authorities are censoring news of the distant upheaval. Beijing’s officials know that every resentment felt by Tunisians and Egyptians is shared by those they rule.

So it’s not surprising the Chinese are closely watching the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. China’s netizens, for example, cannot stop talking about the lone Egyptian who stood in front of an armored car last week. “Must see!” Tweeted human rights lawyer Teng Bao yesterday. “Egypt’s Tiananmen movement, a warrior blocks a military vehicle!”

Is there a connection between the events in North Africa and Asia? Like the Tunisians and Egyptians, the Chinese are losing their fear of dictators. “Many people on the Chinese blogosphere and netizens believe that the future road that China takes is like Tunisia,” remarked Chinese blogger “Twokeqi,” in a session arranged by the American embassy in Beijing. He and other Chinese netizens were peppering two American officials—Jeffrey Bader and Ben Rhodes—who were connected by a video link as they sat in the White House basement. “Does the U.S. government also think so and does the U.S. government have a strategy if this happens?”

Neither Bader nor Rhodes would answer either of Twokeqi’s direct questions. Rhodes, for his part, rambled on about Washington’s human rights policies and Bader talked about the American civil war and slavery in the South, so it is obvious that the pair were afraid of offending Beijing’s officials. Yet China’s citizens—or at least some of them—are not so concerned about the tender feelings of the Communist Party elite.

That’s a dangerous moment for autocrats, even if they dwell thousands of miles from the pyramids. When a people begin to ignore authoritarians, political transformations occur. The Chinese, for instance, don’t take to the streets when they are angry notes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. They do so when they think they can get away with it. “China has always operated to some degree on fear, and that fear is now eroding,” he wrote in 2003.

Since 2003, the year after Hu Jintao became China’s supremo, Beijing’s top leaders have done their best to make their political system more repressive, but they are nonetheless losing their ability to intimidate. As a result, Chinese bloggers, like Twokeqi, are willing to say and write some of the most subversive things. Twokeqi, for instance, need not call for multi-party elections or even freedom of speech to undermine the state. All he needs to do is to point to events in North Africa and declare those trends will one day affect China.

Societies change—or “tip” to use a phrase popularized by Malcolm Gladwell—because, at some point, enough people think the same way. At this point, not everyone believes they can send Hu Jintao packing, like the Tunisians did with Ben Ali. Authoritarian governments, as we know by now, always look invincible until a week before their leaders leave for the airport.

But Beijing’s lame attempts to suppress “Egypt” on the net—and the admission that “democracy” is spreading—make Chinese officials look fearful as well as inept. Because they are also making themselves appear obtuse and desperate, they are opening the door to “discontinuous political change” in the year that will mark the centennial of the first Chinese revolution in history.

Twice in their past—in 1911 and 1949—China’s people opted for radical political change. After the unexpected events in Tunisia and Egypt—and after more than sixty years of Communist Party misrule at home—we could see the third Chinese revolution this year.
6)The US is moving on from Afghanistan, but its troops are still dying thereUS admiration for its soldiers may be deep and widespread, but interest in what they are doing is shallow and fleeting

Most of the stories told about Benjamin Moore, 23, at his funeral started in a bar and ended in a laugh. Invited to testify about his life from the pews, friend, relative, colleague and neighbour alike described a boisterous, gregarious, energetic young man they'd known in the small New Jersey town of Bordentown since he was born. "I'll love him 'til I go," his granny said. "If I could go today and bring him back, I would."

Grown men choked on their memories, under the gaze of swollen, reddened eyes, as they remembered a "snot-nosed kid" and a fidget who'd become a volunteer firefighter before enlisting in the military. Shortly before Benjamin left for Afghanistan, he sent a message to his cousin that began: "I'm about to go into another country where they hate me for everything I stand for." Now he was back in a flag-draped box, killed by roadside bomb with two other soldiers in Ghazni province.

The church was packed to capacity and at least a couple of hundred waited outside. The procession to the cemetery began with firetruck horns and was lined with well-wishers. He went under the ground with several military medals and the posthumous titles of chief of Hope Hose fire company and the "honorary mayor" of Bordentown.

There is a reverence for the military in the US on a scale rarely seen anywhere else in the west that transcends political affiliation and pervades popular culture. On aeroplanes the flight attendant will announce if there are soldiers on board to great applause. When I attended a recording of The Daily Show, John Stewart made a special point before the show of thanking the servicemen in the audience.

But while the admiration for those who serve and die may be deep and widespread, interest in what they are doing and why they are doing it is shallow and fleeting. During November's midterm elections it barely came up. In September just 3% thought Afghanistan was one of the most important problems facing the country. When Pew surveyed public interest in the war over an 18-week period last year, fewer than one in 10 said it was the top news story they were following in any given week, including the week Stanley McChrystal – the four-star general commanding troops in Afghanistan, was fired. The country, it seems has moved on. The trouble is the troops are still there.

"The burden for this war is being carried by such a small slither of society," explains Professor Christopher Gelpi, who specialises in public opinion and foreign policy at Duke University. "Unless you know someone in this war, live near an army base or know of someone who has died, then it is possible for the public to ignore it. People are very disconnected from it."

And when they do pay attention, they do not like what they see. Polls in December reveal that 63% oppose the war, 56% think it is going badly (with 21% believing it is going very badly), and 60% believing it was not worth fighting. Indeed opposition to the war is now on a par with Iraq.

This statistical data chimes with Gelpi's qualitative findings about people's attitudes towards the war. In a study he conducted in last spring, he found that people know very little about the war but "view it through the filter of Iraq". "Those who have made up their minds about Iraq," he concludes in the paper, The Two-Front Homefront, "appear to extrapolate these views to Afghanistan and are reluctant to attend to new information on the conflict."

But while that popular elision is understandable – no sooner had the war in Afghanistan been launched than the war in Iraq was being touted – it is problematic. Afghanistan is not Iraq. Indeed, in many ways, the lessons from Afghanistan are more profound, ingrained and urgent. Globally speaking, opposing the war in Iraq was not even remotely contentious. Significant majorities in almost every country, with the exception of the US, were against it. Before it was inept it was already illegal, and before it was illegal it was already illogical. It was wrong on its own terms, and its own terms were rooted in a lie.

But there were relatively few lies told in the selling of the Afghanistan war. This, remember, was the "smart war." Both George Bush's war and Barack Obama's war. A war supported by Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Susan Sontag. A "war of necessity", which had the backing of almost the entire political class on both sides of the Atlantic.

A war only a single national politician in the US dared oppose. In her speech to the House of Representatives on 14 September 2001, after which she received numerous death threats, Barbara Lee warned: "We are not dealing with a conventional war. We cannot respond in a conventional manner. I do not want to see this spiral out of control … If we rush to launch a counterattack, we run too great a risk that women, children and other non-combatants will be caught in the crossfire … Finally, we must be careful not to embark on an open-ended war with neither an exit strategy nor a focused target. We cannot repeat past mistakes."

This, in no small part, is why it has not become an electoral issue This was a bipartisan effort – and all the worse for it. When it was launched, many claimed parentage; in its failure, it is an orphan. "It's not become a political issue because the Republicans are more supportive of the war than Obama is," explains Gelpi. "So all he has to worry about is a rebellion from his left." The potential for such a rebellion certainly exists. But its likely potency, at this stage, remains suspect.

But to engage with what went wrong would demand a sharp reckoning with why so many thought it would was right to begin with. The country would have to interrogate its militaristic reflexes and proclivities, and face the fact that while there were few good or certain options after 9/11 (ranging from the diplomatic to containment) this was one of the worst – and the others were never seriously considered.

For as the principal retaliatory response to the terror attacks of 9/11, it has failed. It hasn't brought liberty, democracy or stability. It has killed untold thousands of civilians: untold because they are regarded as expendable. And not only has it not captured the perpetrators of the terror attack, there are far more acts of terrorism globally today than there were in 2001, in no small part because of the chaos wrought by the war on terror.

