These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 29, 2012.
Sunday, 29 July 2012
Graphic Dhimmitude at Chautauqua Institute in Western New York
Note this graphic portrayal of dhimmitude at a Friday Jummah Prayer service at Christ Hall in the current weekend edition of The Chautauguan Daily. An example of interfaith dialogue at the bucolic Chautauqua Institute in Western New York.
I read his book long ago, the Case for Israel. All about peace, peace, peace. And settlements, settlements, settlements. There are many things in it which are wrong but the biggest thing is a lack of reality and discussion about Islamic law with its jihad obligation placed on all Muslims to strive collectively and as individuals to conquer and rule the world.
No discussion about the the immutability of Islamic law and no suggestion as to how Islamic law can ever "change."
Nonsense but extremely dangerous nonsense.
He is seduced clearly by how his influence is regarded, or rather how he thinks his own personal brilliance (a la Neville Chamberlain as described by Winston Churchill) can influence those with power and by how he personally is pandered to:
During the last campaign, I and others urged candidate Obama to go to Israel and visit Sderot, which was being shelled by rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza. He then went to Sderot…
Several months ago, President Obama invited me to the Oval Office to discuss his Iran strategy. He looked me in the eye and said, "I don't bluff."
I think that like all "liberals" he is in business for himself. He judges not on the facts and taking into account reality, but on his narcissistic vision of his own self importance.
He is poison to Israel because of his influence amongst Jewish people. But he is poison to all at present free people in the world because he has an enormous platform.
"Liberal" or nuts? That is the question.
Phew. Alan Dershowitz is terrible (in my opinion).
Republicans are trying to woo away Jews who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, hoping they have experienced "buyer's remorse." I, for one, have experienced no such remorse. I have gotten from President Obama pretty much what I expected when I voted for him: a pragmatic, centrist liberal who has managed—with some necessary compromises—to bring us the first important healthcare legislation in recent history, appointed excellent justices to the Supreme Court, supported women's rights, eliminated the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, maintained the wall of separation between church and state, kept up an effective war against terrorism and generally made me proud to be an American who cast my vote for him.
Even with regard to his policy toward Israel, which has generated much of the impetus for this "buyer's remorse" campaign, President Obama has kept his promises. During the last campaign, I and others urged candidate Obama to go to Israel and visit Sderot, which was being shelled by rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza. He then went to Sderot and while standing in front of the lethal rockets that had inflicted so much damage—physical and psychological—to so many children and adults, this is what the candidate said:
"I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens…If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same."
And when the Israeli Defense Forces finally had to respond to the rocket terror with Operation Cast Lead, President Obama supported Israel's actions and his administration condemned the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and biased against Israel.
Now, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is visiting Israel. I'm glad he is, because support for Israel must always remain bipartisan. No presidential election should ever become a referendum on support for Israel. Certainly the upcoming election will not be, because both candidates strongly support Israel's security. Each candidate must earn the vote of each citizen based on the totality of their records, and must not take the support of any group for granted.
The Obama Administration has worked hand in hand with Israel in developing the Iran Dome, David's Sling and Arrow Defense capabilities. It has approved the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the Israeli Air Force. It has conducted large, joint military exercises and has coordinated intelligence operations with Israeli secret services. That is why I was not surprised when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he could:
"hardly remember a better period of…American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding…than what he have right now."
The greatest threat Israel faces today is from Iran, a nation ruled by anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying, terrorist-inciting Mullahs, who would sacrifice millions of their own citizens to destroy "the little Satan," which is how they refer to Israel (the United States being "the big Satan.") There are some, in both parties, who wrongly believe that a policy of "containment"—that is, allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons but containing their use by the threat of tit-for-tat reprisal—is the right strategy. President Obama has explicitly rejected this benighted approach and has instead announced that his policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it takes military actions to do so. In the meantime, he has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure while explicitly keeping the military option on the table.
Several months ago, President Obama invited me to the Oval Office to discuss his Iran strategy. He looked me in the eye and said, "I don't bluff." His actions with regard to Osama bin Laden and the Somali pirates who endangered Americans and threatened to kill them demonstrated his willingness to use force when warranted. So does his increased use of drones to target terrorists who are beyond the reach of capture. I believe President Obama when he says that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons on his watch.
President Obama also understands that no sovereign nation can ever outsource the protection of its own citizens against a nuclear Holocaust. If Israel were to decide—as a last resort, after exhausting all diplomatic, economic and intelligence options—that it had no choice but to take military action against Iran's nuclear programs, I am confident that the Obama Administration would not condemn that action (as the Reagan Administration condemned Israel's correct decision to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981!) These are President Obama's own words on this important issue:
Iran's leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States – just as they should not doubt Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.
The issue of Israeli security must be distinguished from the issue of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank. Israel's settlement policy is deeply controversial within Israel and among Jewish supporters of Israel in the United States. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have been critical of some Israeli decisions regarding the settlements. I have sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with these criticisms. Reasonable supporters of Israel will have different views on the settlements and on how best to move toward a two-state solution that assures Israel's security.
When I decide who to vote for as President, I ask myself who will be best for America and for the world. An important component of my answer involves my assessment of the candidate's willingness and ability to protect Israel's security, since I strongly believe that a strong Israel serves the interests of the United States and of world peace. I am confident that President Obama will keep his promise "always [to] have Israel's back" in the face of the continuing threats posed by Israel's
Iran, Syria, Their Chemistry Set, Their Science Project
From The Washington Post:
Syria has expanded chemical weapons supply with Iran’s help, documents show
By James Ball
Syria has expanded its chemical weapons arsenal in recent years with help from Iran and by using front organizations to buy sophisticated equipment it claimed was for civilian programs, according to documents and interviews.
The buildup has taken place despite attempts by the United States and other Western countries to block the sale of precursor chemicals and so-called dual-use technology to Damascus, according to the documents.
