Hezbollah all talk?

Without a doubt Hamas and their fans throughout the region are  a little disappointed with Hezbollah, a fellow member of the Resistance.  Remember back in 2006 – the Party of God picks a fight with Israel, and what does Hamas do?  They open up a Southern front, kidnapping the IDF oldier Galad Shalit, theoretically relieving pressure on Hezbollah up North.   I don’t have any specific quotes but I am sure Hamas is wondering where’s the payback?  “There is none” taunts Tariq Al-Homayed, editor of fiercely anti-Hamas and HB Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in this  article: 

Hamas rushed to Hezbollah’s rescue in 2006 [Israel-Hezbollah summer war] following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers at the hands of Hezbollah, and even opened up another battlefront by abducting Gilad Shalit themselves, so why has Nasrallah not come to Hamas’s rescue today, especially considering that Khalid Meshal said that Hamas was awaiting action, not words, from Hezbollah?

Hezbollah is not likely to provide anything more than words or supports- it’s not in their interest to do more than that.  Still, Hassan Nasrallah’s 28 December speech did give some pretty strong moral support to their comrades in Gaza and came   close to calling for the people of Egypt to rise up against their regime, highly inflammatory rhetoric.  Read Egyptian Chronicles comments on the speech.

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Kill My TV Also

I want to second Abu Muqawama’s Kill_Your_TV post.   American tv coverage of the events in Gaza is beyond bad – its horrible.  CNN.  NBC.  All of them are garbage.   Who gives a crap about Rod Bagloyavic?   Who cares whether Sarah Palin is now a grandmother.  Maybe that’s news if there was nothing whatsoever going on.  But how about this little crisis called Gaza?   Isn’t  it a national security issue when the American people are getting such poor quality information about events that are critical  to US  security in the Middle East.   Don’t they  have a need to know  about them? 

If I was US National Security Adviser or Secretary of State,  here’s what I would do to critically improve US National Security:  The first thing I would do is have the US government fully subsidize a new network station,  next to CBS, NBC and ABC, that broadcasts only quality news and documentaries on world affairs and current events.    Nothing but serious programs on all of the important issues that people need to know about.   American Idol, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton would never, ever get a mention on this new TV station.   Anyone who uttered their names  would immediately be fired. 

People need to know what’s going on.  Dumb voters elect dumb politicians.  And dumb politicians make dumb policies.  So  what’s $50-100 million to run a 4th network featuring only serious world news?

Al-Jazeera Interview with Khalid Mashal

Anyone who can should watch this recent Al-Jazeera interviewwith  Hamas leader Khalid Mashal.  As an Islamist he speaks perfectly vowed Arabic so its relatively easy  to understand.

Thoughts on Israel vs Hamas (the military dimension)

A couple points worth noting:

1)  Whats going on is  bad and sad.   But let’s be clear- Hamas wanted a fight with Israel and this is consistent with their fundamental approach to dealing with their enemy.  It is not through negotiations.   Long before the ceasefire expired, Hamas leaders were clearly saying they opposed any renewal, and wanted to go the Resistance path, not the path of negotiations (which would benefit Fatah).  However, they probably didn’t expect this extent, which leads me to my next point……..

2) Back in July, when Israel turned over Samir Quntar for the bodies of two dead IDF soldiers, the overwhelming consensus in the Arabic press, based more on sentiment and not deep strategic or military  analysis, was that this was a huge unprecedented victory for the Resistance.   I thought this was an inaccurate assessment based on a major misreading of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and cautioned ” be_careful_what_you_wish_for.   Israel did not perform well in 06 but that shouldn’t be taken as a statement of how they will fight in every future battle.  As if they won’t make every effort to learn from their mistakes.   Hamas in my view has a widely inaccurate grasp of military power relations between Israel and the Resistance. 

3).  Israel has alot of intelligence advantages in Gaza that they didn’t have in Lebanon.   Hezbollah had 6 years to  basically operate freely in South Lebanon and prepare for War.  Because Lebanon is a sovereign country, it was harder for Israel to attack at will (unlike Gaza) and they had little intel presence in Lebanon.  Israel formally evacuated Gaza in 2006, but they still regularly intervene on raids and because of its geographical proximity to Israel proper they know it better and have easy access.    Given that they went into Lebanon in 06 with bad intel, and a poor understanding of Hezbollah position, we have to assume that every possible effort has been made since then to correct that mistake.  Its probably safe to assume that they know where the Hamas positions are. 

