Saturday, February 9, 2019

Religion, Nations, and Geopolitical Review: Saturday Feb 9

by A. Joseph Lynch and Dr. David Pence


Pope Francis offers Mass on the Arabian peninsula Feb 5.2019 

135,000 of the million Catholics in UAE attend--almost all manual laborers 

The unprecedented public celebration of the Eucharist-the first Papal mass and
 the largest public Christian ritual in UAE history  


THE POPE IN THE UAEBishop welcomes him-this momentous day. Social practices in the UAE like working females in public and freedom of worship for non Muslims show the stark contrast of the Wahhabi UAE and the Wahhabi Saudis. The Qatar Wahhabis who are more like UAE call this deep difference the Wahhabi of the Sea and the Wahhabi of the Sand. (Zenit Catholic News on significance of the day).

The Conference on Human Fraternity also emphasized the importance of national citizenship. The first panel was all female. This shows that any serious discussion of an anthropology of agreement will recognize sexual distinctions in social roles. There was no discussion of integrating women into male roles but about finding the proper contributory role of women. This is truly a discussion of the anthropology of accord. (ed: Politics as fraternity-Latin American thinkers remind us that liberty and equality were accompanied by a third musketeer-fraternity)

The mutual critique of atheistic modernity by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, was reminiscent of  Benedict XVI talk at Regensburg.  Human fraternity rests on a theocentric anthropology (The signed document).  This is a radical departure from the Social Darwinism  and atheistic anarchy that underlies the   "foreign policy realism "  of so many Western thinkers.

Muslims and Catholics share this God centered worldview while the Enlightenment West is wedded to individualism & materialism.  Along with this crucial theocentric reconfiguration is the public celebration on the Arabian peninsula of the Sacrifice of the Mass. No big deal to the modernists --just symbolic ritual. But for one million Catholics in the UAE (total population 9 mill) the ability to call down the Spirit and incarnate the Body of Christ to give glory and praise to the Father is what makes life worth living. To be free to worship in the country where they work is like having an oxygen tank for a deep sea diver.  135-180,000 Catholics and 4000 Muslims attended. May God be praised.
The capitalist vs communist paradigm is passing. Theocentric nations and religions must organize international relations before the individualists and materialists who traffic globalism engulf us in more wars without end. Pope Francis has a clear strategy of fraternity as the basis of relations with the two great civilizations the Church has been estranged from-China  and the Muslim world. (Francis unique approach to Muslims.)
A WARNING:This event will not go unanswered by Wahhabi Salafists of the Saudi, al Qaeda, ISIS variety. Remember the great offense that Osama bin Laden was avenging on 911 was the harboring of infidel troops on the Saudi Holy Land. Now the UAE monarch has allowed the high priest of the Crusaders to come in the middle of the Land of Islam and publicly offer the great Trinitarian Tribute of the Mass. The secularists may dismiss this act--salafist jihadists won't.
The Catholic Liturgy (this picture not in UAE)

The Muslim Council of Elders

There is an anthropological dimension to Fraternity that Muslims understand far better than the Atheist West. It usually culminates in a council of male elders. The Pope meets in this forum much more readily than Angela Merkel. The Council of Bishops under the Pope at Vatican II and now the regular Synods of Bishops are analogues of the male elders.  A Muslim council of elders is never looking for gender equity but always seeking true communal representation.
The Social Justice that begins with the duty man owes God (religion) is a very different social justice than the ideology beginning and culminating in the autonomous individual. The Catholic-Muslim dialogue-a common word between us and you-- is possible because we both submit to God and order public life around hierarchical male groups.

THE CONVERSION OF AMERICA BY EUCHARISTIC ADORATIONby Fr John Hardin on website Roman Catholic Man by Fr. Richard Heilman of Wisconsin.


STATE OF THE UNION: President Trump gave a sensational State of the Union followed by his talk at the National Prayer Breakfast quoting FDR's D-Day prayer.  All great American projects should begin in prayer. He began his talk by saying this is an event to praise "the glory of God and the power of prayer." Here is a telling interview with a charismatic pastor who wrote God and President Trump.

