"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

US Foes Encouraged by Middle East Turmoil and Sense Opportunity

While many in America romantically laud the Egyptian uprising, American foes have been encouraging such uprisings for many years. Israel is being squeezed into a more and more precarious position as radical Islamic groups successfully jockey for political control and Western legitimacy amidst the chaos.

"The so-called resistance bloc of nations and Islamist movements, led by Iran and Syria, believes it is increasingly on the ascent as unrest seethes in the Middle East.

"United in its opposition to the U.S. and Israel, this coalition is seeing many of its chief regional adversaries weakened—particularly Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"Tehran and Damascus have also been buoyed by last month's toppling of Beirut's pro-Western government at the hands of Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and militia the two countries fund and arm.

"'[The unrest] proved that the global arrogance's era of domination and control of the region has come to an end,' Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tehran's state television this week, using Iran's catch-phrase for the U.S."

But what about the contention that this unrest is part of a popular revolt against oppressive regimes? Well, few Middle Eastern regimes are more repressive than Syria and Iran. Personally I'll buy the hype when Syria begins to feel the heat. Iran won't since it weathered the Green Revolution following the sham elections.

The article continues:

"Syria is emerging as a bellwether to gauge the shifting power balance in the region.

"Damascus technically remains at war with Israel and, along with Tehran, is the principal financier and arms supplier for Hezbollah and the Palestinian organization Hamas, which controls the Gaza strip in the Palestinian territories. Hamas's leadership, headed by political director Khaled Meshaal, is headquartered in Syria.

"Organizations opposing the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pledged to launch their own protest movement this week and have cited Saturday as a 'day of rage.' Any sustainable movement against the Syrian leadership would buttress the argument that the protest wave is a broad-based effort driven by economics and concerns about lack of political freedoms, Western diplomats said.

"Mr. Assad on Sunday told The Wall Street Journal that his regime remains stable and that the true targets of the unrest are Washington's allies who have supported the war in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli peace process. He said Iran, Turkey and Syria will likely emerge with greater influence as the political transformation of the region continues.

"'As long as the people have a major say in the future [of the Middle East], then you are going to have the minor say in the United States,' Mr. Assad said.


"Iran has been particularly vocal in calling for Mr. Mubarak's overthrow in Egypt. Iranian leaders have drawn similarities between the events in Cairo and the 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed the U.S.-backed shah in Tehran. Iran has also voiced support for the Muslim Brotherhood, a Cairo-based group banned in Egypt that hopes to meld the Islamic religion with Egypt's legal system. The movement is expected to gain significant influence in any post-Mubarak government in Cairo.

"'With [the region] assuming a new shape and the developments under way, [we hope] we would be able to see a Middle East that is Islamic and powerful,' Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

"Mr. Meshaal, the Hamas chief, has kept his silence in Damascus since the uprising against Arab governments broke out. Mr. Mubarak has closely cooperated with Israel in imposing an economic siege on the Gaza strip since Hamas took power in the Palestinian territory in 2007.
However, Hamas officials said in interviews this week that what's happening could be to the Islamist movement's advantage. They expect the changes in Egypt and Jordan, in particular, to give them more room to operate.

"'We like what's happening,' a senior Hamas official said.

"Two other countries that could emerge more powerful are Qatar and Turkey.

"The tiny emirate of Qatar is home to the Pentagon's Central Command in Doha and provided logistical support to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it also funds the Arab television channel, al-Jazeera, which has been a major voice calling for political changes in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. Qatar has also increasingly provided financial and diplomatic support for Hamas and Hezbollah."

When the American media and Hamas are both pleased with what they see in the Middle East, it's time to worry a little.

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