Back at the Trinity United Methodist church in Bordentown, the minister ended the service with the hymn Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin With Me.

Elsewhere in the country, small communities like this weep every week without respite as bodies from a global conflict return to become a local tragedy without, apparently, altering the national mood. Like a stone thrown into a pond the ripples go only so far and then fade away.

Back in 1971, during the Vietnam war, John Kerry famously testified before the Senate foreign relations committee. He put the question: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" Forty years later, the answer appears to be that you simply stop paying attention to their deaths.

It seems American soldiers are not so much dying for their country, but because of it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

OBAMA : Paid Big Salary Yet Still Learning on The Job!

Mubarak's phone message: "Sorry I'm not home to take your call. At the tone
please state your bad news."

El Baradei's mother: "Is one Nobel Prize so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?"
What is happening in Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt would suggest that solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem would calm the Arab street has been a ruse based on a false premise all along.

If Obama allows a UN vote against Israel, in the mistaken belief, it will pacify Arabs he will be the first president to allow such and it will prove just another mis-step on the part of a very naive president who is drawing a big salary yet still LOTJ. (See 1 below.)

The article below provides some insight into how to negotiate with Arabs and why it is so difficult for the Western mind to comprehend.

This is one of the best articles I have read on the subject and a must for every non-Arab living in the Middle East, or anyone who wants to understand the intricacies of the Arab way of negotiating. It is also an answer to all those who cannot understand why Israel cannot achieve peace.

In fact it also provides a road map , to use that trite phrase, for Republicans in negotiating with Obama. (See 2 below.)
What is happening in Egypt is not the fault of this administration but initially Obama and Hillary got off on the wrong foot in commenting about our support for Mubarak.

Any region whose nations are run by dictators, kings etc. is an anachronism considering we are in the 21st century. That said, there is no guarantee, particularly among the Arabs,that change will result in a move towards something resembling a democratic society. GW attempted it in Iraq and it has yet to happen and now with what is going on, the entire region could go up in in flames.

Certainly the Saudis must be trembling and the Iranian Ayatollahs licking their lips.(See 3 below.)
For those who care this PJTV.Com discussion about Libertarians and Conservatives might prove interesting. It addresses many questions and issues and it appears they can come together when there is a strong galvanizing issue but they have philosophical variance and that is a fact of life.

Click on PJTV.Com: "A Two Faced Tea Party: Can Social Conservatives and Libertarians Get Along?

A study shows that the Tea Party movement is split down the middle when it comes to social issues. Half want the Tea Party to focus on social issues, the other half doesn't. Hear more as David Kirby visits The Bottom Line to discuss the two faced nature of the Tea Party."
Gotta love military time! (See 4 below.)
Who is El Baradei - one thought. You decide is Baradei a stooge? Time will tell. (See 5 below.)
1)President Barack Obama is about to withhold the US veto from a Palestinian-Arab motion due to be tabled at the UN Security Council condemning Israel for its settlement policy in the West Bank and Jerusalem, DEBKAfile's Washington sources report. If he does, he will be the first US president to let an anti-Israel motion go through the Security Council and building on the West Bank and even in the forty-year old suburbs of East Jerusalem would become illegal and set the US on a collision course with the Netanyahu government. Jerusalem would see this step as encouraging the Palestinians and hostile Arab states to continue to use the UN Security Council to undermine Israel's legitimacy and recognize a unilateral Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders without negotiations.
Washington's latest proposal to work on security arrangements first and so ease the path to a deal on borders would be negated by its UN veto because a motion against settlements would a priori dictate eventual borders between the Palestinian state and Israel.

2)"How to Bargain with Arabs"
By Professor Moshe Sharon

Everybody says that his donkey is a horse.

There is no tax on words.

(Two Arab proverbs)

On December 24th 1977, at the very beginning of the negotiations between Israel and Egypt in Ismailia , I had the opportunity to have a short discussion with Muhammad Anwar Sadat the president of Egypt . "Tell your Prime Minister," he said, "that this is a bazaar; the merchandise is expensive." I told my Prime Minister but he failed to abide by the rules of the bazaar. The failure was not unique to him alone. It is the failure of all the Israeli governments and the media.

On March 4, 1994, I published an article in the Jerusalem Post called "Novices in Negotiations." The occasion was the conclusion of the "Cairo Agreement." A short time later, Yasser Arafat, proved yet again that his signature was not worth the ink of his pen, let alone the paper to which it was affixed, and his word was worth even less. Then, as in every subsequent agreement Israel was taken aback when her concessions had become the basis for fresh Arab demands.

In Middle Eastern bazaar diplomacy, agreements are kept not because they are signed but because they are imposed. Besides, in the bazaar of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the two sides are not discussing the same merchandise. The Israelis wish to acquire peace based on the Arab-Muslim acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. The objective of the Arabs is to annihilate the Jewish state, replace it with an Arab state, and get rid of the Jews.

To achieve their goal, the Arabs took to the battlefield and to the bazaar diplomacy. The most important rule in the bazaar is that if the vendor knows that you desire to purchase a certain piece of merchandize, he will raise its price. The merchandise in question is "peace" and the Arabs give the impression that they actually have this merchandise and inflate its price, when in truth they do not have it at all.

This is the wisdom of the bazaar: if you are clever enough, you can sell nothing at a price. The Arabs sell words, they sign agreements, and they trade with vague promises, but are sure to receive generous down payments from eager buyers. In the bazaar only a foolish buyer pays for something he has never seen.

There is another rule in the market as well as across the negotiating table: the side that first presents his terms is bound to lose; the other side builds his next move, using the open cards of his opponent, as the starting point.

In all its negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs, Israel has always rushed to offer its plans, and was surprised to discover that after an agreement had been "concluded," it had become the basis for further demands.

Most amazing is the reaction in such cases. Israeli politicians, "experts" and the media eagerly provide "explanations" for the Arabs' behaviour. One of the most popular explanations is that these or other Arab pronouncements are "for internal use," as if "internal use" does not count. Other explanations invoke "the Arab sensitivity to symbols," "honour," "matters of emotion" and other more patronising sayings of this nature. Does Israel possess no "sensitivities" or does it have no honour? What does all this have to do with political encounters?

It is therefore essential, as the late President Sadat advised, to learn the rules of the oriental bazaar before venturing into the arena of bazaar diplomacy. The most important of all the rules is the Roman saying: "If you want peace -- prepare for war." Never come to the negotiating table from a position of weakness. Your adversary should always know that you are strong and ready for war, even more than you are ready for peace.

In the present situation in the Middle East, and in the foreseeable future, "peace" is nothing more than an empty word. Israel should stop speaking about "peace" and delete the word "peace" from its vocabulary, together with such phrases as "the price of peace" or "territory for peace." For a hundred years the Jews have been begging the Arabs to sell them peace, ready to pay any price. They have received nothing, because the Arabs have no peace to sell, but the Jews have still paid dearly. It must be said, in all fairness, that the Arabs have not made a secret of the fact that what they meant by the word "peace" was nothing more than a limited ceasefire for a limited period.

Since this is the situation, Israel should openly declare that peace does not exist as an option in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that it has decided to create a new state of affairs in the Middle East, compelling the Arab side to ask for peace; and pay for it. Unlike the Arabs, Israel has this merchandize for sale.

From now on Israel should be the side demanding payment for peace. If the Arabs want peace, Israel should fix its price in real terms. The Arabs will pay if they reach the conclusion that Israel is so strong that they cannot destroy it. Because of this, Israel ’s deterrent power is essential.

Therefore, if anyone asks Israel for plans, the answer should be: no "plans," no "suggestions," no "constructive ideas;" in fact, no negotiations at all. If the Arab side wants to negotiate, let it present its plans and its "ideas." If and when it does, the first Israeli reaction should always be "unacceptable! Come with better ones." If and when the time comes for serious negotiations, once the Arabs have lost all hope of annihilating the Jewish state, here are ten rules for bargaining in the Middle Eastern bazaar:

• Never be the first to suggest anything to the other side. Never show any eagerness "to conclude a deal." Let the opponent present his suggestions first.