As recently as 2010, documents show that the European Union provided $14.6 million in technical assistance and equipment, some intended for chemical plants, in a deal with the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Diplomats and arms experts have identified the ministry as a front for the country’s chemical weapons program.
Recognizing the potential for Syria to divert equipment to the weapons program, the E.U. stipulated that it be allowed to conduct spot checks on how it was used. But the inspections were halted in May 2011 when the organization imposed sanctions on Syria after the crackdown on opposition groups.
U.S. officials have expressed concerns over whether Assad would authorize using the weapons against his own people as a last-ditch effort to remain in power. Similarly, officials have said they worry about the security of the arsenal if Assad’s government falls.
The portrait of Syria’s efforts to develop a larger chemical weapons program emerged from E.U. documents, a handful of little-noticed State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and interviews with outside experts.
Arms experts say Syria has pursued a two-pronged strategy to build and grow its chemical weapons stockpile: overt assistance and procurement of chemical precursors and expertise from Iran, coupled with the acquisition of equipment and chemicals from seemingly unwitting businesses in other countries, in many cases through a network of front organizations.
The materials are often dual use, with purposes in civilian plants and in weapons facilities.
A 2006 cable recounts a confidential presentation by German officials to the Australia Group, an informal forum for 40 nations plus the European Commission that protects against the spread of chemical weapons. The cable described Syria’s cooperation with Iran on Syria’s development of new chemical weapons, noting that Syria was building up to five new sites producing precursors to chemical weapons.
“Iran would provide the construction design and equipment to annually produce tens to hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin, and mustard [gas],” said the cable, written by a U.S. diplomat. “Engineers from Iran’s DIO [Defense Industries Organization] were to visit Syria and survey locations for the plants, and construction was scheduled from the end of 2005-2006.”
A 2008 State Department cable summarized a presentation by Australian officials to the monitoring group that concluded Syria had become sophisticated in its efforts to move equipment and resources from civilian programs to weapons development.
“The Australians believe Syria is committed to improving and expanding its program, including through testing,” the cable said. “Syria maintains a basic indigenous capability, in contrast to other countries of concern, but maintains some dependence on precursor imports. . . . Syria appears focused on importing precursors and precursors of precursors.”
Despite such warnings, analysts say it has proved difficult for the United States and other Western countries to prevent Syria’s acquisition of precursor materials and equipment, given their many civilian uses.
In 2010, the European Union initiated a $14.6 million technical assistance program intended to improve industrial production in Syria.
An E.U. spokesman said the money was part of a program to finance Syria’s development of safety standards for products and laboratories. But the testing equipment, experts said, could potentially have been used in a chemical weapons program.
The contract was with the Syrian Ministry of Industry, which Dutch officials warned in 2008 “allegedly serves as a front organization for procurement efforts” and had helped acquire precursors that could be used to manufacture VX nerve gas and mustard gas from a Netherlands company.
According to a procurement notice in the E.U.’s official register, the Syrian ministry solicited tenders from European companies for “equipment and consumables for chemical analysis laboratory,” “equipment for preparation and analysis of biological substances” and “standards for calibration laboratories.”
“It is difficult to be specific about the order,” said Alastair Hay, a British expert in chemical weapons at the University of Leeds. “It could cover legitimate government agencies anxious to ensure quality control so that they can meet the expectations for other governments regarding the quality of exports.”
In an illustration of the difficulty in selling dual-use equipment, another expert found Syria’s purchase order suspect.
James Quinlivan, senior operations research analyst at the RAND Corporation, noted that such testing equipment can be an important component of chemical weapon programs, particularly with relation to retention and longevity.
“Calibration is a big deal for these things,” Quinlivan said. “While mustard [gas] lasts amazingly well, nerve agents do not. For nerve gases, particularly sarin, retention relies on purity, and this must be tested.”
The spokesman for the European Commission, Peter Stano, said the E.U. had a “regular independent monitoring schedule” until it was suspended in May 2011, along with other E.U. cooperation, in response to the Syrian government crackdown on unrest.
Countries outside Europe have also apparently provided dual-use equipment to Syria in recent years. According to the cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, U.S. officials have contacted their counterparts in China and India over concerns about the sale of dual-use technology to Syria.
In one instance, the United States objected to China’s plan to sell Syria a large quantity of pinacolyl alcohol (pine alcohol), which can be used as a precursor to soman nerve gas. It is not clear whether the U.S. intervention prevented the sale, but other documents in the WikiLeaks cache show China taking two years or more to provide responses to similar U.S. queries.
Quinlivan, of RAND, said the experience of the Syrian weapons program showed the difficulty of preventing the country from developing chemical munitions.
“Certainly a lot of equipment is obviously dual use: A lot of equipment bears a close similarity to that in a pesticide plant,” he said. “You can see that there’s a large overlap between civilian and military uses. The person selling chemicals does not have to know they’re selling chemicals for military use: Basic precursors have hundreds of uses.
“For the country building the program, it’s like high school chemistry — how simple do you want your ingredients to be?” he added. “How many steps can you take toward a chemical weapon? I think you do have to credit Syria with the ability to assemble a weapon from precursors.”
Like many men who divorce, Dr Zaid Al-Saffar thinks the amount that the courts have ruled he must pay to his ex-wife is outrageous. But he has a further complaint. He thinks that “family law in this country is biased against Muslim people”.
He and his wife formalised their marriage according to Islamic law, and he expected their relationship to be governed by those rules. They even made a “prenuptial agreement” which specified that, in return for his paying her a sum of money when they married, she would give up her rights to a share of their home. Dr Al-Saffar was furious when England’s courts ruled that the agreement didn’t count, and he had to pay his wife half the value of the house they had shared.
After all, English law allows Beth Din courts to settle disputes between Orthodox Jews according to Jewish law. Why wouldn’t the English courts let Islamic law decide what Dr Al-Saffar should pay his wife? It was just another example of anti-Muslim prejudice: other religions are allowed to regulate marriages by their own rules – but Muslims are not.
