Ignominy without umbrellas 5

Two admirable journalists write about the agreement reached last Saturday by the Great Powers (“P5+1”) with the evil Iranian regime, both comparing it to the agreement Neville Chamberlain thought he had secured with Adolf Hitler in 1938.

Bret Stephens writes at the Wall Street Journal:

To adapt Churchill : Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.

Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic. Yet neither Neville Chamberlain nor Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. “Peace for our time” it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 was a betrayal of an embattled U.S. ally and the abandonment of an effort for which 58,000 American troops gave their lives. Yet it did end America’s participation in a peripheral war, which neither Congress nor the public could indefinitely support. “Peace with honor” it was not, as the victims of Cambodia’s Killing Fields or Vietnam’s re-education camps can attest. But, for American purposes at least, it was peace.

By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

As for the Vietnam parallels, the U.S. showed military resolve in the run-up to the Paris Accords with a massive bombing and mining campaign of the North that demonstrated presidential resolve and forced Hanoi to sign the deal. The administration comes to Geneva fresh from worming its way out of its own threat to use force to punish Syria’s Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own people.

The Nixon administration also exited Vietnam in the context of a durable opening to Beijing that helped tilt the global balance of power against Moscow. Now the U.S. is attempting a fleeting opening with Tehran at the expense of a durable alliance of values with Israel and interests with Saudi Arabia. …

That’s where the differences end between Geneva and the previous accords. What they have in common is that each deal was a betrayal of small countries — Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, Israel — that had relied on Western security guarantees. Each was a victory for the dictatorships: “No matter the world wants it or not,” Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said Sunday, “this path will, God willing, continue to the peak that has been considered by the martyred nuclear scientists.” Each deal increased the contempt of the dictatorships for the democracies: “If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella,” Hitler is reported to have said of Chamberlain after Munich, “I’ll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach.”

And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

What will that look like? Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed “the arrangement with Pakistan.” Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.

As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah — Israel’s most immediate military threat — gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.

The article is valuable as an erudite and accurate assessment of the Geneva sell-out. But Stephens’s visualization of what the “after Geneva” Middle East will look like, bad though it is, is too mild. We predict that Iran will become armed with nuclear weapons and will use them.

Douglas Murray writes at the Spectator (UK):

America and Europe’s overwhelming desire to declare a deal meant that there had to be a deal to declare. The P5+1 countries, with the ludicrous Catherine Ashton speaking for Europe, have indeed made a historic and terrible mistake.

The mullahs did not come to Geneva because they wished to give up their capability. And they did not come to the table because after 34 years of revolutionary Islamic governance they have seen the error of their ways. They came because international sanctions were beginning to hurt. Those sanctions – which took years to put in place – have now fallen apart thanks to a few days of incompetent negotiating on the part of the P5+1 plus some simple common sense from Tehran. People tend to say at this stage that the Iranians are ‘master negotiators’. They aren’t especially. They are simply fortunate to be playing against Catherine Ashton and a generation of other weak and short-sighted American and British politicians.

The result is that the Iranian regime has managed to walk away with a deal to relieve the pressure of sanctions at the very moment that the pressure was working and the very moment that it should have been kept up and ultimately used to break them. They now have the breathing hole they need to reinforce their power at home and continue their search for nuclear weaponry.

At the root of this debacle is the fact that the Iranians went into the sanctions knowing exactly what they wanted: time and the bomb. The P5+1 countries, by contrast, were riddled by doubt and muddled thinking.

There should only ever have been two aims with regard to the Iranian regime.

The first is to ensure that it never ever gains the capability to develop nuclear weapons: not only to ensure that the world’s most destabilising regime never possesses the world’s most dangerous weaponry, but to ensure that it cannot precipitate a nuclear arms race across the Middle East.

The second aim, and one which appears to have slipped even further down any international agenda, is to see the end of the brutal rule of the mullahs. Sadly this does not even appear to be on the table any more. Ever since President Obama failed to come out in support of the brave Iranian protestors who rose up in 2009, the basic human rights of the Iranian people have been ignored utterly. So what that the regime promotes terror around the world? So what that it oppresses, rapes, tortures and executes its opponents at home? By negotiating with this regime and allowing it off the hook at this moment America, Britain and our allies have not only given a stay of execution to the mullahs, we have further undermined the hopes of any opponents of the regime inside Iran.