• Always reject; disagree. Use the phrase: "Not meeting the minimum demands," and walk away, even a hundred times. A tough customer gets good prices.

• Don't rush to come up with counter-offers. There will always be time for that. Let the other side make amendments under the pressure of your total "disappointment." Patience is the name of the game: "haste is from Satan!"

• Have your own plan ready in full, as detailed as possible, with the red lines completely defined. However, never show this or any other plan to a third party. It will reach your opponent quicker than you think. Weigh the other side’s suggestions against this plan.

• Never change your detailed plan to meet the other side "half way." Remember, there is no "half way." The other side also has a master plan. Be ready to quit negotiations when you encounter stubbornness on the other side.

• Never leave things unclear. Always avoid "creative phrasing" and "creative ideas" which are exactly what your Arab opponent wants. Remember the Arabs are masters of language. Playing with words is the Arab national sport. As in the market, so also at the negotiating table, always talk dollars and cents.

• Always bear in mind that the other side will try to outsmart you by presenting major issues as unimportant details. Regard every detail as a vitally important issue. Never postpone any problem "for a later occasion." If you do so, you will lose; remember that your opponent is always looking for a reason to avoid honouring agreements.

• Emotion belongs neither in the marketplace nor at the negotiating table. Friendly words as well as outbursts of anger, holding hands, kissing, touching cheeks, and embracing should not be interpreted as representing policy.

• Beware of popular beliefs about the Arabs and the Middle East -- "Arab honour" for example. Remember, you have honour too, but this has nothing to do with the issues under negotiation. Never do or say anything because somebody has told you that it is "the custom." If the Arab side finds out that you are playing the anthropologist he will take advantage of it.

• Always remember that the goal of all negotiations is to make a profit. You should aim at making the highest profit in real terms. Remember that every gain is an asset for the future, because there is always going to be "another round."

The Arabs have been practising negotiation tactics for more than 1300 years. They are the masters of words, and a mine of endless patience. In contrast, Israelis (and Westerners in general) want quick "results." In this part of the world there are no quick results, the hasty one always loses.

Moshe Sharon is Professor of Islamic History at the Hebrew University

3)Rebellion in the Land of the Pharaohs

A man who places himself at the helm for three decades inevitably becomes the target of all the realm's discontents.

'When Ramses II was over eighty he celebrated his rejuvenation at the feast of Set, repeating it yearly until he was ninety and more, and displaying his power of rejuvenation to the Gods above in the Obelisks he regularly erected as a memorial, which the aged Pharaoh decorated with electrum at the top so that their brightness should pour over lands of Egypt when the sun was mirrored in them."

This is from a classic account of this ancient and ordered land, "The Nile in Egypt," by Emil Ludwig (1937). Hosni Mubarak, the military officer who became Pharaoh in his own right, is well over 80. His is the third-longest reign since Ramses, who ruled for 67 years. The second-longest had belonged to a remarkable soldier of fortune, Muhammad Ali, an Albanian by birth and the creator of modern Egypt, who conquered the country in the opening years of the 19th century and ruled for five decades. His dynasty was to govern Egypt until the middle years of the 20th century.

In the received image of it, Egypt is the most stable of nations, a place of continuity on the banks of a sanguine river. Egyptians, the chronicles tell us, never killed their pharaohs. Anwar al-Sadat had been the first. But this received image conceals a good deal of tumult. The submission to the will of Gods and rulers has been punctured by ferocious rebellions.

From Ludwig again: "Once the fellahin (the peasants) and the workers of Egypt revolted against their masters; once their resentment burst out: a revolution dispossessed the rich men and the priests of Egypt of their power." One such revolution at the end of the Old Kingdom raged intermittently for two centuries (2350B.C. to 2150 B.C.).

In more recent times, in 1952, the Egyptians rose in rebellion and set much of modern Cairo to the torch, which would lead to the fall of the monarchy. The agile Sadat faced a big revolt of his own in 1977 when he attempted to reduce the subsidies on bread and sugar and cooking gas. It is said that he had been ready to quit this country in the face of that upheaval.

It is hard to know with precision when Hosni Mubarak, the son of middle peasantry, lost the warrant of his people. It had started out well for this most cautious of men. He had been there on the reviewing stand on Oct. 6, 1981 when a small band of young men from the army struck down Sadat as the flamboyant ruler was reviewing his troops and celebrating the eighth anniversary of the October War of 1973.

The new man had risen by grace of his predecessor's will. He had had no political past. The people of Egypt had not known of him. He was the antidote to two great and ambitious figures—Nasser and Sadat. His promise was modesty. He would tranquilize the realm after three decades of tumult and wars and heartbreaking bids to re-make the country.

A deceased friend of mine, an army general of Mr. Mubarak's class and generation, spoke of the man with familiarity: He was a civil servant with the rank of president, he said of his fellow officer. Mr. Mubarak put the word out that he would serve two six-year terms and be gone. But the appetite grew with the eating. The humble officer would undergo a transformation. A presidency-for-life announced itself. And in an astounding change, where Nasser and Sadat feared the will and the changing moods of their countrymen, Mr. Mubarak grew imperious and dismissive.

Egypt bent to his will. A country with a vibrant parliamentary tradition in the 1920s and 1930s became a sterile tyranny. A land that had opened onto Europe in the course of the 19th century, that had given rise to professional syndicates and associations, to an independent judiciary, was brought low.

There has always been an Egyptian pride in their country—even as Egypt tried and failed to modernize, even as its Sisyphean struggle broke its heart and engendered a deep sense of disappointment—and Mr. Mubarak came to offend that sense of national pride.

In the annals of Muslim dynasties and kingdoms, wives and children have figured prominently in the undoing of rulers. An ambitious wife, Suzanne, with haughty manners, and a taste for wealth and power (a variation on the hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) and a favored son who, by all indications, was preparing to inherit his father's power, deepened the estrangement between Mr. Mubarak and his people.

Egypt had been the trendsetter in Arab politics, in its self-image the place where all things modern in Arab life—the cinema, radio, women's emancipation, parliamentary life, mass politics, forced industrialization—had begun. The sight of Tunisians, hitherto a marginal people in the Arab consciousness, taking to the streets and deposing their tyrant, both shamed and emboldened the Egyptians. They had wearied of the large prison that Mr. Mubarak had constructed for them. A man who places himself at the helm for three decades inevitably, and justly, becomes the target of all the discontents in the realm.

Revolts of this kind are always a gamble on the unknown. At bottom, they are an attempt at self-purification, a society wishes to be done with the stain of submission to a dictator's transgressions. Amid the tumult, what is so clear today is the hatred felt for the ruler and his immediate family. Reigns like Mr. Mubarak's devour the green and the dry, as a favored Arab expression has it. The sycophants come to the fore and steal what they can. Those with heart and character and pride are hauled off to prison, or banished to the outer margins of public life.

Mr. Mubarak has been merciless with his critics. For this isolated, aging man of the barracks, dissent is always treason. There remains, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood. It was in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood was born in the late 1920s. The Brotherhood has been the alibi and the bogeyman with which Hosni Mubarak frightened the middle class at home and the donors abroad in Washington and Europe, who prop his regime out of fear that Egypt would come apart and the zealots would triumph.

In one of the novels by the late Egyptian novelist and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, a pharaoh is told by his lovely mistress Rabudis of rumors of pending rebellion, of popular disaffection. "And they say the priests are a powerful group with control over the hearts and the minds of the people." But he smiles and answers. "But I am the stronger." "What of the anger of the people my lord," she asks? "It will calm down when they see me on my chariot." We shall see if and how this modern-day pharaoh copes with a people determined to be rid of him.

Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
4)No Sex Since 1955

A crusty old Marine Sergeant Major found himself at a gala event hosted by a local liberal arts college. There was no shortage of extremely young idealistic ladies in attendance, one of whom approached the Sergeant Major for conversation.

"Excuse me, Sergeant Major, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?"

"Negative, ma'am. Just serious by nature."

The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said, "It looks like you have seen a lot of action."

"Yes, ma'am, a lot of action."

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, "You know, you should lighten up. Relax and enjoy yourself."

The Sergeant Major just stared at her in his serious manner.

Finally the young lady said, "You know, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but when is the last time you had sex?"

"1955, ma'am."

"Well, there you are. No wonder you're so serious. You really need to chill out! I mean, no sex since 1955! She took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to "relax" him several times.

Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his bare chest and said, "Wow, you sure didn't forget much since 1955."

The Sergeant Major said in his serious voice, after glancing at his watch, "I hope not; it's now only 2130."
5)A review of overnight news accounts suggests that Israeli officials and Jewish leaders abroad are deeply concerned about the prospect of Mohammed ElBarade succeeding Hosni Mubarak as Egypt's leader.

"Israel called on the United States and a number of European countries over the weekend to curb their criticism of President Mubarak to preserve stability in the region," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

"Jerusalem seeks to convince its allies that it is in the West's interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime. The diplomatic measures came after statements in Western capitals implying that the US and European Union supported Mubarak's ouster," Haaretz added.

Israel and Egypt have had a peace treaty for three decades and though not a perfect peace, the absence of military tension between the two countries has benefited the region and the world. Egypt also receives large amounts of aid from the US.

Meanwhile, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and a top American Jewish leader, "called Mohammed ElBaradei, the opposition leader emerging from the Egyptian ferment, a 'stooge for Iran.'" Hoenlein's group addresses foreign policy issues on behalf of many of America's major Jewish organizations.

"Hoenlein accused ElBaradei of covering up Iran's true nuclear weaponization capacities while he directed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog," JTA added.

According to JTA, Hoenlein, in a recorded interview, said of ElBaradei, "He is a stooge for Iran, and I don't use the term lightly....He fronted for them, he distorted the reports."

"ElBaradei, who directed the IAEA from 1997-2009, returned to Egypt after his third term ended. He was soon touted as a possible challenger to the 30-year autocracy led by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak," JTA explained. "He has emerged, since protests were launched last week, as a consensus candidate of various opposition groups for transitional leader."

According to the New York Times, "ElBaradei criticized the Obama administration, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the message via Sunday news programs in Washington that Mubarak should create an 'orderly transition' to a more politically open Egypt, while she refrained from calling on him to resign." This approach, ElBaradei said, "was 'a failed policy' eroding American credibility," the Times added.

The Jerusalem Post reported Monday that "a leading Muslim Brotherhood official told The Associated Press that the fundamentalist movement wants to form a committee of opposition groups along with Nobel laureate and leading reform advocate Mohammad ElBaradei as a way of uniting the disparate groups calling for Mubarak's ouster."

"The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition movement, and wants to form an Islamist state in the most populous Arab nation," the Post added.


Statements ElBaradei has made the past few years regarding Israel, the region's only stable democracy, have raised concerns as well.

In 2010, according to the Israeli news service Ynet, ElBaradei maintained that violence was the only path open to the Palestinians, because "the Israeli occupation only understands the language of violence." This comment came despite Israel's continued attempts to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians based on compromise and mutual respect.

And, in 2009, according to news reports, ElBaradei, at a joint press conference with Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran, said, "Israel is the number one threat to the Middle East given the nuclear arms it possesses."

The outcome of the current situation remains uncertain, and what implications it will have for the US and Israel are unclear.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Obama - Gives Me The Shingles not The Tingles!

Just back from opening of new 20,000 square foot addition to GMOA (state museum on U/Ga. campus.) A must visit destination for those who believe our state has no culture and love art displayed in a magnificent setting.
A few more articles on why we need to help Obama put up his shingle somewhere else. '(See 1 - 1c below.)
Here is an Obama shovel ready project - drain that swamp and follow the bouncing ball! (See 2 and 2a below.)
Risk of debt downgrade grows. Higher interest rates to fund our rising debt means government taking bigger chunk of GDP.

Perhaps I am making a big leap but I connect these dots, do you?

Greenspan/Bernanke = low interest rates = eventual inflation in energy and food. Effect: kindles flames in nations with high unemployment and populist angst = riots in Tunisia, Egypt etc. (See 3 below.)
Krauthammer hammers Obama and SOTU - no change, Obama just remains a false prophet and we a leaderless nation.

Obama gives me the shingles!(See 4 below.)
At least this general and chess player gets it! (See 5 below.)
1)A Presidency to Nowhere High-speed rail and solar shingles are not the answer to America's "Sputnik moment.

No president before Barack Obama has been so right and so wrong.

When in his State of the Union speech Mr. Obama said, "This is our generation's Sputnik moment," citing the emergence of global competition from the likes of China and India, he was right.

Minutes later he proposed to cover the country with high-speed rail and companies making solar shingles.

High-speed rail and solar shingles? If that's the president's idea of meeting our Sputnik moment, then Houston, we have a problem.

About halfway into the speech, I began to wonder: What is John Boehner thinking? Let's first welcome back the tradition of House Speakers who bring nothing but a poker face to the State of the Union. (The vice president re-tightening his tie in the middle of the speech was a minor Biden classic.)

I'm guessing that about the time the president was calling investments in clean energy "the Apollo projects of our time," the new Speaker was thinking: "This is bunk," or some word to that effect.

That probably wasn't Mr. Boehner's first thought. Before the bunk arrived, his first thought was: "We're in trouble."

If Barack Obama had come even close to matching policies with the sentiments he spun across the House chamber in the first sections of that speech, the Republicans would have been dealing with a formidable new centrist president.

The speech's prelude could have been delivered by Ronald Reagan or written by the conservative entrepreneurial Utopian George Gilder.

In a single generation, "the rules have changed," he said, propelled by technology. "The naysayers predicting our decline" are wrong. When moments later Mr. Obama said, "We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea," one felt the ghost of the Gipper hovering nearby. The president called forth more of those spirits, praising "the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That's why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here."

And: "We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world." Yes!

And: "Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation." Oh, yes!

Even an Obama naysayer was thinking, Go for it, Mr. President. Unleash our nation of pioneer entrepreneurs with incentives to work, save and invest. (But why the weird slap at the all-American competitiveness of the Super Bowl?)

For a while Tuesday night, it appeared Mr. Obama would replicate Bill Clinton's almost sci-fi ability to absorb his opposition's best ideas, such as welfare reform, and re-infuse them into the body politic as his own. But no. We got high-speed rail and solar shingles.

Barack Obama believes what he believes. The ideas he came in with are the ideas he will go out with, and nowhere in that speech was there a fully formed policy idea reflecting authentic belief in the private economy.

The recently promised and much-needed regulatory review was offset with a paean to regulation. "It's why we have speed limits." He somehow felt compelled to tell productive suburban families that he'll try to rescind the tax cut for them, the $250,000 "millionaires."

Once past the Reagan moment, the Obama policy menu had three entrees: clean energy, education and infrastructure. This was lifted, almost verbatim, from the Obama budget message two months into his presidency: "Our budget will make long overdue investments in priorities—like clean energy, education, health care, and new infrastructure." He extolled "new jobs that pay well" such as "installing solar energy panels and wind turbines."

This isn't a vision. It's an obsession.

Sending the completed trade agreements with Colombia and Panama to Congress for ratification should have been a lay-up for a president seeking the center. That's not happening.

What's ahead? Mainly one thing: November 2012.

If the State of the Union disappointed policy wonks, it's because the Obama presidency has entered full campaign mode. His State of the Union was a road map to a second term. Draw the Republican Congress toward the post-November spirit of reform on spending, entitlements and taxes, let these ideas twist in the wind of endless negotiation, pocket the "bipartisan" effort, and run out the clock to a three-point November victory.