Does Dr Al-Saffar make a fair point? The short answer is no. In 2010, the Supreme Court recognised the validity of pre-nuptial agreements that vary the division for marital property from the 50-50 split that the English law says should be the basis of every divorce. But they did so with important caveats: if there was evidence that one party had been pressurised into signing an agreement that disadvantaged them, or if the courts just thought the agreement was unfair, then a “pre-nup” would not be valid, and the settlement would revert to an equal division.
Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, an expert on Islamic family law, points out that Muslim law on marriage is “fundamentally patriarchal”. “It suits the interests of men rather than women,” she says. Central to Islamic marriage law is the wife’s duty of submission to her husband, which he purchases by agreeing to provide for her for the duration of the marriage.
There’s no concept of “marital property”: each partner to the marriage is entitled to what they owned prior to it, and to whatever they acquired during it, but the absence of marital property means women have no right to alimony from their ex-husbands. Furthermore, fathers always have guardianship over the children. And if a woman remarries, she loses the right even to see her children without their father’s permission.
Dr Al-Saffar’s complaint against the English legal system is echoed in the increasingly vociferous chorus arguing that Muslims should be allowed to regulate their communities by their own laws: that they should, for example, be allowed to follow the requirements of Islamic religious law or sharia. This, it is said, is necessary if Britain is to treat Muslims “fairly”. Unfortunately, the result would also be to systematically disadvantage Muslim women.
It is essential, if Britain is to remain a society based on equality before the law, that we do not start allowing communities to discriminate against women.
With Quiet Dignity, Shi'a Protest Against Being Killed By Sunnis In Pakistan
The video you can see here was shot on April 13, 2012. It could also have taken place ten years earlier, or twenty, or a year from now, or five, or ten, or until such time as, through miscalculation and overreaching, the attempt by Shi'a Iran to become the standard-bearer of Islam leads, through overreaching and miscalculation, to a great weakening of Shi'a power, and that's when, starting in the Gulf, and extending all the way to sunny Pakistan, the Sunnis will go in for the kill. What started -- see Vali Nasr -- as "the Shi'a Revival" of the islamic Republic of Iran, may well end in the cutting down to size, by Sunnis not Infidels, of Shi'a Islam. And there will be not a few in Iran, born into Islam, who have now had it with Islam, and won't really care.
Foreign Office investigates reports of Britons among Islamist kidnappers of journalists in Syria
The Foreign Office is investigating reports that British citizens (a better description than 'British' but even better would be 'holders of British passports') are among Islamist fighters who kidnapped a British photographer and his Dutch colleague in northern Syria.
John Cantlie and Dutchman Jeroen Oerlemans were held by the group for a week . . . During their time in captivity they were threatened with death unless they converted to Islam . . .
Mr Cantlie has not yet spoken of his ordeal, but Mr Oerlemans told Dutch media that some of the gang, which is reported to have been between 30 and 100 strong, had "Birmingham accents".
A source close to the incident told The Sunday Telegraph that there possibly at least six men with British-sounding voices, including one with a heavy south London accent. "Nobody is quite sure yet how many, but these people generally travel in small groups of about half a dozen," the source said.
The camp members also reportedly included people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Chechnya, with no Syrians present. The source added that "round 40 per cent" of them apparently spoke English, although it was not clear what nationalities they were.
The possibility of British nationals or residents being present among the group will be of concern to the Government,
The Sunni doctrine of muruna takes taqiyya a step further.
Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack
February 18, 2012
Westerners who understand Islamic deception often refer to “taqiyya” as being the tactic of lying in order to guard the faith. Sunni Muslim apologists counter that taqiyya is a Shiite doctrine, while accusing Shiites of being rabblerousers who sanction “mut’a” (pleasure marriage), which is nothing more than prostitution.
Shiites can easily find equivalents to taqiyya and mut’a in the Sunni Muslim world. They are called “misyar” and “muruna.”
While Westerners cringe at the thought of religiously sanctioned prostitution like mut’a, they are less familiar with the Sunni-sanctioned misyar, which literally means “the traveler’s marriage.” It was established to assist with the sexual needs of travelers — a Sunni Muslim male may enter into a contract with a woman in order to gain sexual gratification without the financial obligation necessary to maintain a wife.
As a consequence, the sin of adultery never takes place because the sex contract is an official marriage license. An abundance of misyar “middlemen” can seal these interim deals. For internet savvy travelers, there are countless websites like Mesiaronline that allow men to arrange these marriages globally, including in the United States, from the comfort of their hotel rooms.
Misyar was first made legal in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Sunnis who approve of misyar may condemn the Shiite practice of mut’a, which does not require two witnesses as misyar does. Shiites argue that Allah and the Qur’an are the only two witnesses they need.
Arabic translations reveal that Sunnis and Shiites have much more in common than just sanctioned prostitution. Few Westerners are familiar with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood revival of the doctrine of muruna, which literally means “stealth” or “flexibility.” It is far worse than taqiyya, since it sanctions all prohibitions that block Muslim interests, even blasphemous ones.
Muruna allows Muslims to sow division and confusion in the Western world. In a recent sermon, this doctrine was exercised by General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Muhammad Badei, who laid out his vision for the post-revolutionary era while revealing aspects of a strategy followers should use to deal with secularism in the meantime:
Do not fight the ways of the world because they are overpowering but try to overcome and use them, change their course, and pit some of them against others.
When Badei says to “overcome and use” the “ways of the world”, he is instructing Muslims worldwide on how to overcome Western secularism. It was precisely this purpose for which muruna was prescribed by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the main Muslim Brotherhood intellect who initiated it in December 1989 while in the United States during the annual conference of the Association of Muslim Youth Forums. He was with Mohammed Hamadi, a leading rebel in Libya who participated heavily in the “Arab Spring.” Hamadi is also the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Mauritania.
