Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inside America: Is the United States an Honest Broker in the Israel-Palestine Conflict?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

The United States is the superpower, which sees itself as a moral power, as a force for good, and has indeed intervened to stop the escalation of massacres and genocides in Kosovo, Iraq and other parts of the world. But has the United States been an honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

In this program, I challenge two prominent America experts on Middle East's most discussed issue. One of them is David Makovsky, a former journalist who worked for Israeli publications. He's currently the director of the Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

The second speaker is Ziad Asali, the President and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine. He served as a member of the United States official delegation to the funeral of Yasser Arafat.

Invisible Victims: What is it like to be a Muslim in a post-9/11 United States?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

New York - “I used to live by a credo when I was a kid,” says Imam Samuel Incarnacion, a religious leader living in the town of Fallsburg in New York. “It’s baseball, hot dog, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

 Here is how he describes his life after 9/11: “what they call a moderate Muslim, to an Islamist to an extremist, they paint us with one brash: we are all terrorists, that we are all potential terrorists…If I get stopped four times a year by one police agency or another, it’s too little. I get a call from FBI at least twice a year.”

“Invisible Victims” is a documentary I've produced for Rudaw in the United States. It chronicles stories of several Muslims who have witnessed or been subjected to direct discrimination in the US.

 In 2011, the Associated Press won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of investigative reports that revealed the New York Police Department (NYPD) had been spying on Muslims for more than six years.

While the NYPD says its investigations were aimed at stopping terrorism, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit said in August 2012 that its spying activities “ never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation,” according to the Associated Press.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Noam Chomsky on the Kurds

By Namo Abdulla  -- for Rudaw

Editor’s note: This interview was conducted with Noam Chomsky in April 2012 for Rudaw TV. 
CAMBRIDGE, United States - There’s little doubt that Noam Chomsky is the world’s most influential  and greatest thinker alive.

He has written more than 100 books on a variety of topics, ranging from linguistics to politics, people and power, liberty, oppression, resistance and imperialism.  

I came to know Chomsky shortly after I graduated from high school through a profile of him that I read in a Kurdish-language newspaper in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

I learned that Chomsky was critical of the policies of Israel and those of the United States in the Middle East.

I also found out that he has long been a supporter of the oppressed peoples such as Palestinians and the Kurds.
As my curiosity led me to more readings about him, I learned that he was the co-singer of a 1975 open letter titled, “The Plight of the Kurds” that asked the world powers to stop the Iraqi government from massacring the Kurdish minority. 

Chomsky’s plea was ignored. The world didn’t act, and sure enough, genocide followed.

Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds with chemical weapons while the Western powers stood by, and even supported him throughout the 1980s. Chomsky has written about all of this in great detail.

“You can’t look at history and believe governments act out of a kind of moral commitment,” Chomsky told me. “And the Kurds have a history, which demonstrates this with horrible reality.”  

The first time I interviewed him was several years ago when I was an undergraduate student in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan Region. It crossed my mind to send him an email in my broken English. 

Of course, it seemed unrealistic to wait for a reply from such a renowned author. So I never did. 

But a few days later, he replied with willingness to talk to a Kurdish student journalist. At that moment, I felt I was the luckiest person on earth and went around telling everyone I knew of the great news. Then I picked up the phone and called the editor of Kurdistan’s most-read magazine, Lvin, which would publish the interview as its cover story. 

Then in February 2010, I had another opportunity to conduct a 30-minute phone interview with him. It was again focused on the Kurds. 
After that phone conversation, I began to hope that I would one day meet Chomsky in person. 

In 2011, I arrived in the United States to study a master’s program at Columbia University’s journalism school in New York.  Shortly after my arrival, I sent Chomsky an email asking whether he had time for a television interview with me. 

By this time, many things had changed. The so-called Arab Spring had brought profound changes to the Muslim world, almost of the same caliber as the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of a new Middle East.

I’m curious whether this time around the more than 30 million Kurds would have an opportunity to achieve what they did not as the Ottoman Empire collapsed nearly a century ago. 

But in the words of Chomsky, no matter what is happening around them, the "Kurds should always remember their famous slogan that the Kurds have no friends except the mountains."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

America Celebrates Fourth of July

Five Reasons Why Obama “Deeply Concerned” By Morsi’s Ouster

By Namo Abdulla - Rudaw
Egyptian anti-regime protesters hold a banner against President Mohamed Morsi during a demonstration in the coastal city of Alexandria. Photo: AFP

WASHINGTON DC—The United States has undoubtedly no love for the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideology or its leader Mohammed Morsi. America prefers a secular democracy in Egypt. It certainly does not mind a secular authoritarianism as long as it’s a good US ally. For decades that was the case under Hosni Mubarak. 

Mubarak ruled Egypt throughout five U.S. administrations. But US-Egypt relationship never changed.

This perception of Egyptian politics however, is not coined by the Obama Administration. In October 2009, nearly a year before the Egyptians ousted Mubarak, President Obama received Mubarak at the Oval Office. “The United States and Egypt have worked together closely for many years,” said President Obama in a press conference sitting next to Mubarak. “And for many of those years, President Mubarak has been a leader and a counselor and a friend to the United States.” 

Then why was Obama, in his own words, “deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution” earlier last week? 
  The Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political party in Egypt.  

There is more than one answer to this question:  
One: President Obama knows that the ouster of Morsi does not equate to the demise of the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party in Egypt. Even if we accept the argument of the so-called liberals that President Morsi failed to meet the expectations of the revolutionaries in ONE whole year, the failure of Morsi is the failure of just one Muslim Brotherhood member, not that of the entire movement.  

