Foreign Policy

Jews Murdered, But “Extremists” Are on Both Sides?

It is terrible enough that the murder of four rabbis and a policeman at a synagogue in Jerusalem was welcomed with dancing in the streets of Gaza. But the strange coverage in the New York Times by Jodi Rudoren is so disappointing it borders on Orwellian.

We learn “That blood splattered the victims’ prayer shawls and holy books underscored growing indications that extremists on both sides are turning the stalemated battle over territory and identity into a full-throated religious war.” Really, both sides?

When Israelis murder a Palestinian, they are prosecuted. When Palestinians murder Israelis they are praised by Hamas and excused by other Palestinian leaders. Read More ›

Jihadists Linked to “Anonymous” Hacktivists

Intelligence services are connecting “Jihadi John”, the British-accented, black-masked jihadist shown in ISIS videos of beheadings, with Anonymous, the affiliation of hackers attacking Western businesses and government agencies.

The Unity Coalition for Israel has pulled together various strands of a story that at least two prominent Jihadis appearing in ISIS videos are likely known rappers/activists from Britain with a record of provocative hacks into government and personal files, which it then publishes. Their names have not surfaced officially, but UCI provides two of them.

One is Adel-Majed Abdel Bari, probably the “Jihadi John” of the videos who jokes as he cuts off heads of Western captives. Another is Junaid Hussain. Writes the UCI, “Under the alias ‘TriCk,’ Hussain claimed responsibility in 2011 for hacking, among other targets, the Facebook accounts of company cofounder Mark Zuckerberg and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and for publishing the personal information of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was arrested for the computer crimes as a minor, and last year skipped bail over allegations of violent disorder, announcing his plans to flee into the Syrian conflict zone. Read More ›

Canada’s Understandable Slam of Putin

Many diplomats’ eyebrows at the G-20 Summit held in Brisbane probably went up slightly when mild-mannered Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was leader to tell Russia’s Vladimir Putin bluntly to “get out of Ukraine.”

However, it might bear noting that Canada is home to the third largest population of Ukrainians (1.200,000) outside Ukraine itself and Russia. Harper’s slam probably was appreciated by those citizens back home. Read More ›

Putin Slides Further into Authoritarianism

It used to be possible to understand Vladimir Putin, if not defend him, but now one has to wonder what his game plane is. Even assuming he wants to recreate the fabled glories of Greater Russia, his behavior doesn’t make sense. Perhaps he is just living day to day.

Now his government is kicking Catholic priests and nuns out of Crimea, following a law passed by the Russian Parliament that handicaps foreigners and takes a dim view of Russian citizens who deal with foreigners. In the case of Catholic priests in Crimea their “foreign” nationality is chiefly Ukrainian.

So first you engineer a fake revolt in Crimea and provide Russian special forces without Russian uniforms to operate it. Then, after the takeover, you kick out the “foreigners”–people who have lived there all or most of their lives. The Catholics now, the Tatars later.

What does President Putin get out of such high handed actions? His country is on the verge of recession because of falling oil prices and the sanctions provoked by his takeovers and intimidation of Western neighbors. Small banks are closing weekly and even formerly sympathetic overseas investors are being frightened off by Putin’s increasing bellicosity and unreasonableness. Tourism at Sochi, the costly resort renovated for the winter Olympics, is virtually defunct, and what business arriving there comes from Putin policies that subsidize it for Russian cronies and government employees. Crimea, too, is a burden, not a cash cow.

The conventional answer to my question as to what Putin hopes to get from all this is that he gets even greater popularity at home by stirring up Russian paranoia about other countries. It is a great and a traditional Russian distraction from a contracting economic future.

But surely he knows that a failing economy eventually will become obvious to the public at large, and that the blame will have to go to the leader in charge. He can’t at that time blame foreigners and suggest that attacking them will solve things. Read More ›

Tunisia’s Significance–the Interim Phase

Max Boot, the defense and foreign policy writer now lodged at the Council on Foreign Relations, was on the same International Republican Institute observer mission for the Tunisian elections the past week. His well-presented descriptions in the Weekly Standard are all ones I can endorse.