This doctrine and long-term plan should be of great interest to Westerners. In what the forum termed “The Priorities of The Islamic Movement in The Next Three Decades” (from 1990 to 2020), they planned to attain what they described as “the goals of the Islamic Movement.” The plan confirms Badei’s utopian hope for the “establishment of an Islamic state, governed according to Qur’anic law — first in Egypt and eventually in the entire world.” Accordingly, muruna calls for “organized, popular work to return to Islam in order to lead society, all of society … to bring back the caliphate … to announce Jihad either by arms, by pen, or by heart.”
Muruna was designed to catapult and advance Sharia by using Western means. If one thinks that Sharia, with its harsh code, is problematic enough, how about the elimination of the kinder, gentler laws? Muruna is literally accomplished by permitting behavior normally so eschewed by Sharia that Westerners logically assume a more moderate version of Islam when such prohibitions are suddenly permitted. Westerners’ eyes are, in fact, deceiving them. Muruna is about going to great lengths to gain interests through a much deeper level of deception while simultaneously lowering the guard and gaining the support of the infidels.
Note the following quote taken from the series titled Preparing the Atmosphere under the title The Workings of Al-Si’a and Muruna:
Sharia’s ability to be flexible and inclusive is that it cares for their needs while excusing the burdens Muslims have to endure. For the sake of their destiny, it was made lawful for them to have exceptions from the law that are appropriate for them since these exceptions match their general goals to make it easy for humanity by removing the chains of [Sharia] rules they were made to adhere to in previous Sharia rulings.
By reversing Islamic law, murunaconcludes an amazing doctrine that permits all prohibitions:
When evil and harm conflict as necessities demand, we must then choose the least of the two evils or harms. This is what the experts in jurisprudence decided … if interests and harms/evils conflict, or benefits conflict with evils, what is then to be decided is to review each benefit and each harm and its consequences, so the minor evils are forgiven for the sake of the greater long-term benefit. The evil is also accepted even if that evil is extreme and normally considered deplorable.
Consider the example of Huma Abedin, a practicing Muslim who married Jewish former Congressman Anthony Weiner. Qaradawi has used muruna to sanction such marriages.
What was once forbidden by Shariah — from major crimes like Muslims killing Muslims, to issues of interest banking that include alliances with infidels — was made “temporarily” kosher by muruna:
Is it permissible, then, to have alliances with powers that are non-Muslim? Can Muslims work in banks that practice usury? … For the young Muslims they should not leave their jobs in banks and insurance agencies despite their work being evil, since their experience in these agencies would gain experience for what would benefit the Muslim commerce … whoever examines the issues in light of the Doctrine of Balance would find that entry into these arenas is not merely a project, but a preference and a duty.
Qaradawi unequivocally states without apology that “necessities justify prohibitions,” and “coercion” alongside “times of weakness and disability” for the Muslims is reason to break Sharia law. It is a tactical maneuver meant to deceive the West into thinking that the Muslim Brotherhood is acquiring western modernity. In reality, that perceived modernity is a shroud that helps the Brotherhood establish a narrative that the story of the “Arab Spring” is simply a human rights issue that mandates the toppling of dictators.
Muruna even allows for the acceptance of tribal laws that are inconsistent with Sharia. Even the Sufi cleric, Ground Zero Mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordova Initiative, stated in Arabic:
If Sharia is not carried out then we have tribal laws.
However, in order for muruna to explain away certain Sharia prohibitions, it needed to bring authority from the Qur’an itself. For that, Qaradawi provides the issue of “al-Nasekh wal-Mansookh,” or “abrogation” in Islam. The doctrine takes an approach different from what has been understood:
There are no abrogated verses or verses that abrogate other verses, but to each verse is a condition and a time to use it … one is used in a time of weakness and the other in time of strength, so on and so forth.
In short, anything goes as long as you can justify a higher calling:
Verses that call for peace, forgiveness, sparing the unbelievers and things that the interpreters say were abrogated by the Verse of the Sword. But the truth I say is that such verses have their time and place; the Verse of the Sword has its time and its place.
Qaradawi mentions another definition called “Al-Munsa” (forgotten verses) in which he quotes the Qur’an:
None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?
The term “forgotten” is not meant to be abrogation; it is meant to be literally forgotten, out of memory temporarily until the time is right. Qaradawi strengthens this view by quoting Al-Syuti, one of Islam’s greatest sources of jurisprudence:
Abrogation occurs at different levels. We have the first, the second and the third; that is a verse has a purpose, then the purpose is finished such as in being weak and few in number, to have peace and forgiveness with the enemy then is abrogated by the commands of war. This is not abrogation, but under the section of forgotten verses as Allah said ‘we made forgotten’ what is forgotten here is the order to fight, until the Muslims are strong, while they are weak the ruling is to be patient.
Even the individual right to life can be eliminated under muruna. Under the section titled “the necessities of the group,” Qaradawi explains that:
As Sharia considers the individual needs, it permitted many prohibitions and considers the necessities of the community.
Qaradawi is not short of examples and even commands the “killing of Muslims whom the unbelievers use as shields”:
Leaving these unbelievers is a danger to the Muslims, so it is permissible to kill these unbelievers even if they killed Muslims with them in the process.
Death, mayhem, and prostitution; it’s the sanctioning of all prohibitions in the name of Allah.
He claims his new analysis, which is being posted later today for public review but has not yet been peer reviewed (more on that below), provides an even firmer view of human-driven warming than the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here’s the general flow of events, which are — as Keith Kloor noted overnight — “great fodder for the long-running soap opera, ‘As the Climate World Turns.’”
Muller’s team last fall submitted four papers summarizing its review of a vast array of temperature records spanning two centuries to the journal JGR Atmospheres and posted them and supporting data and other material at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature, or BEST, Web site. (The papers have not been published yet and one of my first questions for Muller and his team now is have they been accepted?)
The team’s new strong conclusion about human-generated greenhouse gases driving recent warming is one of several findings in a fifth paper that Muller says is being submitted to the journal and posted on his Web site, as well [this afternoon].
