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New York Daily News


While the U.S. Has Been Debating the Debt Ceiling, Storm Clouds Have Gathered Over the Mideast

August 03, 2011

By Judith Miller

While America has been busy playing games with the nation’s and the world’s financial stability by threatening to default on its debt, the Middle East has been exploding.

It’s time to explore how the once-hopeful Arab Spring has turned ominous.

Syria. In an obscene repetition of history, President Bashar Assad ordered his military and security forces to attack unarmed civilian protesters in Hama and other restive cities and towns on Sunday, killing at least 100 people - a sickening reprise of his father’s slaughter of between 10,000 and 30,000 residents of Hama who rose up against his repressive rule 29 years ago. The world shrugged back then as Hafez Assad imposed a new dictum for governing the region through fear and intimidation - “Hama Rules,” as columnist Tom Friedman called them.

Those rules are apparently returning, albeit on a smaller scale. In addition to the 1,600 total dead, one global activist group says nearly 3,000 people - one an hour - have “disappeared” since the crackdown began in March.

Turkey. In neighboring Turkey, normally a bastion of stability, there’s also fresh unrest. The top leaders of the country’s military resigned last Friday. Some commentators called the resignations a victory for civilian over military rule - but it is the Turkish Army that has guaranteed stability and secularism in Turkey ever since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern Turkish Republic more than 80 years ago and began transforming the former Ottoman Empire into a modern, Westernized and secular nation-state. The last straw for the army was apparently the arrest by the Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of more than 40 top generals on what the military’s defenders call the flimsiest of charges.

Libya. In the oil-rich North African dictatorship, where the Obama administration has demanded that Col. Moammar Khadafy step down but let NATO lead the West’s support effort, rival factions of rebel fighters conducted an eight-hour gun battle against one another over the weekend in Benghazi. The ruling rebel body, the Transitional National Council, was unable to explain coherently why and how a top rebel general was murdered, or why the rebels were using their newly purchased arms against one another rather than against Khadafy.

Egypt. This is where the Arab Spring took off - and it, too, is showing troubling signs of sliding backward. Tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters and other Islamists rallied in Tahrir Square last Friday, flaunting their numerical strength and political muscle and demanding the creation of an Islamic government. Meanwhile, Egypt’s terrified ruling armed forces council is proceeding with plans this week to conduct a “speedy” trial of the ailing, former President Hosni Mubarak.

Iran. The regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has apparently developed new technologies to enrich even more uranium, another indication it seems determined to continue developing a nuclear bomb, all the while denying such intentions. Plus, the U.S. government is warning of an Iran-Al Qaeda alliance - a very worrying development, no matter how weakened Al Qaeda may be after Osama Bin Laden’s death.

Iraq. Even as the U.S. continues to wind down its military engagement in Iraq, Iranian weapons and training have resulted in the deadliest weeks in recent memory, while newly minted Pentagon chief Leon Panetta pleads with Baghdad to make a “damn” decision about whether it wants at least some American forces scheduled to leave the country at year’s end to stay.

And where is President Obama while what passes for his strategies in the region are shredded by such developments and the Mideast drifts dangerously away from American interests? He has been mostly silent. Oh, yes, he managed to condemn the Syrian slaughter in Hama as “horrifying.” But he did not demand that Assad leave power. His administration has also remained silent about what seems destined to be a show trial of the former Egyptian president, who kept the peace with Israel and supported America’s war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A distracted American President, a lack of coherence in his foreign policy and a constellation of forces taking advantage of our nation’s weakness are posing profound threats to our interests and security.

Original Source:



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