Tag: Syria

Is that Carter or Kennedy in the mirror?

Monday, 26 August, 2013 0 Comments

“President Obama now faces a moment similar to the one President Carter faced when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The assumptions that shaped key elements of his foreign policy have not held up; times have changed radically and policy must shift.” That’s the conclusion of “The Failed Grand Strategy in the Middle East” by Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal. This is a very dangerous moment says Mead:

“Just as Nikita Khrushchev concluded that President Kennedy was weak and incompetent after the Bay of Pigs failure and the botched Vienna summit, and then proceeded to test the American president from Cuba to Berlin, so President Vladimir Putin and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei now believe they are dealing with a dithering and indecisive American leader, and are calibrating their policies accordingly. Khrushchev was wrong about Kennedy, and President Obama’s enemies are also underestimating him, but those underestimates can create dangerous crises before they are corrected.”

Bottom line: “Drawing red lines in the sand and stepping back when they are crossed won’t rebuild confidence.”

On the other hand, Edward Luttwak, whose name was always modified with “hawkish” in the days of George W. Bush, believes that “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” His depiction of the battleground is grim: “The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.”

Luttwak is a realist and he calls out the red-line hardliners who wish to see the US enter this mire: “Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.”

With his red line, President Obama gave a hostage to fortune and now, despite Edward Luttwak’s sensible call for caution, he must act or be regarded as a coward. And, as history shows, Jack Kennedy was no coward.

President  Obama


Claude Monet and the Syrian connection

Wednesday, 19 June, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in London, Sotheby’s will auction 72 lots of Impressionist and modern art in one of the most anticipated sales of the year. When all the bidding’s done, Sotheby’s expects to have raked in more than £75 million. Undoubtedly, the star of show is Claude Monet’s gorgeous depiction of The Palazzo Contarini in Venice, which he painted during a three-month stay in the city in 1908. But it’s complicated.

Monet

What the Sotheby’s auction catalogue does not mention is that this particular Monet is from the collection of Helly Nahmad, a character for whom the adjective “colourful” was coined. The Nahmad family hails from Aleppo in Syria and its members operate art galleries in New York and London. Their collection of 3,000 works, including 200 oil paintings by Picasso, is valued at $5 billion by Skate’s Art Market Review.

Much to the surprise of its posh patrons, however, the Helly Nahmad Gallery in Manhattan was forced to shut its doors earlier this year after it was raided by US agents on the grounds that its owner was running a high-stakes gambling ring that catered to celebrities and the very wealthy. On 16 April, Helly Nahmad was charged with racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, Nahmad ran an operation that used illegal gambling websites to generate tens of millions of dollars in bets each year. The gambling ring was supported, in part, by the gallery, states the indictment. After such unpleasantness, it is a relief to lovers of modern art, no doubt, that the Helly Nahmad Gallery is open for business once more. The proceeds from this evening’s sale of The Palazzo Contarini painting, which should be spectacular, surely will comfort the proprietor during his difficulties.


Obama and the “Syrian affair”

Wednesday, 5 June, 2013 1 Comment

While reading this Al Jazeera article, “Hezbollah: The Syrian connection“, the following jumped out: “Lebanon’s former Prime Minster, Fouad Siniora, has made it clear that he is calling on Hezbollah members to put an end to their involvement in the Syrian affair.” The use of “affair” there is surely one of the great trivializations of our time because what’s happening in Syria is a civil war of almost unimaginable savagery in which both sides are committing crimes against humanity. Consider these two items:

These acts of barbarism place US President Barack Obama in a quandary. He once called on Assad resign and he warned gravely of red lines, and then he abandoned the Syrians to their abattoir. Now, amidst the carnage, he looks increasingly duplicitous. Michael Totten, writing in City Journal, says that Syrians are confused by the American hesitation to remove Assad, and “In The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy“, he notes:

“Extreme caution is called for in Syria, but that hardly changes the fact that it is in America’s national interest to see Assad removed. This man has more American blood on his hands than anyone in the Arab world who hasn’t been killed yet. He is a totalitarian state sponsor of international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida. His government has exported chaos and violence, not just to Israel, but also to every one of its neighbors. His regime is part of the Iranian-Hezbollah axis, which may well go nuclear. Calling for his ouster doesn’t require undaunted courage. It won’t yield results by itself, but the White House, and the United States as a whole, without even realizing it, are paying a price for refusing to do even this much.”

Yes, America will be pilloried for whatever it does in Syria, but the arguments against intervention are starting to sound as hollow as those making them.