In the Times article, he’s thrown down a gauntlet to remaining skeptics, demanding that they find any alternate explanation for the measured warming:
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does.
But others, notably the climate modeler William Connolley through his Stoat blog, have dismissed Muller’s work — old and new — as “rubbish.”
It’s particularly notable that one collaborator on the first batch of papers, Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, declined to be included as an author on the new one. I learned this when I sent her this question by e-mail:
Do you share Rich’s extremely high confidence on attribution of recent warming to humans…?
Here’s Curry’s reply:
I was invited to be a coauthor on the new paper. I declined. I gave them my review of the paper, which was highly critical. I don’t think this new paper adds anything to our understanding of attribution of the warming….
I really like the data set itself. It is when they do science with it that they get into trouble.
Curry also sent this note, which she is distributing to other journalists:
The BEST team has produced the best land surface temperature data set that we currently have. It is best in the sense of including the most data and extending further back in time. The data quality control and processing use objective, statistically robust techniques. That said, the scientific analyses that the BEST team has done with the new data set are controversial, including the impact of station quality on interpreting temperature trends and the urban heat island effect.
Their latest paper on the 250-year record concludes that the best explanation for the observed warming is greenhouse gas emissions. Their analysis is way oversimplistic and not at all convincing in my opinion.
There is broad agreement that greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to the warming in the latter half of the 20th century; the big question is how much of this warming can we attribute to greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t think this question can be answered by the simple curve fitting used in this paper, and I don’t see that their paper adds anything to our understanding of the causes of the recent warming. That said, I think there are two interesting results in this paper, regarding their analysis of 19th century volcanoes and the impact on climate, and also the changes to the diurnal temperature range.
From my perspective as a longtime, but lay, analyst of climate science, my sense is she has it right. The data-sifting methods of the Berkeley project, largely developed by a brilliant data analyst, Robert Rohde (there’s more on him here), have clearly added value to longstanding efforts to clarify temperature trends across a variegated planet. But the conclusions Muller describes now do seem overly simplistic (as Curry, Connolley and others say).
In an e-mail Sunday morning, Curry said she’ll be posting a long analysis of the new paper later today written by Steven Mosher and Zeke Hausfather, who have examined the Berkeley work on her blog before.
It appears that Muller has pushed to get the new findings submitted now because Tuesday is the deadline for journal submission for research to be considered in the next climate science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
If the Berkeley analysis turns out to have been rushed or its conclusions poorly supported, you’ll quickly see opponents of limits on greenhouse gases join Connolley’s “rubbish” chorus — and, once again, it’ll be clear that science alone is unlikely to break the political blockades over this issue. WattsUpWithThat blogger Anthony Watts, who criticized Muller last year as rushing flawed work, also appears poised to weigh in this afternoon.
Setting aside questions about the robustness of Muller’s scientific conclusions, there is certainly plenty of evidence to support his article’s capping point, which is that clarifying the scientific picture of a human-heated planet is relatively easy compared to weighing responses to this long-established reality:
I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.
The aspects of the climate problem that make it “beyond super wicked” mostly lie outside the realm of science.
Syrian Foreign Minister Attacks Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey
It's "a matter of not if but when" and "it's a matter of weeks" and, in another variant, "it's a matter of days" and, furthermore, we've got to back the Sunnis fighting the Syrian government because "we need to get on the right side of history." (well, that's not fair -- we had to get on the right side of history in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, a year or so ago, but you don't here that phrase much anymore, perhaps because history is turning out to be a little more complicated than some assumed it was and would be).
But what about Syria's neighbors? Maliki and his Shi'a-run government are not going to help the Sunnis overthrow the Alawites in Syria. The Lebanese government, terrorized by Hezbollah, is not going to. Iran remains Syria's unswerving supporter. Israel can only benefit not from a change in regime, but in a whittling down of the power and military might of the current regime -- steadily, in long-drawn-out fashion. And Erdogan, in Turkey, has found that the Syrians in Turkey are not winning friends in Antakya or elsewhere, and the beareded Libyans and Pakistanis and Yemenis and Chechens spouting Al Qaeda rhetoric, also part of that "Syrian refugee" flow, are not impressing their Turkish hosts.
Here's the story: in today's New York Times:
July 29, 2012
Syrian Foreign Minister Criticizes Countries Backing Rebels
BEIRUT, Lebanon — As fierce fighting continued in Aleppo and its outskirts on Sunday, the Syrian foreign minister, on a visit to Iran, lashed out at Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, blaming them for the escalation of violence and saying that their backing of armed groups in Syria was blocking a path toward “political dialogue.”
The comments by Walid al-Moallem, an echo of those made by Syria’s most important ally, Russia, reflected the increasing pressures on the Syrian government as its fights a growing and emboldened armed insurgency on several fronts, most crucially in Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city.
Mr. Moallem said fighters from Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Tunisia had entered Syria across the Turkish border and he called on Lebanon to help block the infiltration of “terrorists.”
“The campaign on the international stage against Syria will not stop,” Mr. Moallem said. During the news conference, he also said that countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were working with Israel in an effort to overthrow the Syrian government.
“Israel is the mastermind of all in this crisis,” Mr. Moallem said, according to The Associated Press.
His comments came as the Syrian Army used tanks and artillery to pound opposition strongholds in Aleppo, continuing its barrage on a city that for days has been steeling for an assault, residents and activists said. It remained unclear whether the attack, which activists said was focused mainly on the southwestern neighborhood of Salaheddin, was the beginning of a broader campaign.
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Sunday, a leader of a Syrian opposition group appealed for countries opposed to the Syrian government to provide rebels with heavy weapons.
“The rebels are fighting with primitive weapons. We want weapons that we can stop tanks and planes with. This is what we want,” said Abdelbasset Sida, the head of the Syrian National Council, according to Reuters.
The clashes came after days of warnings from the international community about the human toll in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial center, as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces massed on its outskirts. For days, rebel fighters have been pouring into Salaheddin and other neighborhoods in Aleppo, which had remained quiet for much of the uprising, which started in March 2011.
