Abu Dhabi vs Qatar

Over the last decade Qatar has became famous as the host of Al-Jazeera and perhaps the most influential media hub in the Middle East.  Now,  Abu Dhabi is trying to open up a competing media hub as the New York Times reports:

Twenty years ago, Abu Dhabi’s cultural cachet in the West was as a punch line in the cartoon “Garfield.” Today, backed with petrodollars, Abu Dhabi is fast becoming an international cultural hub and attracting American media companies.

On Sunday, a spate of companies announced that they were setting up shop in Abu Dhabi, an island city that is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The companies are CNN, the book publishers HarperCollins and Random House, the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Financial Times and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charity arm of the financial news giant Thomson Reuters.

Officials from these companies joined local officials in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to announce they would take space on a new 200,000-square-meter campus, called the Abu Dhabi Media Zone, that the government is building for foreign media companies.

Surprisingly, the article does not mention recently launched  THE_NATIONAL  newspaper which, on a daily basis  puts out quality English language articles of interest to MediaShack readers.  I’d say it’s on its way to becoming the best English language paper in the region.

Time to get down to business (UPDATED)

Congratulations to Barrack Obama for his victory.  But now that the campaign is over, let’s get down to business and start talking about his foreign policy in practice.    I’m expecting to see evidence of this promised change right off the bat.  Simply being elected does not constitute “change,” which entails doing things differently then they were done before.   What would “change” look like in this initial period of his Presidency?

Obama has no experience or expertise in foreign affairs which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing or unusual.  He’s a politician and no President in recent history (except THE_FATHER)  has come to office with either.  What’s important, therefore, is who he chooses as his top advisors. 

Lets start with National Security Advisor.  If we made a list of the top 10  American global security challenges,  probably 9 would be directly or indirectly related to the Middle East.  Therefore, wouldn’t it be logical to pick someone who is a specialist on the region?  Someone who could go to a conference of Middle Eastern scholars and hold their own discussing regional, history, politics, and culture and not purely strategy from a narrow perspective of American interests?   None of the last four NSA’s ( Rice, Hadley,  Berger,  or Lake)   were experts on the Middle East.  Has policy been especially stellar during this period (1993-2008)?   

Change to me here would mean picking someone without an agenda and who gives the President advise on the top security dilemmas based on their genuine experience and expertise in the region.   There is one person who would be a very good choice.   Some of the candidates being considered have zero claim to have regional expertise.   While there’s no requirement that NSA be an expert in anything,  it seems to me intimate knowledge of the Middle East, considering America’s current problems, is critical.  Who will Obama choose?

Some might be saying well lets celebrate first and let it all soak in.  No- there’s no time for that.  The team needs to be put it place very quickly as critical decisions about Afgan-Pakistan policy need to be taken well before Obama formally takes office on January 20th.   From the NY Times:

WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago, senior Bush administration officials gathered in secret with Afghanistan experts from NATO and the United Nations at an exclusive Washington club a few blocks from the White House. The group was there to deliver a grim message: the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse.

 Their audience: advisers from the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Over two days, according to participants in the discussions, the experts laid bare Afghanistan’s most pressing issues. They sought to make clear that the next president needed to have a plan for Afghanistan before he took office on Jan. 20. Otherwise, they said, it could be too late.

With American casualties on the rise and Taliban militias gaining new strength, experts on Afghanistan say the next president will need to decide swiftly if he intends to send more troops there, because even after deployment orders are issued, it could take weeks or months for American forces to arrive.

Time is of the essence.  UPDATE: Read Judah’s post  at WPR which adds some additional insights to this post.


What would I do if I was NSA?  Sometime in the next couple weeks I will be posting my comprehensive region wide, country by country and issue by issue recomendations to the new President.

More on the Raid

I’m sticking to my theory about the US raid on Syria.  Middle East Times has an article on the latest:

Although the al-Qaida suspect may have been killed, the death of Syrian civilians in the attack is what provoked Damascus’s anger, perhaps more than the fact that the U.S. forces penetrated Syrian territories, according to Arab commentators, who say that this was not the first time U.S. troops entered Syrian territory to chase al-Qaida suspects…….

U.S. administration officials in Washington are leaking that Damascus not only approved the raid in Sukkariyeh, but also cooperated with Syrian intelligence services ahead of the operation.  According to London’s Sunday Times of Nov. 2, the Syrians had “agreed to turn a blind eye to a supposedly quiet ‘snatch and grab’ raid,” but “could not keep the lid on a firefight in which so many people had died.”

 The paper quoted an unidentified Washington source as saying that Syrian intelligence tipped off the Americans about the whereabouts of the purported targeted al-Qaida operative, known as Abu Ghadiyah, and that the U.S. special force unit was supposed to kidnap him and take him to Iraq.

 The British paper’s source said the Americans “regularly communicate with the Syrians through a back channel that runs through Syria’s air force intelligence,” and quoted him as praising Syrian intelligence cooperation immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States as “remarkable.”

The pieces fit the puzzle.