I was watching and listening to [British foreign secretary] William Hague earlier today and I must say that it was a pathetic experience: a diminished figure trying to persuade a sceptical nation to support a demeaning deal. All he lacked was a winged collar, a piece of paper and the slogan: ‘nuclear peace in our time.’

And the umbrella.

Unforeseen consequences of a kinetic operation 7

Obama – or “Bambi” as we hear him called ever more frequently in the data-clouds of the ethereal region where we live – is against war. Being against war is one of the off-the-peg principles that all socialists/collectivists/lefties/Marxists wear on their sleeves. But the small print on the label says it’s okay to got to war if absolutely no interests of your country are served, and it’s even positively noble to spend blood and treasure to protect some class of people you can patronize as underdogs.

So Obama took America to war against Libya to protect “civilians”. Well it wasn’t exactly war. “War” is a nasty word. It was more what you should call a “kinetic operation”. And hardly even that. It was a cheering on of other nations kinetically operating. Supplying them with some equipment and materiel and advice.

And they weren’t exactly  “civilians”. Nobody knows for sure who or what they were or are. Broadly speaking they’re the people who’re against the people whom Bambi and the other nations are against. True, they’re armed. And okay, they include al-Qaeda terrorists. So if you don’t want to call them “civilians”, call them collectively “the rebels”.

Though they’re not not really united except by their shared aim of replacing Muammar Gaddafi as the government of Libya.

In fact, they’re killing each other.

By Frank Crimi at Front Page:

General Abdul Fattah Younes, who had been summoned to the Libyan opposition capital of Benghazi by the ruling Transitional National Council (TNC) for supposed questioning about military operations, was murdered last week along with two other military officials.

Younes, who had assisted Muammar Gaddafi’s rise to power in 1969, was Libya’s interior minister and commander of its powerful Lightning Brigade before he defected to the rebels in February 2011. …

TNC minister Ali Tarhouni said Younes had been killed by rebel fighters who were sent to bring him back from the front lines to Benghazi. Still, despite the apprehension of a suspect, suspicion still remained as to what militia group carried out the assassination.

Some rebel fighters claimed the killers were from the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade, a rebel group that is part of the larger Union of Revolutionary Forces (URF). However, Tarhouni claimed the killers were from the Obaida Ibn Jarrah Brigade, an Islamist faction in the rebel command.

Despite the lack of clarity surrounding Younes’ assassination … the TNC would replace Younes with Suleiman Mahmud al-Obeidi as well as order all militia factions to disband and come under its control. However, that latter directive may prove particularly difficult to carry out.

None of them will disband easily. Bambi and the other kinetic operators have recently made it very worth their while to continue fighting not only Gaddafi but, with stronger determination, each other.

Specifically, the killing of Younes comes at time when the TNC — having recently been sanctioned as Libya’s legitimate ruling government by 40 nations, including the United States, France and England — now stands to receive over $30 billion of Gadaffi regime funds currently frozen in Western banks.

The sudden influx of such vast sums of money have, according to one Mideast expert, only served to intensify the inner divisions within the TNC, with each faction jockeying for control to “secure the status of being the only legitimate force to lead the country in the future.”

Whoever could have foreseen such a development!

Of course, it should come as little surprise that the Libyan rebels apparently find themselves now locked in a deadly internal struggle. From the onset of the February uprising, it has been well known that the TNC is riddled with a rogue’s gallery of rival factions and alliances that are chock full of duplicitous characters, ranging from former Gaddafi loyalists to criminals to al Qaeda insurgents.

For starters, the Libyan rebel leader, Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, has openly said jihadists who fought against US coalition forces in Iraq are well-represented in rebel ranks. While al-Hasidi has insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists.”

But of course it depends what you mean by “terrorists”.