Kissinger dials Brussels, gets bickering Babel

Tuesday, 28 May, 2013 0 Comments

“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” That’s what Henry Kissinger is supposed to have said a generation ago and the persistence and the popularity of the anecdote can be attributed to the fragmented state of the Brussels-led union. Yesterday, the old rogue celebrated his 90th birthday and among the congratulatory tweets was this one:

If you’re wondering about the author, the Twitter account @eu_eeas provides the “Latest news from the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s Foreign & Security Policy Service led by Catherine Ashton.” Set up in 1 December 2010, with an initial budget of €9.5 million, this body, which is meant to act as the foreign ministry and diplomatic corps for the EU, offers the budding Kissingers of today, in desperate need of a number, a website with a choice of 23 different languages. To be fair, upon clicking through and after finding the Contact page, one is presented with +32 2 584 11 11. Some might regard this as a modest return, given the body’s huge 2012 budget of €489 million, a fat-cat salary of €286,580 for “High Representative” Baroness Ashton and a staff of 3,500.

Stepping off the gravy train for a moment, we find that 12-hour talks in Brussels concluded yesterday with European foreign ministers unable to reach the unanimous decision required to extend the current Syrian arms embargo. According to this news report, “analysts say Assad will be playing much closer attention to voices from Washington and Moscow, rather than the bickering Europeans.”

What’s that number again?


John Stuart Mill on Syria

Tuesday, 30 April, 2013 0 Comments

“When the contest is only with native rulers, and with such native strength as those rulers can enlist in their defence, the answer I should give to the question of the legitimacy of intervention is, as a general rule, No. The reason is that there can seldom be anything approaching to assurance that intervention, even if successful, would be for the good of the people themselves… The liberty which is bestowed on them by hands other than their own will have nothing real, nothing permanent.”

John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 — 8 May 1873)

The essay, A Few Words On Non-Intervention, was published in 1859 and was written in the context of the construction of the Suez Canal and the recent Crimean War. It addresses the question of under what circumstances states should be allowed to intervene in the sovereign affairs of another country.


In the Harbour-Town

Friday, 26 April, 2013 0 Comments

Emis — young, twenty-eight —
reached this Syrian harbour in a Tenian ship,
his plan to learn the incense trade.
But ill during the voyage,
he died as soon as he was put ashore.
His burial, the poorest possible, took place here.
A few hours before dying he whispered something
about “home,” about “very old parents.”
But nobody knew who they were,
or what country he called home
in the great pan-Hellenic world.
Better that way; because as it is,
though he lies buried in this harbour-town,
his parents will always have the hope he’s still alive.

C.P. Cavafy, translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Harbour town


Crazy Castellón and unreal Ciudad Real

Thursday, 4 October, 2012

The mania that gripped Spain during the past decade is ideally illustrated by two empty airports: Castellón-Costa Azahar in the Valencia region, which was completed 18 months ago at a cost of €150 million but is still awaiting the landing of its maiden commercial flight, and Ciudad Real, south of Madrid, which cost €1.1 billion […]

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Karl reMarks about Fisk and Friedman

Friday, 24 August, 2012

In times of trouble and strife, one turns for light relief to the great Karl reMarks. This week has been brightened by the superb “Robert Fisk: Reporting from Syria ‘with sensational quotes in the headline’“. Background: The fanatical idiotarian Robert Fisk is employed by the likes of The Independent and Raidió Teilifís Éireann to channel […]

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The Guardian tries its hand at Syrian satire

Thursday, 9 August, 2012

It’s been a while since Rainy Day has read Seamus Milne, the Guardian-based apologist for everything from jihad to communism. This week, he tried his hand at satire by laying the blame for the Syrian slaughter firmly at the doorstep of the West. In doing so, he pushed all the buttons beloved of the left: […]

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A performing Seale among the Syrian butchers

Wednesday, 25 July, 2012

“When the matter of human rights is raised with Syrian officials — particularly the jailing under harsh conditions of civil rights activists and political opponents — they point to far greater abuses by the United States and Israel. Western actions, they claim, have damaged the cause of democracy and human rights. Nevertheless, Syria’s record on […]

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“There is a lot of crisis going on currently in Syria”

Monday, 16 July, 2012

The perpetrators of “advance fee fraud”, which is generally known as the “Nigerian 419 scam“, keep a close eye on international developments and never miss an opportunity to match their message to the crisis du jour. In this case, it’s the Syrian civil war and here’s the message that was delivered to the Rainy Day […]

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