Then what?

After ObamaCare and financial re-regulation, the remaining Obama years are looking like a presidency to nowhere. Even if you believe in green jobs, that's an industry off in the future. Beyond the Keynesian liniment oil of public spending, he's offering almost nothing for the here-and-now economy.

Rep. Paul Ryan, in his response, was right that "our nation is approaching a tipping point." Either the government leads the economy, as proposed in the last two-thirds of Mr. Obama's State of the Union, or it will be driven into the 21st century by the nation's pioneer legacy of individual innovation, as he seemed to say in the first third of the speech.

If you belief it's the latter, six more years of chasing Mr. Obama's idea of investments will be a waste of precious time. The Super Bowl of global competition is well into the first quarter. The future is now.

1a)Obama vs. Ryan: The Choice Is Clear
On Tuesday, Republicans offered an alternative to the president's big-government vision.

President Barack Obama's State of the Union address and Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican response offer competing visions of the country.

For Mr. Obama, it is business as usual. Sunny days are ahead if only government continues its spending binge. A year ago the euphemism was "stimulus." Now it is "investment." Most of his hour-long speech was a paean to liberal activism, as the president called for redoubling outlays on high-speed rail and "countless" green energy jobs. His single concrete proposal about cutting spending was a five-year freeze on nondefense discretionary outlays. This follows last year's call for a three-year freeze that was never enacted.

The president's proposal would save $400 billion over 10 years. But that is on a federal budget that's increased 25% in two years, raising government's share of GDP to 25% from roughly 20%.

Freezing government at the current record levels is insufficient. And to their credit, Republicans have proposed cutting $100 billion from this year's budget. This would save $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. The GOP already made a $42 billion down payment on their $100 billion in cuts from the president's budget by deep-sixing the Democratic omnibus bill during the lame-duck session.

In its new poll this week, Resurgent Republic (a group I helped form) found that voters believe by 61% to 31% that the federal government should be "spending less to reduce [the] deficit" rather than "spending more to help [the] economy." Yet the president continues to believe that we can borrow and spend our way to prosperity. This makes him look disconnected from spending, deficits and the debt—issues that most Americans now link to the nation's economic health.

Mr. Ryan's speech was a quarter the length of the president's, yet he devoted half again as many words (922) to the country's fiscal picture as did Mr. Obama (621). It was free of budget gimmicks, and he laid out in candid, unvarnished terms America's fiscal challenge.

By doing so, the Wisconsin congressman framed the discussion that will play out over the next year or two. He drew deeply from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to defend limited government. "Our nation is approaching a tipping point," Mr. Ryan said. "We still have time" to make vital changes, the Budget Committee chairman said, "but not much time." The challenge is about more than budgets and debt. It is about government's basic purposes and its role in our lives. If we don't act soon, the nature of American society will change in deep, lasting ways.

Mr. Ryan understands that the nation's fiscal imbalance cannot be repaired just by cutting nondefense discretionary spending (which makes up only $666 billion of this year's $3.5 trillion federal budget). More than $2 trillion of the budget consists of mandatory spending, and he knows that reforming these programs, especially Medicare, is the only path to fiscal sanity and economic growth. Otherwise America will face a crushing debt and huge tax increases.

Precisely when and how to reform and restrain mandatory spending remains to be seen—Mr. Ryan has his own ideas, outlined in his "Roadmap for America's Future." But the debate about the role and purpose of government has been joined in a way America hasn't seen in three decades.

Tuesday, Mr. Obama proclaimed the country was "poised for progress." In some anemic ways it is. But 142 million Americans were employed the day before Mr. Obama took office and 139 million are today. The total debt was $10.6 trillion before his inaugural and $14.2 trillion today. The time for blaming his predecessor passed long ago. Mr. Obama is the president and Americans increasingly expect him to act as such.

After Tuesday night's address, the president sent supporters an email about his speech. The subject line read "We Do Big Things" and the message was signed simply "Barack." The familiarity was touching, but the theme was misplaced. Tuesday's speech gave no evidence that Mr. Obama will do the big things this country needs in the next two years.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

1b)'Investment' Charade
Milton Friedman warned that government spending cancels out higher-return private investment.

Words matter in politics, which is why the federal government no longer "spends" (and wastes) money, but rather "invests" it. According to Barack Obama's State of the Union address, nearly every penny of the $2.5 trillion domestic budget—for installing solar paneling on the roofs of libraries, funding lavish teacher retirement funds, building high-speed rail lines to nowhere, erecting billboards advertising the stimulus plan—is a high-return "investment" in America's future.

This is all spin. It's a variation on the theme that brought us the $814 billion stimulus two years ago. That spending—er, investment—was going to create three million jobs. Those jobs never showed up.

As part of the counterattack against Republican plans to cut $100 billion out of the domestic budget, the White House claims that America has been under-investing in infrastructure, education, science, research, transportation, environmental protection, green energy and so on. But if you examine the actual funding record of these programs, you see that there's been no spending drought. There's been a deluge.

Total spending on what Mr. Obama's budget calls "investment outlays," outside of defense, rose 46% between 2008 and 2010, to $372 billion from $254 billion. Of that, education funding soared 116%, though it's anyone's guess how much of that investment found its way into a classroom. Aid to states and localities rose one-third, as did funding for the National Science Foundation. Unemployment insurance, which has been the administration's highest budget priority, quadrupled to $189 billion from $43 billion.

As far as the infrastructure crisis, that's a myth too. If our bridges are collapsing and roads and airports are congested, its not for a lack of funding. Transportation financing has climbed just under 40% since 2008. The administration secured a 60% increase in transit dollars in 2010.

Another big winner has been government investment in business—which used to be called corporate welfare. The Department of Commerce's budget has more than doubled since 2008, which is only slightly faster than the 81% budget hike for the Department of Energy and the 84% jackpot that went to housing programs.

Keep in mind that these budgets have skyrocketed over the same two-year period when household incomes and spending—investment in families and children—have barely budged. If you want new jobs, business investment should get much higher priority than government spending, so the mismatch is distressing. Total private business investment has fallen by 10% since 2008. It's possible that government investing isn't adding to the total stock of capital in the country at all but rather, as Milton Friedman used to warn, is merely canceling out higher-return business spending.

The budget blowout comes atop the spending blitz carried out by George W. Bush. In the decade before Mr. Obama took office, inflation-adjusted spending on infrastructure, education and R&D rose by 32%. The education budget soared after the 2001 No Child Left Behind law, and in 2007 Mr. Bush signed a $284 billion highway bill, the largest in U.S. history.

Let's grant for a moment that all government spending is really "investment." The question no one dares to ask in Washington is, what is the return on that investment? Can anyone really argue that the schools are better today than they were in the 1950s or '60s, before Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education? The U.S. government also spent billions on green energy in 2009 and 2010, but the number of wind projects fell by 50% last year. If that's an investment, it's one that any private investor would pull the plug on.

The administration doesn't want cuts in Pell Grants and other student-loan programs. But the main effect of student aid for higher education has been to raise tuitions, not to make college more affordable.

As Republicans in Congress make decisions about what to fund and what not to fund, they should ask this fundamental question: Is this dollar of funding so valuable to the economy that it is worth borrowing another 40 cents?

That is why the best investment in America's future now is to bring spending down as rapidly as possible to reduce debt and finance reductions in tax rates—especially on investment.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial board.

1c)After You, Mr. Ryan
The President says the deficit is the GOP's problem now. .Article Video Comments (178) more in Opinion ».EmailPrintSave This ↓ More.
+ More
close Yahoo! BuzzMySpacedel.icio.usRedditFacebookLinkedInFarkViadeoOrkut Text Amid his Reaganite sunshine and new admiration for the wonders of private enterprise, President Obama's political message in Tuesday's State of the Union address boils down to this: Republicans, it's your budget problem now.

