Category Archives: Worldwide News

The Freedom House Report — Middle East Segment

Freedom House does an annual survey to determine the degree to which the people in countries around the world enjoy individual, political, and economic freedom.  Their latest report is out, and the summary can be seen HERE.  My focus today is on the Middle East, and the situation there is illustrated nicely by this graphic from the Freedom House report:


Notice that, as usual, Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that is free by our western standards.  The next “partly free” group includes Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, and Kuwait.  Bringing up the rear, the “not free” countries, are Jordan, Algerian, Egypt, Qatar, Oman, Yemen, Iraq, UAE, Iran, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the abysmally-rated Syria.

Satloff on the Collapse of Sykes-Picot Hype

Robert Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in other words, an expert.  Earlier this month he wrote a fairly long article defining and explaining some current trends among westerners in how the current situation in the region is viewed.  The two lead paragraphs:

Like fashion and food, political analysis of the Middle East has its fads, too.  At one time, there was the “days are numbered” fad, as in “King Hussein’s days are numbered” or “the Saudis’ days are numbered.”  In fact, the former died of natural causes after nearly five decades on the throne while the latter have proved surprisingly resilient, leader after leader.  For many years, there was the “linkage” fad, the fervently held belief that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unlocked the secret elixir to heal all of the region’s ills.  No serious person makes that case any more, marveling instead at the impermeable bubble in which Secretary of State John Kerry keeps Israeli-Palestinian peace talks quarantined from the chaos swirling around the region.

The current fad is about “the collapse of Sykes-Picot,” a phrase that triggers no fewer than 5.7 million hits in a Google search.  This thesis takes various forms but, at its core, it is the idea that the system of largely artificial nation-states invented by the British and French at the end of World War I to safeguard their colonial interests—a system kept in place in the post-colonial period by decades of strong-man rule—is finally collapsing.  In most versions of the story, the competing and often violently conflicting loyalties of tribe, sect, ethnicity, and religion are chiefly responsible for erasing these century-old lines in the sand.

Not so, says Satloff.  For those who like to delve a little deeper into understanding Middle Eastern affairs, the entire article is HERE.

Obama Snatches Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory, Redux

After the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama has consistently maintained that Al-Qaeda is a waning threat.  Real-world assessments show that to be merely a politically self serving view, however, and none of the articles written in recent months have demonstrated that better than the one from earlier this week by Dr. Shaul Shay, a Colonel in the Israeli reserve forces, former Deputy Head of the Israeli National Security Council, and currently, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.  Dr. Shay writes that the Sunni Salafi Muslim are confronting not only the western forces in the Middle East, but also the Shiite and Aliwite factions.  This on Al-Qaeda in Iraq, from Dr. Shay’s article:

In the face of successful US counterterrorism efforts and the Sunni tribal awakening, AQI’s violent campaign has diminished since the peak years of 2006-2007, though the group remains a threat to stability in Iraq and the broader Levant.  Since the withdrawal of US forces in late 2011, AQI has accelerated the pace of attacks on predominantly Shiite targets in an attempt to reignite conflict between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Meanwhile, AQI has expanded its reach into neighboring Syria.  In April 2013, AQI announced that it was changing its name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and that the Syrian group Jabhat Nusra would join it.  Jabhat Nusra’s leaders objected, however, and the two groups have remained independent.

Much of the violence in Iraq is blamed on ISIS, which has launched a vicious bombing campaign in Iraq as part of an anti-Shiite insurgency that claimed more than 8,000 lives in 2013.  On January 3, ISIS asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, declaring it an Islamic state.  The capture of Fallujah came amid a campaign of violence across the western desert province of Anbar, in which local tribes, Iraqi security forces, and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants have been locked in fighting.  The ISIS fighters have steadily asserted their control over Anbar’s desert regions for months, and resisted assaults by both Iraqi government forces and local tribal leaders to maintain control of all of Fallujah, and perhaps as much as half of Ramadi, Anbar’s capital.

The sectarian tensions between Iraq’s Sunnis and the Shiite-led government have been further inflamed by the war in Syria.  Al-Qaeda’s growing influence in Syria has given terrorists control over the desert territories spanning both sides of the ­Iraqi-Syrian border, enabling them to readily transfer weapons and fighters between the two arenas.

The complete article, HERE, also goes into detail on the activities of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Al-Qaeda in Lebanon.