He has also said, “The members of al Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader.”

The invader? Isn’t that the combined forces who are only trying to protect civilians and/or help al-Hasidi’s rebels with a kinetic operation?

Of course, an al Qaeda presence in the TNC shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. According to the US military, Libya, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, contributed more than any other nation to the ranks of those forces fighting against the United States in Iraq. In fact, al-Hasidi has acknowledged that he personally fought against the “foreign invasion” in Afghanistan before being captured in 2002 in Pakistan and sent back to Libya in 2008.

Moreover, the TNC, which has reportedly sold chemical weapons to both Hamas and Hezbollah, has also been linked to supplying arms to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In addition to the notorious nature of its membership, the Libyan rebels have been repeatedly accused of committing atrocities on a par with those of Gaddafi’s forces. Those allegations include, according to Human Rights Watch [not always trustworthy but believable in this case – JB], Libyan rebels in the last month “burning homes, abusing women and looting hospitals, homes and shops.”

The killing of Younes has now created so much distrust within the rivalries, conflicting agendas and alliances of the TNC that stability will be hard to come by, even if it can successfully oust Gaddafi.

And thus far, if any side is winning, it seems to be Gaddafi’s.

However, the prospect that the rebels can overcome Gadaffi on the battlefield looks increasingly bleak. Gaddafi’s regime controls around 20 percent more territory than it did when the uprising began in February despite the recent launching of a rebel offensive in the western mountains near the Tunisian border; more than four months of sustained air strikes by NATO; and the defection of a number of Gaddafi’s senior commanders.

As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ Admiral Mike Mullen said only weeks ago, the war remains a “stalemate,” a status not too surprising when an operation is led without a clear strategy or exit route [or aim]. To that end, it appears that England and France, the two leading nations in the fight against Gaddafi, may also be tiring of the game.

This was evident in a joint press conference last week when British foreign Secretary William Hague said “What happens to Gaddafi is ultimately a question for the Libyans.” Hague’s French counterpart, Alain Juppe, echoed that sentiment by saying that Gaddafi’s fate “is ultimately a question for Libyans to determine.”

So, for now, the fate of Gaddafi, his regime and the future direction of Libya remain as cloudy as ever. However, what is becoming clearer by the day is that even if Gaddafi does go away, all NATO may have done is trade one insane, brutal despot for a far larger and more deadly problem.

And that is not all the bad news.

Not only are the groups within the rebel group fighting each other, they are killing darker-skinned Africans from non-Libyan tribes who have come north to fight as mercenaries for Gaddafi. Or are maybe only passing through from other conflict-torn countries on their way to the safer and happier shores of Europe.

Now they’re underdogs alright but nobody’s protecting them.

Some of them get into boats. Of these, many die harrowing deaths.

From an ABC report:

Italian coast guards have found 25 people dead in the engine room of a tiny boat crammed with 271 African refugees fleeing Libya.

The 15-metre boat landed on the holiday island of Lampedusa on Monday.

It was heavily overcrowded and survivors said they had been at sea for three days.

Prosecutors said the victims, crowded in a space accessible only through a trap door, appeared to have died from asphyxiation.

Refugees cited in Italian news reports said the people in the engine room had tried to get out but were blocked by others because there was not enough space on deck, and probably died of intoxication from the engine fumes. …

Coast guards said the engine room was only accessible through a 50-centimetre wide trap door from the deck.

A fireman who helped pull out the bodies from the boat said: “I will never forget the scene.” …

Thousands of refugees fleeing Libya, mostly migrant workers from other parts of Africa [mainly Ghana, Nigeria, and Somalia], have arrived on Lampedusa in recent weeks.

Hundreds have drowned, often on rickety fishing boats not suitable for choppy seas. In April, 250 refugees drowned off Lampedusa when their boat capsized. …

The Italian authorities are clearing away the refugees as fast as possible. (We don’t know where to.)

Scenes of desperation seen earlier this year have hit the pristine island’s tourism industry but many holidaymakers have started returning to the beaches.

Bambi and Michelle might schedule a vacation there.