The deficit is awful and must be cut, entitlements are unsustainable and must be addressed, the tax code hurts growth and must be reformed, and government should be smaller and more efficient, but don't look to Mr. Obama for ideas on how to fix any of this. Go ahead and cut spending and Medicare if you want, Republicans. The President will get back to you with his reply as time and politics allow.

After you, Congressman Ryan.

Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot and Wonder Land Columnist Daniel Henninger critique the President's State of the Union address.
.As political strategy, perhaps this will turn out to be shrewd. Republicans will advance their budget and spending cuts, Democrats will attack them, the voters will sour, and Mr. Obama will ride to re-election. It happened in 1996.

As leadership, however, this is an abdication that contradicts Mr. Obama's rhetorical flourishes about a new bipartisanship and the need "to merge, consolidate and reorganize the federal government." Beyond his welcome if vague support for reducing corporate tax rates in return for closing loopholes, Mr. Obama offered not a single new idea or spending cut. The bulk of his address was devoted to his familiar priorities that he said Republicans should spend more on. Green energy subsidies. High-speed rail!

At least the address had good timing, because less than 12 hours later the Congressional Budget Office released its annual budget review and exposed how deep the fiscal mess really is. Even CBO dared to call it "daunting," which for these budget gnomes is a primal scream.

Eighteen months after the recession formally ended, the federal deficit for fiscal 2011 (through September) is expected to increase once again, this time to $1.48 trillion, or 9.8% of GDP. That's a share of GDP topped since World War II only by the 10% reached in Mr. Obama's first year in office, when at least the recession was an excuse. The annual deficit in the 1980s never exceeded 6% of GDP.

As the nearby chart shows, the main culprit is spending. After falling slightly last year due in part to TARP repayments, federal outlays will climb again this year to 24.7% of GDP. Overall federal spending will have increased by $1 trillion in a mere four years. Without spending cuts, outlays will remain above 23% for the rest of the decade—starting to rise again once ObamaCare becomes fully phased in. (The outlay average from 1971 to 2010 was 20.8% of GDP.)

Compared to this spending boom, Mr. Obama's proposal to freeze domestic discretionary spending for five years is a mere gratuity. It would start from a baseline that pockets the spending increases of the last two years, which as the chart shows has taken outlays to a level not seen since World War II. And it would ignore entitlements, including his health reform. The President's proposal is a feint not a freeze.

The post-recession decline in revenues will also contribute to the deficit, thanks mainly to the slow recovery that the federal spending spree was supposed to boost. The GOP-Obama tax deal will also keep revenues as a share of GDP below 15% in 2011. But as the chart shows, revenues are expected to increase sharply in 2013 and beyond, well above the 40-year average of 18% of GDP. CBO is assuming, as it always does, that higher tax rates have little impact on economic growth.

The message in all of these numbers is that the deficit is mainly a problem of spending and slower economic growth. If the recovery continues and becomes a durable expansion, revenues will revive. But without spending cuts and entitlement reform the deficits will continue at unsustainable levels.

And as they do so will the national debt. We've never been federal debt worriers, but CBO estimates that on current trajectory the debt held by the public as a share of GDP will be 73.9% in 2012, up from only 39.7% in 2008. Those are heights where even we begin to tug at the collar.

So this is the ugly budget reality that House Republicans are inheriting. In his Tuesday night response to Mr. Obama, House Budget Chairman repeated a line he has often used that the U.S. may be at a budget "tipping point." Either Congress begins to control its political appetites, or the debt financing and inevitable tax increases that are coming will erode our economic well-being. The CBO numbers bear him out.

Judging by Tuesday night, Republicans will have to start this reformation without much help from the President. Perhaps if they lead, the public will put enough pressure on Mr. Obama that he has no choice but to follow.
2)Watchdog: Social Security Faces $45 Billion in Debt This Year, Will be Drained by 2037

Social Security's finances are getting worse as the economy struggles to recover and millions of baby boomers stand at the brink of retirement.

New congressional projections show Social Security running deficits every year until its trust funds are eventually drained in about 2037.

This year alone, Social Security is projected to collect $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in retirement, disability and survivor benefits, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That figure swells to $130 billion when a new one-year cut in payroll taxes is included, though Congress has promised to repay any lost revenue from the tax cut.

The massive retirement program has been feeling the effects of a struggling economy for several years. The program first went into deficit last year, but the CBO said at the time that Social Security would post surpluses for a few more years before permanently slipping into deficits in 2016.

The outlook, however, has grown bleaker as the nation struggles to recover from the worst economic crisis since Social Security was enacted during the Great Depression. In the short term, Social Security is suffering from a weak economy that has payroll taxes lagging and applications for benefits rising. In the long term, Social Security will be strained by the growing number of baby boomers retiring and applying for benefits.

The deficits add a sense of urgency to efforts to improve Social Security's finances. For much of the past 30 years, Social Security has run big surpluses, which the government has borrowed to spend on other programs. Now that Social Security is running deficits, the federal government will have to find money elsewhere to help pay for retirement, disability and survivor benefits.

"It means that Social Security is increasingly adding to our long-term fiscal problem, and it's happening now," said Eugene Steuerle, a former Treasury official who is now a fellow at the Urban Institute think tank.

It's a bad time for the nation to be hit with more financial problems. The federal budget deficit will surge to a record $1.5 trillion flood of red ink this year, congressional budget experts estimated Wednesday, blaming the slow economic recovery and a tax cut law enacted in December.

A debt commission appointed by President Barack Obama has recommended a series of changes to improve Social Security's finances, including a gradual increase in the full retirement age, lower cost-of-living increases and a gradual increase in the threshold on the amount of income subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

Obama, however, has not embraced any of the panel's recommendations. Instead, in his State of the Union speech this week, he called for unspecified bipartisan solutions to strengthen the program while protecting current retirees, future retirees and people with disabilities.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he is ready to work with Obama on Social Security and other tough issues.

"I take the president at his word when he says he's eager to cooperate with us on doing all of it," McConnell said.

Social Security experts say news of permanent deficits should be a wake-up call for action.

"So long as Social Security was running surpluses, policymakers could put off the need to fix the program," said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration who is now a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Now that the system is running deficits, it simply becomes clear that we need to act on Social Security reform."

More than 54 million people receive retirement, disability or survivor benefits from Social Security. Monthly payments average $1,076.

The program has been supported by a 6.2 percent payroll tax paid by both workers and employers. In December, Congress passed a one-year tax cut for workers, to 4.2 percent. The lost revenue is to be repaid to Social Security from general revenue funds, meaning it will add to the growing national debt.

Social Security has built up a $2.5 trillion surplus since the retirement program was last overhauled in the 1980s. Benefits will be safe until that money runs out. That is projected to happen in 2037 — unless Congress acts in the meantime. At that point, Social Security would collect enough in payroll taxes to pay out about 78 percent of benefits, according to the Social Security Administration.

The $2.5 trillion surplus, however, has been borrowed over the years by the federal government and spent on other programs. In return, the Treasury Department has issued bonds to Social Security, guaranteeing repayment with interest.

Social Security supporters are adamant that the program will be repaid, just as the U.S. government repays others who invest in U.S. Treasury bonds.

"It's an IOU that is backed by Treasury bonds and the faith and credit of the United States government," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. "It is the same faith and credit that enables us to borrow from rich people and from China and from other countries. As you well know, in the history of this country, the United States has never defaulted on one penny owed to a creditor."


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------3)Moody's Warns: US Credit Rating Risks Are Rising

Moody's Investors Service warned that lack of U.S. government action on the budget deficit increases the likelihood of a negative outlook on the country's top AAA credit rating.

The Moody's report, which came hours after a downgrade of Japan by Standard & Poor's and an IMF warning on growing budget deficits in both countries, reiterated previous comments made by the agency late last year.

Moody's had said in December that the extension of Bush-era tax cuts would add to the likelihood of a negative outlook on the U.S. rating in the next two years.

Lower debt ratings typically push up a country's borrowing costs. A negative outlook makes a rating downgrade more likely in the next 12 to 18 months.

