Over the weekend, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia announced the arrests of 11 of his princely cousins, among them some of the kingdom’s most prominent businessmen; he also announced several dramatic changes to top government ministries, including the creation of a powerful new anticorruption committee. Why? Was it a coup? The response to a failed coup? Some kind of purge?
The background to these events is the continuing centralization of power in the hands of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is one of King Salman’s sons. Over the past two years he has taken over most of the key economic and security posts and has clearly emerged as the most important operator in the government.… Seguir leyendo » “‘Game of Thrones’ Comes to Saudi Arabia”
Last week’s meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama must have been tense. Two days before the meeting, the president publicly accused Israel of more “aggressive settlement construction . . . than we’ve seen in a very long time.” Only hours before the meeting, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) published a report that cited a massive increase in settlement construction during 2013.
But the president had his facts wrong, and a careful reading of the CBS data proves it. The pace is not “aggressive,” and almost all of the construction took place within the major settlement “blocs” — areas that past negotiations have recognized would remain part of Israel (to be compensated for with land swaps).… Seguir leyendo » “Israel gets no credit from Obama for a year of moderate settlement construction”
Three decades ago, President Ronald Reagan convened a group of Republican and Democratic leaders — known as the Kissinger commission — and charged it to make recommendations on how the United States could best help the countries of Central America thwart Soviet- and Cuban-supported guerrilla movements by promoting democracy and economic development. Reagan faced fierce opposition from some quarters in Washington, but his policies — and the sacrifices of many U.S. friends in the region — helped bring about three decades of relative peace and economic growth in Central America.
Unfortunately, those gains are at risk. The region’s challenges today are less about ideology than about criminality and corruption that threaten to undermine democratic institutions, the rule of law and public security.… Seguir leyendo » “Drug traffickers threaten Central America’s democratic gains”
Public rites will be visible across Iran on Wednesday in honor of Ashura, a major Shiite festival commemorating the death of Hussein, Muhammad’s grandson. But for Iranians who are not Shiite Muslims, public practice of their religion remains severely limited or flatly banned — and the Islamic Republic’s war on religious freedom has hurt no community more than Iran’s Bahais.
There are only 300,000 Bahais in Iran, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the country’s population. But since its founding in 1979, the Islamic Republic has singled this group out for systematic repression. In the early years, hundreds of Bahais were executed and thousands more were imprisoned.… Seguir leyendo » “The oppression of Bahais continues in Iran”
Bob Woodward wrote a curious op-ed this week about the Bush administration’s response to the secret al-Kibar nuclear reactor built by Syria and North Korea. As officials who participated in the administration’s deliberations, we believe that Woodward’s account — and that of the anonymous sources who gave him background information — represents a revisionist and misleading history. Woodward’s op-ed purports to demonstrate that then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who advocated a U.S. strike to destroy the Syrian reactor, failed to learn important lessons from intelligence failures in Iraq. In fact, it is Woodward who misunderstands the reality of al-Kibar.
First, Woodward’s account of the intelligence about Syria’s nuclear program is woefully incomplete.… Seguir leyendo » “The right call on the Syrian threat”
For decades, the Arab states have seemed exceptions to the laws of politics and human nature. While liberty expanded in many parts of the globe, these nations were left behind, their “freedom deficit” signaling the political underdevelopment that accompanied many other economic and social maladies. In November 2003, President George W. Bush laid out this question:
“Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom and never even to have a choice in the matter?”
The massive and violent demonstrations underway in Egypt, the smaller ones in Jordan and Yemen, and the recent revolt in Tunisia that inspired those events, have affirmed that the answer is no and are exploding, once and for all, the myth of Arab exceptionalism.… Seguir leyendo » “Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world”
Talks this week mark the beginning of new negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. If the parties can devise a compromise to get past the expiration this month of Israel’s partial freeze on settlement construction, they will be off and running.
How far they can run, however, depends on whether the United States can avoid three errors that would harm, and perhaps doom, the discussions.
The first mistake is to intrude too deeply and too often in what must be a bilateral negotiation. The Obama team appears poised to do just that, as it plans to send both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, to the next round in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sept.… Seguir leyendo » “Three mistakes the U.S. must not make in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks”
The Post asked former officials and policy experts whether there is a divide between the Obama administration and the Jewish state. Below are responses from Elliott Abrams, David Makovsky, Aaron David Miller, Danielle Pletka, and Hussein Agha and Robert Malley.
The current friction in U.S.-Israel relations has one source: the mishandling of those relations by the Obama administration. Poll data show that Israel is as popular as ever among Americans. Strategically we face the same enemies — such as terrorism and the Iranian regime — a fact that is not lost on Americans who know we have one single reliable, democratic ally in the Middle East.… Seguir leyendo » “Are America and Israel drifting apart?”
The outpouring of pledges to “rebuild” Haiti has spurred debate about how much aid will be needed, for how long and who could administer such a large program efficiently. In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, Haiti received more than $900 million in all forms of aid, and many analysts suggest that total must be doubled if “recovery” is to happen. But it is doubtful whether such additional commitments will be made — and kept — as Haiti moves off the front pages.
“Rebuilding” and “recovery” would merely take Haiti, this hemisphere’s poorest country, back to where it stood before the Jan.… Seguir leyendo » “What Haiti needs: A Haitian diaspora”
In an op-ed on Sunday [“The Elders’ View of the Middle East“], former president Jimmy Carter, speaking on behalf of a self-appointed group of “Elders,” described a rapacious Israel facing long-suffering, blameless Palestinians, who are contemplating a “nonviolent civil rights struggle” in which “their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.”
As with most of Carter’s recent statements about Israel and the Palestinians, instead of facts we get vignettes from recent Carter travels. And while he finds “a growing sense of concern and despair” among “increasingly desperate” Palestinians, polls do not sustain this view. The most recent survey by the leading Palestinian pollster, Khalil Shikaki (done in August, the same month Carter visited), shows “considerable improvement in public perception of personal and family security and safety in the West Bank and a noticeable decrease in public perception of the existence of corruption in [Palestinian Authority] institutions.” This does not sound like despair.… Seguir leyendo » “What Carter Missed in the Middle East”
With elections in Lebanon and Iran occurring in the same week, it’s inevitable that they are viewed as twin tests of efforts to spread democracy to the Muslim world. Should we celebrate the outcome in Lebanon and push for elections throughout the Middle East, or sourly note that Hezbollah has exactly as many guns now as it had when it was defeated at the polls on Sunday? Is the Iranian presidential election today a festival of freedom or a cover for theocracy?
What the United States should be promoting is not elections, but free elections, and the voting in Lebanon passed any realistic test.… Seguir leyendo » “Lebanon’s Triumph, Iran’s Travesty”