On Saturday, Russia, Mr. Assad’s most important ally, joined the chorus, warning of tragedy as it chastised the rebels’ foreign backers for failing to pressure the opposition to end the violence.
Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, called on Mr. Assad’s government to “make the first moves” in ceasing military action. But he also accused Western countries and some of Syria’s neighbors of not putting enough pressure on the armed opposition to stop fighting.
Speaking in Sochi, Russia, Mr. Lavrov said that those countries “encourage, support and direct the armed fight against the regime.”
Although he did not name any countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been helping the Syrian rebels obtain weapons and American officials say United States intelligence officers are operating in southern Turkey to help decide which groups receive the arms.
Russia said this month that it would halt any weapons shipments to Mr. Assad’s government. On Saturday, however, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would not cooperate with a European Union effort to stop and search ships suspected of carrying weapons to Syria.
A ministry spokesman said Russia considered the plan to inspect ships a violation of other countries’ sovereignty.
In comments to the Interfax news service, Mr. Lavrov dismissed the notion that Russia would grant Mr. Assad asylum, saying it was a rumor started to make Russia look bad.
“There is no such agreement, we are not even thinking about this matter,” he said. “It’s a provocation by those who want to put all the blame for what’s happening in Syria on us and on China, because supposedly we’re blocking someone there.
“We are blocking only one thing: an attempt to allow people to support one side in an internal conflict through a U.N. Security Council resolution.”
Richard Muller On The Data That Caused Him To Change His Mind
July 28, 2012
The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic
By RICHARD A. MULLER
CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.
My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.
These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.
Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.
The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.
Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.
It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.
Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.
The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at BerkeleyEarth.org. That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.
What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years. [it makes sense for the rest of the world to boycott Chinese goods until the Chinese cut way down on their use of coal]
Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.
Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former MacArthur Foundation fellow, is the author, most recently, of “Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.”
There are others who now claim, expressly or impliedly, to be The World's Forenost Authority. There is Jeffrey Sachs. There is Martha Nussbaum. There is Bernard-Henri Levy. There is Tom Friedman. There is Stanley Fish. There is Noah Feldman. And there are other thrusting academics and strivers -coming up all the time, getting their start on the Op/Ed page of the New York Times.
Accept no substitutes. There is only one World's Foremost Authority -- Irwin Corey. Today he is 99.
"But the breakup of Syria [...] poses a graver threat to the Middle East..." says this recent Vali Nasr op-ed. But why, really? If I'm not missing a lot, the main argument of this analysis is preventing the "breakup of Syria." But the question here is why should there be compunctions about the breakup of Syria if this is what the Syrians (or at least some Syrians) want? Should people who don't want to live together be forced to remain in an unhappy union? Is this what happens in real life? Is this the norm among smart cultured progressive Western liberals? Why this infatuation with a united Syria when its uneasy existence as such (these past 75 years) has been anything but contrived and restive? Why this infantilization and condescension of the Middle East and Middle Eastern mosaics by ordaining and ossifying their continued unity--as if it's a law of nature?
Can we already stop these lame clichés about "a breakup of Syria [...] spill[ing] into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey..." We're still talking about a minor country here projecting a shadow much larger than itself, and punching way above its weight. Why should it (and why should we admit as a given that it will) "spill into" anywhere? Can we please stop these unwarranted deifications of Syria, as if it were an exemplar of stability?
Similarities notwithstanding, what happens in Syria is specific to Syria (and "stays in Syria" to use a Vegasism); Lebanon and Iraq could, will (and (sometimes in my opinion) SHOULD) break up because of their own endemic idiosyncrasies, NOT because something from Syria will have spilt into them! And Turkey? Really? The breakup of a police-state ruled by an oppressive party apparatus with medieval worldviews can have an effect on a neighboring democracy with institutions?
In a sense, Professor Nasr is acknowledging the aberrant nature of unitary states in the MIddle East (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, etc..), yet he insists on maintaining them in their dubious unharmonious harmonies--lest their reversion to their natural antecedents offend our taste for "oneness." I don't know what it is with the West's conceits about the Middle East; assumptions that continue to lead us into failures of interpretation, failures of analysis, and failures of policy. Is it cognitive dissonance? separation anxiety? or plain intellectual inertia?
But in order to achieve this, Iranian students would have to receive their educations in the West. And the West could, if it felt like it, keep Iranians out. But even if it let them in to study, how many would return home? And of those who decided to return home, how many would be permanently disaffected from the Islamic Republic of Iran?
It's a crazed idea. But if it keeps the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran off the streets, let them entertain it all they want.
Iran leader: Stop exporting oil, make new economy
AP / July 29, 2012
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader has outlined a new approach to overcome Western sanctions — stop selling oil and build knowledge-based industries instead.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s says what he calls a ‘‘resistant economy’’ can effectively counter the sanctions.
This month the European Union enforced a ban on oil imports from Iran, after the U.S. stepped up its banking sanctions.
The sanctions aim to force Iran to stop enriching uranium. The West suspects Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies that.
Khamenei said Iran should stop selling raw materials, including oil, and instead promote ‘‘knowledge-based companies which can make a resistant economy more sustainable.’’
He gave no timetable or details of what would amount to a total overhaul of Iran’s economy.
Khamenei’s remarks were broadcast on state TV Sunday night
The ancient Chinese practice of lingchi, the "Death of a Thousand Cuts," best describes the manner in which the Obama administration has systematically whittled away most immigration enforcement since taking office. Over time, the rule of law has been shredded not by a single act, but by many small cuts.
A review of President Obama's record reveals a jaw-dropping steady and stealthy dismantling of virtually every tool and resource used to identify and remove deportable aliens.
