Monday, July 28, 2014

Widespread disruption, uncertainty, and tragedy in the Middle East and Eastern Europe

There are so many issues and countries involved in various crises that commenting on them all in a post like this is impossible.  Iraq is splitting apart, as ISIS surges, Iran keeps meddling with its weapons and more across the region, Syria continues its virtual genocide and forced deportations, Pakistan has its hands full with insurgents in the northern areas near Afghanistan,  Afghanistan is facing an increasing build up and military successes by the Taliban, Libya is a land of militia chaos and fighting, Tunisia is facing significant political turmoil, the Israeli government and Gaza Hamas militants seem not close to any willing compromise, and the eastern Ukraine situation appears to be getting worse with Putin's stealth but certain involvement.  What's left out of this.  Likely much more.

A few brief comments will be made on what has been listed above.

---ISIS has taken control of major areas of Iraq with the help of many Sunnis.  Those Sunni insurgents are available because they have been shut out of government by the horrific and totally Shiite biased, even Iran biased, Maliki, as well as arrested, killed, and economically ruined.  They do not, almost uniformly, subscribe to the fanatic Islamism of the ISIS leaders, not even close as they enjoyed a secular life under their Sunni leader Saddam however horrible he was.  Now they have only ISIS to turn to in order to defend themselves against Maliki, who the Obama administration supported wholeheartedly until recent months.  This is headed toward chaos, if it is not already there.  The Kurds fortunately have so far defended themselves and stayed apart from the fray, not aligning with Maliki or ISIS.

---Iran provides weapons and supplies to Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon,  Hamas in Gaza, and is sending elite but uncoordinated militias into Iraq to support the Shiites and protect Shiite shrines and eventually Baghdad.

---Syria's government attacks on civilians with horrible weapons continues unabated, humanitarian aid is blocked, and thousands continue to risk fleeing the country daily for refugee camps in neighboring countries.  Assad now seems more self assured and vindicated.  What a pathetic figure.  The Syria story is so long term and repetitive that it has fallen off of the front pages even as the killing, random imprisonments, torture, and destruction continues daily(700 civilians killed yesterday).

---Pakistan appears to be making an effort to defend itself against the hard core Islamist extremists that set up towns or settlements in its remote northern regions, but who ever knows Pakistan's real agenda or who is really in control.  That it has a nuclear arsenal is a huge concern if any takeover is ever possible by Islamist extremists.

---Afghanistan has seen rising Taliban strength for over six months, as a result of now President Karzai trying to build relationships before his presidency ends in the next few months.  Some optimists, like the Obama administration, have been saying that he was trying to build a working coalition before he left office.  I disagree strongly.  Karzai has been trying to build a relationship with the Taliban to protect his own head, literally, and his billions in overseas accounts before he is no longer massively protected by the Americans(is it well known that the U.S. regularly sends Karzai full planeloads of nothing but U.S. cash to pay off tribal leaders and his supporters, and of course Karzai and his brother control that, whether well known or not that is a fact-- (this is reported in Dexter Filkins award winning book from 2009).  Karzai is for Karzai, and just wants to get out alive and immensely wealthy.  The Taliban now feel free to make their advances and be well positioned for the full American withdrawal.  It should be noted that it was the Northern Alliance headed by Abdullah that ousted the Taliban from Kabul after the Americans showed up with weapons and back up.  While winning 46% of the initial vote to his Karzai supported main opponent's 32%.  Abdullah was defeated in the two way run off 54% to 46%.  He is outraged and calls the election a sham.  Some Pashtun districts reported more votes than their total population in the run-off.  Too obvious. It will be reviewed, but from here it appears to be one more near criminal and self serving manipulation by Karzai to protect his power, wealth, and health.

---Libya is clearly out of control, in complete and destructive disarray.  What more can be said from here?

---Tunisia's elected Islamist government is doing its best to show moderation, but that is not satisfying to its political opposition.  This is a powder keg that hopefully will not be lit in this country that had been seen as a model for the success of the Arab spring.

---Much has been written everywhere about the Israel/Gaza hostilities.  There is so much information that everyone can have their own opinion, but the overriding one should be that this carnage should be negotiated to an end.  It serves no good long term purpose.   From here it looks as if Hamas was waiting for the opportunity to start this and then draw international condemnation of Israel for responding.  It is unclear whether they actually expected Israel to invade and discover their vastly more extensive network of tunnels than previously known, made with concrete allowed in by Egypt and Israel purportedly to build schools, hospitals, and other public facilities.

---As to the eastern Ukraine fighting, the details remain murky but Putin and the Russian military, covertly or openly, are clearly involved.  The shooting down of Malaysian flight 17 was likely a mistake, or so it seemed at first.  With the hampered ability to search the wreckage sight thoroughly and still moving slowly, that first assumption may be flawed.  With the exception of the already illegally annexed Crimea, the majority of the population of eastern Ukraine would strongly prefer to be Ukraine citizens, but the militant Russian minorities are disrupting all plans knowing that they have Putin's support and weapons.

That's it on this, too much I guess and maybe not all exactly accurate.  Best that can be done from here.

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