The Middle East Channel


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I’m traveling this week, but still paying close attention to Iraq’s parliamentary elections, where it seems things are holding fairly steady despite the fears of instability before the election and heinous terrorism up to and on election day itself.
Iraq has a long way to go, and the outcome of the elections for Iraqi and American policy are far from clear. But it is heartening not only to see the determination of the Iraqi people to resist violence in order to make their voices heard, but also the steadfastness of President Obama in refusing outside pressure to change our timeline for withdrawal.
In the coming days, I will be getting much of my news on Iraq from The Middle East Channel, a fantastic and brand new joint venture of the New America Foundation and Foreign Policy magazine.
Managed by my colleagues Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah in cooperation with scholar, blogger and Middle East expert Marc Lynch, this new venture will provide an important forum for informed, needed comment on Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, and many other issues of vital importance in today’s policy debates.
Here’s part of Lynch’s election analysis from today:

The other main headline of the Iraqi election campaign has to be the overwhelmingly nationalist tone of all major politicians and the marginal American role in the process. The election campaign (as opposed to the results, which we still don’t know) showed clearly that Iraqis are determined to seize control of their own future and make their own decisions. The U.S. ability to intervene productively has dramatically receded, as the Obama administration wisely recognizes. The election produced nothing to change the U.S. drawdown schedule, and offered little sign that Iraqis are eager to revise the SOFA or ask the U.S. to keep troops longer. Iraq is in Iraqi hands, and the Obama administration is right both to pay close attention and to resist the incessant calls to “do more.” This doesn’t mean ignoring Iraq — the truth is, the Obama administration has been paying a lot more attention to Iraq than the media has over the last year. It means moving to develop a normal, constructive strategic relationship with the new Iraqi government, with the main point of contact the Embassy and the private sector rather than the military, and adhering in every way possible to the SOFA and to the drawdown timeline.

Stay tuned.
— Steve Clemons


3 comments on “The Middle East Channel

  1. samuelburke says:

    the problem in the middle east can be solved right here in
    the hasbara crew has a monumental task…to keep the tide from
    coming in.
    phil weiss is on the case.
    “Bit by bit, now in a piece on the “pro-Israel lobby,” Andrew
    Sullivan works his way toward the crucial understanding of the
    Israel lobby’s role in nullifying American policy in
    Israel/Palestine. There is simply no way to explain the policy
    nullification, with respect to settlements, over 7 or 8 US
    presidencies, without talking about a special interest. And you
    cannot then talk about the special interest without talking about
    its lopsided size in the American political process.
    No one in Washington – apart from a few Likudniks and Palinite
    end-timers – actually supports more settlements or any
    settlements in the West Bank. At the same time, Washington
    exercizes a UN veto to protect Israel from international law,
    funnels a vast amount of foreign and military aid to the country,
    helped finance the pulverization of Gaza last year, provides
    absurd international cover for Israel’s 150 nukes, has worked
    tirelessly to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capacity, and on
    and on.
    In return? Fuck you, Obama. To which the overwhelming
    response in Washington is: Obama screwed up.
    Even Haaretz is franker about this process than our media:
    “[T]he [Obama] administration will avoid taking any position that
    suggests disagreement with Israel, because of the support that
    Israel enjoys among both parties in Congress.” Why? One must
    talk about money, media, and religious belief.”


  2. WigWag says:

    Speaking of the Middle East (kind of) I’m surprised that we haven’t seen a post at the Washington Note yet about the stunning political victory of Geert Wilders political party in Dutch elections last week. Despite being on trial for defaming Muslims (whatever that means) in municipal elections, the PVV came in first in a city right outside of Amsterdam (Almere) and came in second in the Hague (the seat of the Dutch Government and the second largest city in the country). Meanwhile the two mainstream parties, the Christian Democratic Party and the Labor Party lost support.
    These municipal elections are widely viewed as a major show of strength in advance of general elections that will take place in June.
    What once seemed unthinkable now seems likely; it is entirely possible that the PVV will become the largest party in the Netherlands.
    Coalition Governments almost always rule in the Netherlands so it is unlikely that Wilders will actually become Prime Minister but it is increasingly likely that he will play the role of king-maker. Any political party that wants to form a government will almost certainly have to receive Wilders blessing. Wilders has made it very plain what he wants in return; an end to Muslim immigration, a ban on head scarves and the enactment in the Netherlands of a provision similar to the First Amendment in the United States.
    Europe is lurching to the right. For the moment, its mostly mainstream parties that are benefiting; that’s why Sarkozy, Berlusconi and Merkel were elected and why Cameron is about to be elected.
    But in last year’s elections for the European Parliament, far right parties who oppose Muslim immigration won a surprisingly large number of votes.
    The implications of all of this for the relationship between Europe and the Muslim World is very interesting. Support for the Palestinian cause is already decreasing in Europe and likely to decrease more; sympathy for Turkish accession to the EU is evaporating and hostility towards Iran is likely to increase.
    In the meantime, relationships between native born Europeans and Islamic immigrants continue to deteriorate as the call for bans on headscarves and other Islamic practices become more vociferous.
    Who would have guessed that Huntington’s “War of Civilizations” would start in Europe instead of the United States? If things keep going in the direction that they are right now; that’s exactly what is likely to happen.
    Anyone want to take a guess what Gert Wilders was doing today?
    He was at the British Parliament in the Chamber of the House of Lords showcasing his film “Fitna.” In addition to invited guests approximately a dozen peers showed up for the screening.
    At a press conference on the grounds of Parliament after showing his movie, this is what Wilders said,
    “Islam should not be compared to other religions, like Christianity, Judaism or Buddhism… Islam wants to rule and dominate not only all aspects of one’s life, but all aspects of society. The majority of Muslims in our Western societies are law-abiding people like you and me. Still, I want to stop the immigration of people from the Islamic countries because they still bring a lot of culture that is not ours. Look at all the countries for instance in the Middle East where Islam is dominant – you see no rule of law, no functioning parliament, no civil society.”
    To most Americans, who are happy to have Muslims as neighbors, Wilders views seem pretty radical. But apparently this is not the way that the increasingly angry and disaffected Europeans see it.
    This could get interesting. Let’s hope that the “Middle East Channel” doesn’t avert its eyes from this emerging phenomenon.


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