In Thursday's report, Moody's provided more details about the risks to U.S. ratings. It expressed concern about the new configuration of the U.S. Congress, saying it may reduce the chances of an agreement to rein in the deficit.

The Republicans won majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections, but the Democrats continue to hold the majority in the Senate.

Moody's also worried that Congress may fail to consider and pass into law some of the deficit-reducing measures proposed by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a panel mandated by President Barack Obama to find ways to tackle the deficit.

"Recent trends in and the outlook for government financial metrics in particular indicate that the level of risk (to the U.S. rating), while still small, is rising and likely to continue to rise in the next several years," Moody's said in the report.

"Although no rating action is contemplated at this time, the time frame for possible future actions appears to be shortening, and the probability of assigning a negative outlook in the coming two years is rising," it added.

The purpose of the report was to provide more details on the agency's view on the U.S. credit-worthiness and not to address any recent developments that could impact the ratings, Moody's analyst Steven Hess told Reuters in an interview.

For Moody's, the next piece of relevant information for U.S. ratings will be the presentation of the federal budget next month "because it's going to show the proposals on the part of the administration on what to do" to address the nation's deficit problem, Hess said.

Prices for U.S. Treasuries were unmoved on the report, with benchmark 10-year notes remaining 6/32 higher on the day, yielding 3.39 percent.

Long-term U.S. rates are expected to rise toward 5 percent in the next three years but average less than that, Moody's said in the report. At those levels, the agency would remain comfortable with the U.S. debt affordability, Hess said.

"Our expectation and our forecasts for debt affordability include both an increase in the debt and an increase in the interest rate such as the one that we described -- going up but remaining less than 5 percent," he said.

Some traders said the report, which broke late Thursday, could still seep into markets and pull bond prices down Friday.

"When you have punishing news like this from Moody's and other rating agencies, it will clearly leave a negative impression on Treasuries. You could see a rise (in) yields tomorrow," said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at LandColt Trading Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware.
4)The old Obama in new clothing
By Charles Krauthammer

The November election sent a clear message to Washington: less government, less debt, less spending. President Obama certainly heard it, but judging from his State of the Union address, he doesn't believe a word of it. The people say they want cuts? Sure they do - in the abstract. But any party that actually dares carry them out will be punished severely. On that, Obama stakes his reelection.

No other conclusion can be drawn from a speech that didn't even address the debt issue until 35 minutes in. And then what did he offer? A freeze on domestic discretionary spending that he himself admitted would affect a mere one-eighth of the budget.

Obama seemed impressed, however, that it would produce $400 billion in savings over 10 years. That's an average of $40 billion a year. The deficit for last year alone was more than 30 times as much. And total federal spending was more than 85 times that amount. A $40 billion annual savings for a government that just racked up $3 trillion in new debt over the past two years is deeply unserious. It's spillage, a rounding error.

As for entitlements, which are where the real money is, Obama said practically nothing. He is happy to discuss, but if Republicans dare take anything from granny, he shall be Horatius at the bridge.

This entire pantomime about debt reduction came after the first half of a speech devoted to, yes, new spending. One almost has to admire Obama's defiance. His 2009 stimulus and budget-busting health-care reform are precisely what stirred the popular revolt that delivered his November shellacking. And yet he's back for more.

It's as if Obama is daring the voters - and the Republicans - to prove they really want smaller government. He's manning the barricades for Obamacare, and he's here with yet another spending - excuse me, investment - spree. To face down those overachieving Asians, Obama wants to sink yet more monies into yet more road and bridge repair, more federally subsidized teachers - with a bit of high-speed rail tossed in for style. That will show the Chinese.
And of course, once again, there is the magic lure of a green economy created by the brilliance of Washington experts and politicians. This is to be our "Sputnik moment," when the fear of the foreigner spurs us to innovation and greatness of the kind that yielded NASA and the moon landing.

Apart from the irony of this appeal being made by the very president who has just killed NASA's manned space program, there is the fact that for three decades, since Jimmy Carter's synfuel fantasy, Washington has poured billions of taxpayer dollars down a rat hole in vain pursuit of economically competitive renewable energy.

This is nothing but a retread of what used to be called industrial policy - government picking winners and losers. Except that in a field that is not nearly technologically ready to match fossil fuels, we pick one loser after another - from ethanol, a $6 billion boondoggle that even Al Gore admits was a mistake, to the $41,000 Chevy Volt that only the rich can afford (with their extended Bush tax cuts, of course).

Perhaps this is all to be expected from Democrats - the party of government - and from a president who from his very first address to Congress has boldly displayed his zeal to fundamentally transform the American social contract and place it on a "New Foundation" (an Obama slogan that never took). He's been chastened enough by the election of 2010 to make gestures toward the center. But the State of the Union address revealed a man ideologically unbowed and undeterred. He served up an insignificant spending cut, yet another (if more modest) stimulus, and a promise to fight any Republican attempt to significantly shrink the size of government.

Indeed, he went beyond this. He tried to cast this more-of-the-same into a call to national greatness, citing two Michigan brothers who produce solar shingles as a stirring example of rising to the Sputnik moment.

"We do big things," Obama declared at the end of an address that was, on the contrary, the finest example of small-ball Clintonian minimalism since the days of school uniforms and midnight basketball.

From the moon landing to solar shingles. Is there a better example of American decline?
5)The Chessboard Series of the Middle East - Update
Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, US Army (Ret)

Stand Up America!

Iran Has Changed the Balance of Power in Lebanon

What is striking about the Chessboard moves by Iran and the current crisis in Lebanon is that the efforts to resolve it are being made by countries in the region. Why are there no serious initiatives on the part of Western countries that enable Iran and Syria to continue to stir the pot unmolested? Iran no longer hesitates to state publicly that its forward defense line now passes through "Lebanon and Palestine." In practice, the Lebanese-Israeli border is in fact Israel's border with Iran.

For Iran, Hezbollah serves as a live and successful model for revolutions, one which is reflected in other organizations such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terror organizations, as well as extreme Shiite organizations in Iraq trained by Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah is nourished by the growing strength and power of Iran and draws upon its successes. Both parties recognize that the fall of one also signifies the demise of the other. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the Hariri murder, which is about to publicize its findings, may offer an opportunity for the West to reverse the trend and take the initiative to reduce Iranian influence in Lebanon, and weaken the power of Tehran.

It appears that our State Department and White House still remain asleep at the switch while the Iranians are very busy and fastidious in resetting the chessboard in the Middle East to their liking. What has Iran been doing in addition to moving their nuclear program forward, becoming the hegemonic power of the Middle East and supporting the international jihad? The Iranians (unlike the United States) are very clever at using proxies to do their dirty work.

Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs seem to achieve some victory on every front weekly in orchestrating the activities in Lebanon, Hezbollah, and Syria not to mention their support of Hamas, Iraqi Shiites, and the Taliban (and, oh, let us not forget Al Qaeda and the Bin Laden family). Iran has planned a larger, bolder strategy for the demise of Israel? Russia and China (and their proxy North Korea), somewhat remaining in the background, supply sophisticated technology and military systems to Iran and Syria and languishes in the diminution of the United States influence in the Middle East.

Iran is the Chessboard puppet master now as my friend Jim Woolsey briefed a group in Washington last week. No UN sanctions or resolutions seem to matter and the IAEA is toothless. Iran pulls the strings of the powers that matter and has effectively changed the argument. By orchestrating activities in Lebanon, even as the Saudis flood opposition to Hezbollah with money, they have changed the definition of who is and is not Lebanese. They have supported the Shiite Hezbollah to the point that even the media refers to them as Lebanese people. Lebanon’s roots are virtually gone now, replaced by Shiites who are very close to making Lebanon an Islamic State in totality. The silent 2008 coup they orchestrated on the government is almost complete now. And now, the International investigation into Rafik Hariri’s assassination is a complete farce. Hopefully the International Court will come forth shortly with a factual indictment of those responsible for the assassination Hariri and others. Or will they be too cowardly to deal with the facts and conclusions in fear of Iran?