Out with the Old -- Gut What Works
Immediately after taking office, the Obama administration replaced effective worksite enforcement that targeted both employers and illegal workers with meaningless paper audits and modest fines. Meanwhile, the administration refused to consider making E-Verify mandatory for all employers, even resisting efforts to permanently reauthorize it, despite hundreds of thousands of businesses voluntarily using the program.
Failing to hold employers who hire illegal aliens accountable was an early, yet clear signal that the Obama administration intended to derail all enforcement.
The administration focused their sights next on programs that helped local law enforcement identify illegal aliens. Both the 287(g) and the Secure Communities agreements were rewritten to emphasize that only criminal aliens would be processed. A “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” policy took effect for all other illegal aliens.
In with the New -- Rewrite the Rules
In 2011, Obama’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director, John Morton, issued a series of internal directives instructing agency staff to focus their efforts exclusively on removing illegal aliens with criminal records. The administration would exercise “prosecutorial discretion” for all others. The new priorities – still in place – imply that immigration violations, in and of themselves, are inconsequential.
Squash Resistance -- Sue the States
With local programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities weakened and federal authority (to not enforce the law) broadened by way of the new internal memos, the administration had consolidated the power it needed to initiate backdoor amnesty without interference. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) became the instrument of intimidation. States that enacted their own bills requiring local police to identify illegal aliens and turn them over to federal custody, felt the blows one after the other. The DOJ sued Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah.
Distract and Deceive
To distract attention from his actions, Obama told Americans that the border was secure and that that deportations were up.
Both were deceptions.
In official documents, DHS stated that only 44% of the border was under operational control. And while deportations had, in fact risen slightly, the increase had nothing to do with expanding enforcement by the Obama administration. A “pipeline” of deportable cases was filled by vigorous enforcement during the last two years of the Bush administration. Those cases carried forward and Obama took credit in his first two years. Moreover, while deportations for violent criminal aliens had risen, all other deportations were down indicating that the Obama administration felt it could pick and choose which laws to enforce.
The Final Blow
From the beginning, President Obama knew that the public would reject amnesty legislation. However, he also knew he stood a good chance of getting it done through a strategy of piecemeal efforts, provided no one noticed.
With an election looming and special interests demanding grandiose and immediate action, in June President Obama declared unilaterally that he was using executive power to implement the DREAM Act for an untold number illegal alien “kids” who were brought here through “no fault of their own.”
During his DREAM Act speech, Obama failed to mention that his new edict allowed illegal aliens up to the age of 30 to qualify.
Then, in an interview shortly thereafter with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, DHS Secretary Napolitano admitted that parents of illegal aliens applying for deferred action – illegal alien adults who most certainly did knowingly break the law – will not be subject to immigration enforcement. As she said, “we have it internally set up.”
With that announcement, amnesty for illegal aliens tripled.
So much for Obama’s argument he was giving amnesty just to “kids” who were “brought here through no fault of their own.”
Obama’s Death of a Thousand Cuts has virtually gutted our country’s immigration enforcement apparatus, but the record is clear and the public must hold this president accountable. Congress has an urgent mandate to begin the work of restoring credibility to our immigration system by stopping the cuts, healing the wounds, and reinstating the rule of law.
FAIR’s new report detailing President Obama’s dismal immigration enforcement policy record can found at www.fairus.org.
THE conflict in Syria has reached a tipping point, but not one that promises a quick end to the fighting. With or without Bashar al-Assad as its leader, Syria now has all the makings of a grim and drawn-out civil war: evenly matched protagonists who are not ready for a cease-fire, and outside powers preoccupied with their own agendas and unable to find common ground.
There is no easy way out of such a stalemated struggle, and this one threatens the stability of the whole Middle East. So the United States and its allies must enlist the cooperation of Mr. Assad’s allies — Russia and, especially, Iran — to find a power-sharing arrangement for a post-Assad Syria that all sides can support, however difficult that may be to achieve.
Until now, Washington has seen the developments in Syria as a humiliating strategic defeat for Iran, and it has largely sat on the sidelines, trying to draw diplomatic cooperation from Russia. The administration and its critics alike may think that involving Iran in any resolution to the conflict would throw Tehran a lifeline and set back talks on Iran’s nuclear program. But a breakup of Syria — and the chain of events that such a breakup would inevitably set in motion — poses a graver threat to the Middle East and to America’s long-run interests in the region than does Iran’s nuclear program. And Iran has much more influence with the Assad leadership than does Russia.
If the Syrian conflict explodes outward, everyone will lose: it will spill into neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Lebanon and Iraq in particular are vulnerable; they, too, have sectarian and communal rivalries tied to the Sunni-Alawite struggle for power next door. ["everyone will lose"? What about the Western world of non-Muslims? How much will they lose if the Camp of Islam in convulsed in a greater conflict of Sunnis against Shi'a, in Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, YBahrain, emen, Pakistan, as well as in the war waged between the Sunni Arabs of the Gulf and the Islamic Republic of Iran? Vali Nasr, Defender of the Faith -- Shi'a Islam -- may care, but why should we?Why shouldn't we all derive profit and pleasure fro the spectacle?]
In the past week, Mr. Assad has lost control of important parts of the country, and the opposition, buoyed by outside sympathy and support, has built on the momentum of a bombing in Damascus that killed key security aides to the president. The shift in balance is significant, but it is not decisive. Rather, it sets the stage for a protracted conflict that would divide Syria into warring opposition and pro-Assad enclaves. For now, the Assad government has enough support and firepower to keep fighting, and it shows no sign of giving up. Most members of Syria’s Alawite, Christian and Kurdish minorities, along with a slice of its Sunni Arab population, still prefer Mr. Assad to what they fear will follow his fall; together, those groups make up perhaps half of Syria’s population, the rest of which is largely Sunni Muslim.
The opposition, meanwhile, is winning territory, but its ranks are divided among some 100 groups with no clear political leadership. Even if Mr. Assad were to step down voluntarily, his Alawite military machine and its sectarian allies are likely to fight on, holding large chunks of territory.