4)  Based on what’s happening so far, I’m wondering if Hamas feels they were maybe a bit too confident.  Why aren’t they fighting back?   In 06 Hezbollah was able to launch rockets into Israel for weeks despite the presence of attacking IDF soldiers all over S. Lebanon.  Why isn’t Hamas doing the same thing?  Hamas credibility is on the line here.  If your movement is explicitly called The Islamic Resistance Movement and you don’t resist, what kind of message does that send?  Its still early in the fighting, but if Hamas goes several days without being able to launch any attacks, than I think its probably an indication that Israel has pulled off a major victory.

Saturday Profile

The New York Times has a profile of Bruce Riedel, a 30 year veteran of the CIA, who is now a top Obama adviser on SouthEast Asia:

BRUCE RIEDEL was a 28-year-old Middle East analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency on Oct. 6, 1981, the day a band of gunmen assassinated President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt during a military parade in Cairo.

Within hours of the attack, Mr. Riedel was summoned to the agency’s seventh floor to brief William J. Casey, the irascible C.I.A. director. Over the next several months, he began compiling a dossier about the attack — what he calls the “birth of the globaljihad” — and about the emergence of a cerebral Egyptian physician named Ayman al-Zawahri.

I couldn’t help but notice how the Angry Arab has another baseless attack on Reidel on his blog:

You should read this tributeto Zionist Middle East expert, Bruce Riedel. You read it and get the misconception that this guy really knows what he is talking about. Let me help you here. In the mid-1990s, when he was the Middle East expert at Clinton’s National Security Council, he gave an interview to DanielPipes’ journal, Middle East Quarterly, in which he argued that there is no evidence that the Arab public is displeased with the US-imposed sanctions on Iraq.

Again, Assad Abu Khalil (the Angry Arab) repeats the same stupid  statement over and over.  As if one  15 year old statement , which has nothing to do with Israel-Palestine, qualifies someone as a “Zionist Middle East expert.”   He has repeated the same accusation at least 4 or 5 times on his blog before but  I can say with 100%  personal certainty that Reidel is a Middle East expert.    Anything that Assad Abu Khalil  says about US government should be taken with a grain of salt because he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

Worth Checking Out…..

 For those who don’t read The National on a daily basis, I highly recommend adding it to your Favorites because there is no other English language outlet that consistently puts out quality stuff on the Middle East.   This week’s Review has contributions from Nir Rosen and Andrew Exum:

1) In  Louder_Than_Bombs:

Israel and Hizbollah beat the drums of war – but can tough talk itself keep the peace? Andrew Exum considers the paradox of deterrence

2) And in Riding_Shotgun:

American combat forces may be leaving Iraq by the end of 2011 – but the army of guns for hire isn’t going anywhere. Nir Rosen spends a month inside the world of Baghdad’s private security companies.

AbuTrika Stays Put

Mohamed Abu Trika, the star of Egypt Ahly Football club has decided to turn down offers to play in Europe and stay in Egypt:

CAIRO: In the wake of a board meeting on Monday, the Reds officially reaffirmed that they are not ready to sell or loan 30-year-old Mohamed Abou-Trika at any price.

The Ahly playmaker is unlikely to leave the African champions, despite “offers from English and Arab clubs,” the club  said, especially that the player himself was loath to leave.

“The football committee and the board have come to a decision that Ahly are not ready to sell Abou-Trika,” a statement on Ahly’s official site read.

“We insist on keeping our star despite huge offers from Arab and English clubs.

“The board was eager to meet with the player, appreciating his vital role at the club and his contribution to several trophies in recent years.

Its hard to underestimate how popular Abou-Trika is in Egypt.  He is probably one of the 2-3 most loved and respected Egyptians, especially at the Shabi (working class/ popular) level (I’d put him in the same class as Gamal Abdel Nasser, Tito, Adel Imam and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi).  The most obvious reason for his popularity is his skills in football; he is the best player in a football crazy nation.  But its much more than that.  Abou-Trika comes from a humble socio-economic background, and unlike other Egyptian footballers, carries himself with unusual modesty.  Also, and very importantly, he is seen as religously devout.  For all of these reasons, it is very difficult to find an Egyptian, even a supporter of a rival club, who doesn’t speak of Abou Trika with the utmost respect. 

As for his decision to pass up the chance to play at a higher level for more money in Europe, I think its a good career move.  First, he is 30, which is approaching the end of the road for a soccer player.  Second, its probably not worth putting his reputation on the line at this stage in his career.  The talent level in the Premiere League is much higher, and theres always a chance that such a move wouldn’t work out.  It would be rather humbling if his stint in Europe was spent on the bench. 

I see this as a Jordanesque retire on top type move (the 93 and 98 retirements not the 02 version).