In related news, the Daily Caller has published THIS piece reminding us that:

Four-star General David Patraeus and former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker effectively predicted much of the conflict that is sweeping post-war Iraq in a 2007 report.

The report named troop withdrawal, an issue that has divided U.S. voters and politicians since 2004, as a major turning point in deciding state stability.

In the joint Petraeus and Crocker report, released Sept. 10, 2007, the pair questioned whether the divided country could withstand the inevitable sectarian violence that a majority-Shia led government was expected to take on, without the backing of substantial U.S. forces.

Ariel Sharon, R.I.P.

After living for months in a coma, former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon has died.  For most of his tenure, I thought highly of Sharon’s leadership.  But then, to the dismay of many including myself,  he agreed to give the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians in 2005.  Although the Gaza Strip is a very small piece of land, turning it over to the Palestinians (essentially to Hamas, the predominate Sunni Muslim faction) significantly increased Israeli’s exposure to hostile borders at it’s western corner, and Hamas has taken advantage of that geography to smuggle in lots of weaponry for use against Israel.

President George W. Bush’s former deputy national security advisor Elliott Abrams, now an author and senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has written an informative and realistic assessment of Sharon at the online Commentary Magazine, HERE, and it may be the best of the many written in the days since his passing.



Also an interesting read, this account (from the Times of Israel via PowerLine) of how a 20yo Sharon was wounded in a battle during the 1948 struggle for Israeli independence.

Bush Lied, People Died, Kerry Cried, Obama Denied

Remember when Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had proof that the nerve-gas attacks on the Syrian rebel forces was made on Assad’s orders?   Remember when President Obama went on national television and said “We know the Assad regime was responsible”, and that this discovery was what pushed him over the “red line” in considering military intervention?   Well, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh is now alleging that Kerry and the President “cherry-picked intelligence” to justify their plans for intervention in Syria.

Hold on, wasn’t that essentially what President George W. Bush was accused of in Iraq?

Anyhoo, the entire article is HERE.

Environmentalism, North Korea Style

from StrategyPage, a partial explanation of why North Korea’s pollution problem is so out of control:

… When you burn wood or coal in a low oxygen environment you produce carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas that can be sent directly to a diesel or gasoline engine and produce enough horsepower to move a truck, boat, or any other engine.  This is not as efficient as diesel or gasoline/petrol type fuel.  A liter (quart) of gasoline produces as much engine energy as 2.75 kg (six pounds) of wood.  That means you need three times as much fuel (by weight) when using wood and coal.  The process (which usually takes place in a container the size of a 55 gallon barrel) produces a lot of air pollution and requires more regular attention than a diesel or gasoline engine.  But it works, and during World War II, when many nations were cut off from regular supplies of petroleum based fuels, wood gas was the solution for running vehicle, boat, and factory engines.  Germany, for example, had over half a million vehicles running on wood gas by the end of World War II.

Full article is HERE.

The Ice Man Cometh


The online version of the British newspaper Daily Mail has up an ARTICLE on the spectacular 29% expansion this summer of the arctic ice cap, further confounding the predictions in the UN’s IPCC climate change report and other AGW alarmists.  Now, just before the annual re-freeze that begins each fall around this time, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores.

The Global Warming News You Haven’t Read

By Dr. Roy Cordato,    January 22, 2013

RALEIGH — Over the past several weeks, there has been a good deal of global warming news, some that focused on the year immediately passed — 2012 — and some that focused on years to come. But in all probability the only headline you have seen regarding any of this read something like this one from The Weather Channel: “2012: Warmest Year on Record for U.S.” Several weeks ago this news covered the pages of newspapers. All the networks spread the same idea.

But, as noted, over the past several weeks there have been other global warming-related stories, and the one regarding 2012 temperature in the lower 48 states of the United States was probably the least important. After all, the issue is global warming, not warming in the U.S., and on that score the news was quite different.

So here’s a headline you probably didn’t see: “2012: 9th Warmest on Record Globally Since 1979.” The reason why you didn’t see this or a similar headline in any major media outlet is because, as far as I’ve been able to tell, the story, while completely true, went unreported.

But according to the satellite temperature record, kept since 1979, 2012 was only the ninth warmest year on record. Here are the years since 1979 ranked by average global temperature — warmest to coolest. Continue reading