Syria would then fracture, with the fighting deciding who controls what area — a larger version of Lebanon in the 1970s. There would be ethnic cleansing, refugee floods, humanitarian disasters and opportunities for Al Qaeda.
In Lebanon, a decade and a half of carnage was stopped only with the assistance of Syria and its army as peacemakers. A similar sectarian conflagration plunged Iraq into violence after the American invasion. There, a surge of American troops in 2007 helped stop the fighting. In Syria, there are no foreign troops to play such a role, and little prospect that any will come while the war lasts.
But there is still time to prevent the worst from happening in Syria. It will require difficult decisions and recalculating what is possible. Even in the face of vetoes from Russia and China, which feel that the West overstepped its United Nations mandate in Libya, the United States and its allies are still focusing on international pressure and support for the opposition to bring down Mr. Assad. That is the wrong goal, because it will not end the fighting.
Instead, the aim of diplomacy should be to devise a post-Assad power-sharing arrangement that all sides could sign on to. That, rather than more pressure on the government and more bickering among the outside powers, could finally persuade Syrians who are still in Mr. Assad’s corner to abandon the fight.
There are reasons to hope that Russia and Iran would join the bargaining. Both wish to rebuild their damaged prestige in the Arab world, and Iran is concerned about the fate of more than a million Shiite Muslims in Syria. As for the West, Mr. Assad’s fall, without a transition plan, would be a Pyrrhic victory — the beginning of a greater bloodletting.
A transition plan also must include Turkey, which has a long border with Syria and the military muscle to influence the conflict.
But the single most important participant would be Iran. It alone has the influence on Mr. Assad and the trust of various parts of his government to get them to buy in to a transition. Currently, Iran is at an impasse: it cannot abandon Mr. Assad, nor can it save him. But intense debates are taking place among its leaders, some of whom have called for ending Iran’s unwavering support for Mr. Assad.
Once a transition plan is worked out, it will be important to remember this: No such plan will be credible without committing foreign troops to enforce the cease-fire and protect the defeated minority communities that have backed Mr. Assad. Until the United States and its allies get down to business with Russia and Iran, and get serious about how they will manage Mr. Assad’s fall, the conflict will only grow — and so will the threat to the region.
Vali Nasr is the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who advised President Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What Vali Nasr doesn't say is that the dire results he foresees if Syria is convulsed in an even more extensive civil war --
Governor Romney, the presumptive GOP Presidential candidate, had a good day on Tish B’Av in Jerusalem. His interaction with Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu reflected the long standing personal friendship between them established in the days when they were both at the Boston Consulting Group. It also helped to have Dan Senor, author of the Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracleas a political advisor to make the connection of Israel’s economic prowess in high tech with the Governor’s private equity experience at Bain Capital.
In a speech at the Jerusalem Foundation with the Citadel of Jerusalem as backdrop, Romney used the opportunity to contrast his views on Israel with those of President Obama. He referred to Israel, the Jewish State, as an ally of America virtually surrounded by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists seeking its destruction. He emphasized the shared national security concerns of both the US and Israel, a reference to the threat. of a nuclear Iran. The Obama Administration has all but distanced itself from Israel concentrating instead on patching together a coalition of Islamists composed of Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to supply arms and funds to support Sunni Arab supremacists in Syria as the post-Assad alternative There appears to be little interest from the Obama Administration in protecting the mosaic of minorities in Syria, Alawi, Kurds, Druze and Christians, in a federation composed of self governing autonomous regions. Nor, it appears, has any plan been fashioned with Israel to assure possible destruction of vast caches of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons and missile delivery systems to prevent them from falling into the hands of al Qaeda and terrorists groups operating next door.
The Administration has to be continually prodded by bi-partisan supporters of Israel -- and understanders, not misunderstanders, of Islam -- in Congress forcing it to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. That was apparent with the White House announcement of the appropriation of $70 millions in funds to extend the umbrella of protection under the effective anti-rocket and short-range missile Iron Dome system developed by Rafael Advanced Systems, Ltd. In Israel.
Mitt Romney, the all-but-official Republican presidential candidate, delivered a stem-winder of a speech to the Jerusalem Foundation today, packing emotional support with frank policy statements. The contrast with Obama could hardly be more dramatic. Indeed, one could go through the speech and note the many refutations of Obama. For example, the opening comment that "To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land" directly contrasts with Obama's crabbed statement in Cairo about "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland [being] rooted in a tragic history."
Also, in contrast to the nonsensical Obama administration stance on Jerusalem – sneaking in changes to captions that identified it as such and going through verbal gymnastics to avoid calling it that – Romney came out and plainly called Jerusalem "the capital of Israel."
Many of his statements are paeans to the Jewish state and its extraordinary ties to the United States. Some quotations, with my additions in italic on the key words in each quotation:
Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can't get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.
It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States.
We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again. It would be foolish not to take Iran's leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy. … We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran's leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.
our alliance runs deeper than the designs of strategy or the weighing of interests. The story of how America – a nation still so new to the world by the standards of this ancient region – rose up to become the dear friend of the people of Israel is among the finest and most hopeful in our nation's history. Different as our paths have been, we see the same qualities in one another. Israel and America are in many respects reflections of one another.
. . . the enduring alliance between the State of Israel and the United States of America is more than a strategic alliance: it is a force for good in the world. America's support of Israel should make every American proud. We should not allow the inevitable complexities of modern geopolitics to obscure fundamental touchstones. … A free and strong America will always stand with a free and strong Israel.
By history and by conviction, our two countries are bound together. No individual, no nation, no world organization, will pry us apart. And as long as we stay together and stand together, there is no threat we cannot overcome and very little that we cannot achieve.
But of the whole speech, it is the final words that most struck me: "May God bless America, and may He bless and protect the Nation of Israel." When last did a politician ask the Lord to protect another country and not his own?
Watch Governor Romney’s Jerusalem Foundation speech on this Fox News video. It could well be a game changer in Florida and other battle ground states with significant Jewish and Christian Zionist voters.