Conversely, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political party in Egypt. Throughout its 85-year existence - mostly as a clandestine group- it has been able to win the hearts and minds of millions of people mostly in the underdeveloped parts of the country by building hospitals and aggressively fighting illiteracy. It did so in the face of enormous oppression from the country’s authoritarian elite, which arrested and executed its key members for decades until the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. In the post 2011 uprising elections, however, Morsi won nearly 52 percent of the votes, a big percentage in a country sharply divided into secular, liberal, Salafi and moderate Islamist groups. In brief, if Democracy is to succeed in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose constituency largely draws from people who are not swing voters and rather vote based on ideology, is more likely going to be part of the ruling than the ruled class. Make no mistake, a couple million anti-Morsi protesters doesn’t mean the victory of liberal democracy over the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama does not and he’s right. 
  It’s a matter of credibility for the United States, and that credibility is already at stake, 

Two: What the Egyptian military did was an undemocratic move, which the United States, as a country that sees itself as a promoter of democracy and freedom the world over, had difficulties backing. It’s a matter of credibility for the United States, and that credibility is already at stake as the Egyptian military, which received millions in aid from the United States, carried out a coup against the country’s first democratically elected president. Even though Obama avoided using the term “coup” in reference to the overthrow of Morsi, other Americans, including Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, have. Leahy said the Egyptian military's move was a coup and the US had to cut off its aid to Egypt. “Our law is clear,” he said on Wednesday. Similarly, the New York Times says the ouster of Morsi “was unquestionably a coup.” So how can Obama support a coup? He cannot, at least in public. But he is also careful to not actively stand against it and call it a “coup” because of the apparently wide popular support it received. 

Obama, however, needs to be more forcefully -in both words and action- against the arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood members by the military because of the simple reason that the military will have no future in a democratic Egypt. Regardless of who is in power - liberals or Islamists- the next Egyptian leader’s first job is likely going to be drafting a new constitution that brings the military under civilian control. This is what Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan did a few years ago. He amended Turkey’s constitution and threw the generals in jail on charges of involvement in past coups. The US hailed the decline of militarism in Turkey as a tribute to democracy. 

Three: It is likely that shunning the Muslim Brotherhood out of the political process would nurture more radical Islamists, and perhaps al-Qaeda sympathizers, in Egypt. If they are convinced that politics is entirely closed to them and that the United States is in any way the reason, many moderate Egyptians would not think twice to join radical groups, who are abundant and ready to recruit in the Arab land. Just look at what is happening in Syria. The more America is reluctant to intervene and support them against Assad’s regime, the more aggressive and radical they become. With the start of the Arab Spring, many people spoke of the irrelevance of al-Qaeda’s worldview as Muslims seemed to have found alternative ways to choose the political system they wanted in their countries. The United States had actively been against that for decades. It should not repeat the same mistake. This is a different age. It’s the age of the people. In the Muslim world, there are plenty of people who, regardless of the cost, will longer sit down and accept repressive governments.
   Just look at what is happening in Syria. The more America is reluctant to intervene and support them against Assad’s regime, the more aggressive and radical they become.  

Four: The United States, like many others, is confused about the makeup and goals of the anti-Morsi camp. It was, for instance, surreal to see Salafists, liberals and the military all in one camp against Morsi. The last thing Obama wants to see is the ascendance of the Salafistis to power in Egypt. Given the fabric of the Egyptian society, this is highly unlikely to happen at this time. But can those people who share the same grievances against Morsi reach an agreement and work together? Unlikely.  

Five: The last but certainly not the least, has to do with the significance of Egypt as a country for the United States. First of all, Egypt is the most populous Arab nation and has long been an important player in securing America’s strategic interests, including the stability of Israel, which shares border with Egypt. Egypt and Israel have the Camp David peace deal, which has been key for Israel’s security since 1978. Convinced that the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be an important political actor in Egypt, the Obama Administration will never want to ruin its future relations with the group. 
But Obama’s “deeply concerned” statement was a rather neutral statement as it refused to call Morsi’s ouster a “coup.” The neutrality is rooted more in the administration's lack of understanding of what is happening in Egypt rather than in its love or hatred for any particular group there.

Namo Abdulla is Rudaw’s senior correspondent in Washington, D.C

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Invaded by Bush, Abandoned by Obama: What's Next for Iraq?

By Namo Abdulla - for Rudaw

By 2003, an iron-fisted dictator had ruled Iraq for nearly three decades. At that time, a Republican man named George W. Bush decided the only way to make the country better was to invade it.

But nearly a decade later, a Democrat named Barack Obama thought the best thing for the United States was to withdraw its troops from Iraq as quickly as possible.

That sounds like a stark difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to foreign policy. 

But is that really the case? 

This episode of Inside America is going to look at U.S. foreign policy regarding a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. It questions the efficacy and feasibility of major strategies such as the notorious de-Bathification policy, the surge and other plans and diplomatic resolutions proposed, ignored or implemented. 

It finally asks whether President Obama’s withdrawal was “responsible” as he had pledged in his 2008 election campaigns.

Throughout a 10-year occupation, what went wrong and what else can the United States do to right those mistakes? 

The interviewees include:

Ambassador David Mack, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs. At the final years of the Cold War, he served as the US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mack's US diplomatic assignments included Iraq, Jordan, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. 

James J. Zogby, the author of Arab Voices, and the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based research organization on Arab Americans. Dr. Zogby is a visiting Professor of Social Research at New York University in Abu Dhabi.  He has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees. He has also been a guest speaker at the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  He has led US delegations for peace talks between Israel and Palestine.