● LWOT reports that “twelve of 13 suspected members of a banned Northern Irish militant group, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), were acquitted of terrorism charges in Northern Ireland’s largest so-called “super grass” trial (Reuters, CNN, Guardian, BBC). The judge described the prosecution’s “super grass” witnesses Ian and Robert Stewart as “ruthless criminals and unflinching terrorists,” and suspected that their testimony was “infected with lies, ” leaving authorities questioning the legitimacy of allowing “rehabilitated” militia members testify against their former comrades (Guardian). “
● Representatives from more than 60 Western and Arab countries have met in Tunis, Tunisia to call for the Syrian government to implement an immediate ceasefire and to allow humanitarian assistance for civilians and people wounded in violence. The group was not expected to discuss military options but will threaten increased sanctions if the Syrian regime doesn’t comply within days. Editor’s Note: Shamefully, neither Russia nor China, who vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution based on an Arab League plan aimed to end the Syrian violence planned to attend the conference and have protect the Syrian government from the UN sanctions. The problem also is acerbated by the fact of the lack of coordination within the groups opposing the Government: “The “Friends of Syria” seem to be favoring the opposition Syrian National Council, but are not giving the group exclusive recognition. The other main opposition group, the National Coordination Committee, is boycotting the conference.” On top of all this the activists have reported that over 7,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the 11-month uprising.
● Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a rocket into southern Israel’s Eshkol district on Friday evening, the Israeli military said, but there were no reports of casualties. Early on Friday Israeli warplanes staged two air strikes on the Gaza Strip, in response to rocket fire on Thursday night. A Palestinian militant group, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), said it had launched one of Thursday’s rockets “in defense of Al-Quds,” the Arabic name for Jerusalem, where there has been a rise in tensions in the Old City compound that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque.
● And the saga continues, where talks on forming a unity government between Fatah and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, have once again been postponed.
● Foreign Policy reports that “next month, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a key meeting over the Iranian nuclear challenge that will test their sometimes rocky relationship. After a weekend visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Israel, the White House announced this week that Obama will host Netanyahu in Washington on March 5. This will be an opportunity for the two leaders to synchronize their positions on Iran. Whether they can reach some common ground — now or in the near future — could be a decisive factor in Israel’s decision-making on whether to strike Iran sometime this year.” It is no secret that Netanyahu and Obama have never been close, but now is the time for the two leaders to find common ground over the Iranian nuclear issue.
● International pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran has never been higher. In addition to the new, crippling U.S. sanctions enacted on Dec. 31 and Feb. 6, the European Union recently pledged to halt the importation of Iranian oil by July 1. The top local news there is that Iran’s economy is reeling. The counter part is that the Iranian leaders have struck an increasingly aggressive note. The latest bellicose announcement was they have threatened a preemptive strike against their “foes”, and warned that they could close the Strait of Hormuz. In another recent act of defiance, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Feb. 15 that a “new generation” of Iranian centrifuges had just been activated at the Natanz nuclear site. And this week, IAEA inspectors charged with monitoring Iran’s nuclear program were denied access to a military facility, returning to Vienna after what they termed “disappointing” talks with their Iranian interlocutors. And the latest news is that Ahmadinejad may be seeing his last days as the head of the civil government.
Foreign Aid and Reciprocal Objectives
The percentage of Americans living below the poverty standard is staggering. There are at last count almost 300 million Americans presently residing in these united states. A little fewer than 15% of them, or about 42 million, exist on a standard of living that is unconscionable even in these difficult economic times.
With these facts in mind and ever mindful of our absolute need for the support and growth of our national security infrastructure, I find it beyond merely embarrassing that we provide financial aid in the form of economic and military aid to two countries, and we do not, in return, demand some form of reciprocal cooperation or public acknowledgment of “thank you”. I refer to Egypt and Turkey.
Billions (not millions) of dollars have and are being provided these countries– some in loans, some in grants, some for economic purposes and some to bolster their military prowess. I do not and have never advocated pulling back from our international commitment or involvement in global affairs. We are, after all, a nation among many others, totally dependent upon the goodwill of each of us. Yet it is unfathomable that our aid has no fair and equitable strings attached. I am not refereeing to the political or military control of another nation nor involvement in their domestic or foreign governance and decision making process. I am referring to a memorialized commitment to mutual goals –not imposed one upon another.
The security of this national in these unprecedented violent times, with vocal histrionics spewed across foreign airwaves and press, it behooves our nation to support causes that inure to our benefit and not those that contradict our frame work of democratic process, our philosophy or that attack our allies.
The power of the newly formed Egyptian government beyond that of the military, rests with a newly elected Parliament whose leadership is in the hands of the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. No historical friend of America, whose credo was and is, “God is our objective; the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of God is the highest of our aspirations”. Within the last weeks, this newly formed, deeply rooted Islamic government has not only demanded the abdication of the military but has put on trial non-Egyptians who have over the years, funneled money to NGOs to support democratic reform. One of those charged is an American. And yet the billions of dollars (over 1.5 billion dollars in 2011) the United States pours into that nation is being utilized for anti-west sentiment and action.
Although Turkey has, over the past few weeks, become the spearhead of a joint Western-Arab-Turkish policy aimed at forcing President Bashar Assad to cede power in Syria this turnabout has clear questionable motives, considering Turkey’s overall international and regional conduct. At one time it had cordial relations with Israel, but in its scurry to be the principal representative of a Mideast Arab community, in its present state of disarray, it has repositioned itself to confront Israel both politically and militarily. To muddle this new approach, the apologists for Turkey (some of whom reside in the United States) have attempted to confuse Turkey’s policy toward the West with its ever changing hostile attitude toward Israel. These strains will only continue because of the core of Turkey’s political and religious internal changes. Turkey’s newly evolving Islamist international posture reflects its internal evolution. Turkey wishes to become the lynchpin in the Mideast struggle between and among those Mideast nations who are attempting to cope with revolutions and ineptness in creating functional governments, and to fill the vacuum created by the toppling of the regions’ dictators. Could the reason be: at a time it wishes to take its place at the head of the Mideast table, its fear that a show of any good will toward Israel would be considered an anathema in any attempt to take a leading role in its relations with its historical kin?
When Turkey does appear to side with the West and, in particular, with the United States, I think one has the right to question the motives of Turkish government and what is truly included in its calculations. Could it be that as the US has supplied billions of dollars in multiple forms of aid to Turkey and the region (yes, including Israel), and being very frank, all that Israel has supplied to the international community is its creation of a Jewish democratic state and is thus, considered by many, a “problem” in a region where nations have had not only historical difficulty to coalesce but to bring any semblance of democracy to their people?