Iran has been planning major preemptive actions against Israel from southern Lebanon for many years now and they are now capable of implementing multiple strikes on major Israeli commercial and military airports, facilities/installations, cities, and towns. These strikes will not be the feeble ones of 2006, but far more lethal. Hezbollah and Iran with the help of Syria have effectively set much in place, specifically, a plan that now appears ready for launch. Any invasion, attack, or even successful victory there would only embolden the Iranians, Syrians, and others to act on other unknown plans. Remember, Hezbollah declared victory the last time because any success is all they need for their propaganda machine, and if all goes well for them, surprises may abound worldwide. Iran is also the behind the scenes on the Palestinian initiative to declare statehood in 2011.

Iran, the puppet master has set the chessboard of the Middle East in such a manner that they control almost all of the attack points, and a feckless west is doing nothing thus appearing to have no power to change the tide. The pawns are strong and their ability to move has been changed. They are more akin to Rooks and Bishops now and they are ready to pounce. The Israelis have been effectively set into a corner, and the west is not a friend anymore. Feeble talks have been nothing less than the usual failure they have always been, and repeated trips to Damascus by non-Hezbollah Lebanese leaders have resulted in diminishing them to mere pawns. The change in the pieces on the Chess Board is virtually complete and the puppet master has won because of the weakness of the west and the political correctness of the current administration here in the US.

The chessboard has been set by Iran that now forces Israel to fight a multiple front war with little help expected from the west. If the air attack plan against Iran is launched, then the Israelis must simultaneously fight the Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon as well as other attacks emanating from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel understands this is the new chessboard; US authorities do not seem to understand.

Now, in Afghanistan, we learned that the Iranian Government provides sacks of cash to Karzai, President of Afghanistan, as well as Taliban jihadists to kill American soldiers and destroy their equipment. Karzai states…. “They do give us bags of money - yes, yes, it is done… We are grateful to the Iranians for this”. In addition, Iran has been secretly supplying explosives to the Taliban for years and most recently through the western province of Nimruz where trucks labeled as Kitchen Supplies and Toys turned out to be explosives. More and more supply convoys meet their fate of destruction coming through the Pakistan lines. Simultaneously, the Taliban forces in Northern Afghanistan strengthen as NATO/ISF forces further rely on supply convoys coming out of the “Stans”.

The Taliban previously stated that Iran was paying them for killing American soldiers and destroying U.S. military vehicles. According to the Taliban treasurer, Iran is paying bonuses of $1,000 for killing an American soldier and $6,000 for destroying a U.S. military vehicle. So Iran is financially supporting the Karzai Government and the Taliban in Afghanistan as Karzai reaches out to the Taliban for a negotiated settlement The U.S. government denies that we are directly involved with these settlement talks but confirms that we are well briefed on them.

Iran is not getting distracted by its ongoing efforts to undermine the U.S. troops and interests in Afghanistan on one side and Iraq on the other, nor in Syria and Lebanon. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently returned from his late 2010 trip to Lebanon to show support for Hezbollah. A few days later he welcomed Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez to Iran where according to the Associated Press they signed 11 agreements promoting cooperation in areas including oil, natural gas, textiles, trade and public housing. Iran’s state TV quoted both leaders as calling their relationship a “strategic alliance” saying that “they are united in efforts to establish a new world order that will eliminate Western dominance over global affairs.”

The United States must now finally support the Iranian Opposition forces with the first step to delist the MEK from the terrorist list. The MEK is not a Terrorist Group. In the January 10, 2011 National Review, four Republican former decision makers (Mike Mukasey, Tom Ridge, Rudi Giuliani, and Fran Townsend) contributed to a burgeoning conversation about the nature of an unwarranted terrorist tag on a principal Iranian opposition organization—the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK). Let us bring all the diverse Iranian opposition groups together. A real new breakthrough strategy.

Their basic argument is sound: The designation is unjustified because the Clinton administration placed the MEK on the list of terrorist organizations for nonterrorist reasons, e.g., to encourage Tehran to engage with Washington; and the Bush administration mistakenly kept the MEK on the list out of fear that the Iranian regime would send additional arms to Iraq for killing American soldiers, which Tehran did in any event. Moreover, the United Kingdom and then the European Union removed the MEK from their respective terrorist lists after being prompted by the Courts, which conducted a thorough review of open and classified evidence. As a result of such actions, the terrorist tag seems unjustified by historical circumstances.

The reasonable argument of the four former policymakers can be corroborated with direct evidence that the terrorist designation is without merit; indeed, the historical evidence affirms their conclusion that the designation is problematic.


As input to the UK and EU decisions to overturn the MEK designations, one British court found that, “there have been no offensive operational attacks by PMOI [MEK] operatives inside Iran since August 2001.” And the UK Court of Appeal upheld that finding and concluded that classified material bolstered the idea that the Government could not have reasonably maintained that the MEK intended in the future to resort to terrorism. Building on the European findings, the Iran Policy Committee searched three huge electronic databases for evidence of whether the MEK deserved to be listed as a terrorist organization:

National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Worldwide Incident Tracking System (WITS)
Global Terrorism Database, (GTD), University of Maryland
RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents

The Iran Policy Committee (IPC) study concluded that:

In three major public databases on terrorism, there are no confirmed and credible reports labeling the MEK as a perpetrator of any military incident after 2001.
Because MEK members in Iraq were under U.S. military round-the-clock monitoring and protection between 2003 and 2009, the plausibility of the MEK engaging in terrorist activities, or having capacity to commit terrorism is close to zero during this period.

In the Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism (CRT) 2007, 2008, and 2009, the 2006 accusation that the MEK has “capacity and will” to commit terrorism or terrorist activities does not reappear, suggesting there is no public basis for the Secretary to assert the MEK retains the capability and intent to engage in terrorism and terrorist activities.

Terrorist Tag - To maintain the designation of a group absent terrorism or terrorist activity in the past two years, the State Department must show “current” capability and intent to carry out terrorism or terrorist activities that would threaten the national security interests of the United States or the security of U.S nationals.Capability and intent, such as planning, training, and arming, also relates to the past two years.

Although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held that the MEK continues to be a foreign organization that engages in terrorist activity or terrorism or retains the capability and intent to do so, there is no basis in the public record to justify such a conclusion.

It is unreasonable to believe terrorist capability and intent were hidden from the watchful eyes of U.S. military monitors who also protected the MEK in Camp Ashraf Iraq during the period of Secretary Rice’s January 2009 reconsideration of the designation; consequently, the credibility of the classified record would have to be beyond challenge to justify redesignation. In fact, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit questioned the credibility of classified sources used by the Secretary when the Court remanded the designation to State for further review consistent with due process of law procedures.

It is ironic for the State Department to appease the Ayatollahs of Iran by designating as terrorist one of their main opponents about which there is no public evidence of military incidents; terrorism or terrorist activities; or capability and intent not only during the legally binding time for the designation to be valid, but also in the last 10 years.

On the basis of a designation based on nonterrorist criteria; lack of evidence in the public record of MEK involvement in terrorism, terrorist activities, or current capability and intent; as well as doubts expressed by the Federal Appeals Court of the credibility of classified sources used in the redesignation, the terrorist tag on the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq is problematic at best and perverse at worst.

By correcting this unwarranted designation now, President Obama would be in a much stronger diplomatic position before nuclear talks resume with Iran on January 20.

We must begin to focus U.S. policy toward Iran in a way that better promotes our national security interests and strengthens our resolve to face this growing threat. We must change our strategy and soon before more of our men and women die for naught.

So the chessboard is set by Iran. They have the puppet strings on all the chess pieces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Lebanon; all while Russia, the USA, China, and western nations posture. Iran is an adept Puppet Master now and the Chess Master (and we and others have allowed it to happen!).