Tunisia, with a population about the size of Illinois, has made real progress, as Max points out. The next election–for President, a somewhat ill-defined post–will say a lot about the ability of disparate groups to work together. The struggle in Tunisia now is not so much Islamism versus secularism as free marketers versus statists. The old system was a familiar developing world type: part state-connected crony capitalism, part socialism. It’s a bad mix, unless you like stagnation.

This matters to America for several reasons. First, we need a regional model for Muslim countries working in a democratic framework with broad human rights (including minority rights) guarantees.

Second, Tunisia has the potential to show how a third world economic approach can be changed with new economic policies. The Afec party (“Aspiration”) is made up of young people who know their stuff and other parties respect them for it. The moderate Islamist party (Ennhahda–“Renaissance”), oddly enough, is probably more open to economic liberalism than the now-leading party, Nidaa Tounes (Call of Tunisia), which includes many of the technocrats from the old dictatorial regime. Read More ›

Tunisia Offers New Hope for Democracy in Islamic Land

A Sample Ballot

A Sample Ballot

The elections in Tunisia yesterday showed that democracy is a real and growing commitment in the country where the “Arab Spring” began three years ago. Maybe because free choice has taken such a varied beating elsewhere in the region, Tunisians seemed determined to use the levers of the franchise to create a new political reality in this overwhelmingly Muslim land on the African coast south of Sicily.

Read More ›

Tunisia’s Big Moment Sunday

The imminent American mid-term elections should not close our minds to the important elections taking place tomorrow in three friendly,but crucial states: Ukraine, Brazil and Tunisia. In some ways, Tunisia is most pivotal. Four years after the “Arab Spring” began with a Tunisian vendor in Sidi Bouzid setting himself on fire in desperation over harassing government regulations–and thereby setting fire also to a revolution that ended a long time dictatorship–the most promising Muslim electorate in the region is about to move toward a more stable and tolerant democracy. There have been three U.S.sponsored observer delegations here to take account of developments in the recent writing of a new constitution and now in the parliamentary elections. A presidential election will be Read More ›

They Check Voter IDs in Tunisia

Official foreign observers are in Tunisia this week for the parliamentary elections that take place on the 26th–three years after “the Arab Spring” revolution that returned democracy to this nation of 10 million. Today, leaders of the Independent Election Commission that has put 15,000 trained polling officials on duty assured the International Republican Institute delegation (of which I am a member) that every effort is made to avoid fraud.

For example, if someone appears at a voting center without acceptable ID, he or she will be turned away. Without exceptions. Read More ›

World War I Without Americans

In Paris, and here is the “Exposition on the Front”, the story of the Great War–World War I–at Les Invalides, in the same complex that houses Napoleon’s tomb. There’s a problem: there is almost no mention of the American role in bringing the war to an end. That is despite hundreds of photos, posters, memorabilia, etc. on the French, the British, the Italians and the Germans, the Austrians, etc. The briefest of mentions in a slide show refers to American “contingents” that arrived in 19l8. The implication is that they were incidental to the outcome. The French suffered terribly–and most–in the First World War. But their sacrifice was not made alone. If this were DeGaulle’s day the exhibit’s omission would Read More ›

Venezuela’s Economic Crisis; Political Crisis to Follow?

Leftist Venezuela is joining leftist Argentina in a downward economic spiral brought on largely by the government. Economic mismanagement does tend to lead to economic distress, then to social and political turmoil. Two Harvard professors expect a Venezuela default on its debts.

Unlike Argentina, Venezuela is oil rich. But free-spenders have boosted inflation to about 65 percent. The government-run oil industry pumps two million barrels a day. But its spending habit needs world prices of $200 per barrel, while actual prices are declining toward the low 80’s.

The weakening global economy, combined with U.S. fracking and other oil development, are responsible for the falling oil prices. North Dakota and Texas will slow production, most likely, as will sheikdoms in the Middle East. Iran and Nigeria will feel the pain. But the countries that will hurt the most include Russia, whose economy is dominated by fossil fuels, and Venezuela, a nation that is falling deeper and deeper into the inflation trap and experiencing consumer scarcities brought on by government price controls and reckless spending. Read More ›