MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Uncertainty is even greater this year than in previous years. There are numerous stalled processes waiting to explode or peter out in just about every country as well as in important parts of the Muslim world outside of the Middle East.
A few relatively safe predictions that we can dare to make:
Israel and the Palestinians
- Hamas remains in power in Gaza at least.
- Al Qaeda will show at least some presence in Palestinian areas. Palestinian sources report that Fatah al-Islam is established in Gaza. Bin Laden has mentioned "Palestine" as a target for his Jihad.
- Israel will dismantle at least some illegal outposts under US pressure.
- Israel will actually reduce, if not eliminate, settlement expansion. especially in areas outside of the security fence.
- Visit of President Bush will produce a great show of activity, but little real results.
- PA in West Bank will increase cooperation with Israel in security matters.
- Israel will relax security at some checkpoints in the West Bank.
- PA will not be able to eliminate terror groups such as Islamic Jihad in the West Bank.
- IDF will continue to arrest Islamic Jihad and other wanted people in the West Bank.
- Israel will not retake all of Gaza,
- Not a prediction - Israel may undertake a major operation with the goal of cutting off arms supplies and eliminating Qassam rocket firing - short of retaking the entire Gaza strip.
- US troop "draw down" will occur as planned, regardless of objective security situation.
- Political situation will continue to be stalled and will be complicated by growing dissatisfaction of Kurds over Turkish incursions.
- Israel will not attack Iran.
- USA will not attack Iran.
- Iran will continue enrichment of uranium, but will not have or announce nuclear weapons capability.
U.S. Presidential election
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Replies: 2 comments
Your predictions and observations about the U.S. elections were quite interesting. The first in a long series of party primaries was held last night in Iowa. The winners - Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. The talking heads over here don't know what to make of it. For months they've painted both men as outsiders - Obama as an un-tested, un-proven novice and Huckabee as a former Batist minster with the skills of a preacher and the political knowledge of a dunce.
The reality here is much more complex.
Both men have tapped into a growing sense that the politics of division that has dominated the U.S. since Richard Nixon have failed. There's a deep sense that politics has abandoned the common man, that autocrats at all levels are far more interested in political power than they are in serving.
Obama has been preaching a message of hope and change. He talks of restoring America's moral authority in the world, about finding a just end to our involvement in Iraq, about health care and manufacturing jobs leaving America while corporate executives pull in 400 million dollar salaries for jettisoning the jobs. He talks about crossing party lines to solve problems.
The talk sounds familiar. Politicians have said these things before. But Obama is something new. He's an African-American. His father was born in Kenya, his mother here in Kansas where I live. He's young and vibrant. But, more importantly, he has the ring of authenticity that Hillary Clinton and John Edwards just don't have. Mrs. Clinton is being seen by many in her own party as an opportunist willing to say anything to get elected. She began by assuming that the nomination would be inevitable, that it would be a coronation. She held up her experience and compared to Obama's lack of experience. He countered by saying that experience has gotten us Cheney and Rumsfeld. She kept telling everyone she was candidate of party stability. Obama presented himself as the agent of change. When it became clear that his message was hitting home, Mrs. Clinton suddently became the agant for change. It was classic Clintonism. When one message fails, take on the message that is succeeding, regardless of whether or not you believe it.
Well, none of it worked. The primary reason was authenticity. The Democrats saw that Mrs. Clinton might be nothing more than a morally backrupt chamelion and flocked to Obama. Even women, which should have been her strongest constituency, voted for Obama over her. Whites (Iowa is about 94% white, 3% Hispanic, and 3% African-American) also voted for a black man over the woman whose husband was one hailed by black power brokers (Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et all) as "America's first African-American president."
On the Republican side Mike Huckabee had no money to compete with the patrician good looks and bankroll of Mitt Romney. But, he had a message. He presented himself as a pro-life candidate who didn't hate pro-choicers. He said that America was tired of the politics of left and right and was now wanting the politics of "up." He chastised the Bush administration for its bunker mentality on Iraq. He railed against the corporate fat cats who made millions while Americans in blue collar workers were being laid off by the thousands. He complained about a tax system that punishes productivity and rewards corporate interests seeking tax breaks and benefits to enhance profits. He said that Americans were tired of politicians buying votes with huge bankrolls, assuming that a lot of money and a political machine were the critical ingredients to success.
In one debate the media tried to trap him. He was asked about immigration (a big issue here in the heartland) and what Jesus would have done about immigration if he had been a politician. I think they assumed that they had a fundamentalist on the roasting spit and were going to catch him in his religion. Huckabee's response - "Jesus was far too smart to ever run for political office." The humor had two effects. It revealed the media as the ones trying to use religion as a wedge issue and it also revealed that Huckabee was far smarter than the media or his opponents had believed. Like Obama's answer to the question of experience, it got Huckabee far more support than all the money and political machinery could buy for Mitt Romney.
The talking heads understand Mike Huckabee less than they do Barack Obama. To them he's nothing more than a fundamentalist firebrand. This is where they've made a serious error in judgement. There's more to him than meets the eye. When he was recently asked why he was gaining support he said that he's far more in tune with the guy who's getting laid off than he is with the corporate fat cat. The powerful don't like him for that. The people here in America's heartland do. The powerful think that religious people support him because he's one of their own. There's only a very small grain of truth in that. He's being supported in part because evangelical Christians are tired of having the Republican Party tell us what we should believe and in part because we're tired of the powerful in the media, like Rush Limbaugh, dictating our theology as if they were our resident theologians. We're tired of the powerful assuming that if they tell us what we want to hear that they can get in power and then neglect us till the next election cycle.
Can either man win his party's nomination? The wheel's still in spin. But I can say that all the party machinery available is going to go after them tooth and nail.
Is either man the right man at the right time? There's no way to tell that either. They've passed the leadership tests to this point and have won against the politically powerful. That's enough for now.
As for what a Huckabee or Obama presidency would mean to Israel, it's all difficult to know. I think what both men represent here is a great sense that the time for a two-state solution and all the compromise that would entail needs to be pursued honestly. Perhaps an American leader without intimate "American" knowledge of the Middle-East or Isreal would be a benefit rather than a problem. Perhaps an American leader who listened to those in Israel who want peace would be a benefit. Perhaps our problem all along has been the geopolitical scheming that has prevented a solution. Perhaps an American leader who would get the pulse of the people of Israel would be a benefit. Perhaps a leader in Israel who also had a good feel for Israel's pulse would be beneficial.
Posted by Phil Dillon @ 01/04/2008 07:55 PM CST
Actually, your comment about Huckabee knowing little of your region, I think
Posted by D. West @ 01/13/2008 04:29 AM CST
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