AMAZON'S BEZOS, THE WASHINGTON  POST,  EXTORTION AND THE SAUDIS: Breaking the tie of Israel and America to MbS of Saudi Arabia would reorder the Mideast away from Sunni jihadism toward the acknowledgment of national actors - Israel, Iran, Iraq and Syria to start and probably two Yemens - Shiite North and Sunni South. If it takes all this new intrigue to get journalists to focus on the truly malignant force in US politics - Saudi Arabia - then embarrassing pictures of Mr. Bezos are a small price to pay. Most stories so far are a mixture of the tawdry and the usual contorted attempts to "pin it on Trump or at least his evil influence" but there are more interesting angles to be explored.    AMI( National Enquirer) executive David Pecker has real financial ties to the Saudis and published the gaudy monograph of MbS to accompany his last visit to the US. The Saudi role in 911, the prolongation of the Iraq war by targeting Shiites as apostate Muslims, the instigating and arming for civil war in Syria, the arming of al Qaeda in the war against the Shiite Houthis in Yemen and the campaign for war against Iran are all far bigger stories of malignant Saudi behavior than the Khashoggi murder. But apparently it is the Post's coverage of Khashoggi that is making Bezos a target (that is his take).  If this is what it takes to turn the spotlight of American media on the nefarious role that the Saudis have played in shaping American foreign policy  for half a century--it is well worth it. The Washington Post is a talented pool of journalists. If they could break through the hate Trump psychosis, the Saudi story has a lot more history, relevance and content than Russia buying facebook time during elections..( ed: Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013 for 250 million. Within this linked article is another  link to an interesting interview with him.)


How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man?" BobDylan
Los Angeles Cheerleaders add two males to squad in 2018

It's been a long...long time coming but I know a change is gonna come. Sam Cooke
Martin Luther King Assassinated during this Memphis Sanitation Workers strike 1968

The Meaning of the Movement He Died For.

THE SUPER BOWL: The 2019 Super Bowl was a defensive struggle in which the best coached and most disciplined team emerged with victory. The young losing coach was incisive and magnanimous in defeat. The winning team spoke of the brotherhood of football and the love and loyalty that animated their efforts. Multiple commercials during the event celebrated female empowerment and social justice brand gender confusion. It was rank propaganda often featuring NFL head Roger Goodell as a Social Justice Warrior. He appears to be running for office. If he thinks he has access to the male vote he should pause. We dummies in the heartland understand how the reality on the field of patriarchal fraternity is exactly the opposite of the fantasy world of his advertisers and the propaganda of his public service announcements. The Christian interracial movement of brotherhood is not the father of the atheist drive to obliterate sexual differences and masculine identity. The ethic of masculine sports was hijacked during commercials but the masculine communal work ethic is still alive and well on the playing field. And while the frenzied emptiness of the half time show matched the commercials, the opening civic liturgy struck a different chord. The twin sisters from Atlanta sang the national prayer that gives meaning to the world of American football in their opening spiritual - "America, America, God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea." 


GUIDE TO THE MANOSPHERE: A brief, if somewhat salty, description of the secular men's movements that followed the rise of modern feminism. Three groups are described in this video: MRA's (men's rights activists), MGTOW's (men going their own way), and the Neo-Masculinity Movement. The speaker calls himself Coach Red Pill (the "red pill" is a reference to a pill used in the film The Matrix to wake people up from the illusion of the Matrix to see ugly world in which we really live). We may describe these groups, respectively, as dominated by anger, disengagement, and pagan-hedonism. There's plenty of toxic masculinity to be found here; what is still needed is consecrated masculinity.


NATAN SACHS: So the shorthand, I’d say, is four-plus-two. Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, plus the United States and Russia. And, if we include Egypt, which still wants to be a major player, and in some cases such as Gaza still is, perhaps it’s four-plus-two-plus-one.

On the UAE's outsized role

BRUCE RIEDEL: Perhaps we could change the dynamic to four-plus-two-plus-one-plus-a-half, with the half being Abu Dhabi. I mean that in two ways. One, it is all about Abu Dhabi, it’s not about the UAE. Dubai has strikingly different foreign policy views than Abu Dhabi. Dubai wants to be to Iran what Hong Kong or Singapore are to China. Abu Dhabi has an antagonistic relationship with Iran. And the other reason it’s a half is that as wealthy as Abu Dhabi is, it’s a city-state. And it has all the weaknesses of being a city-state. The Pentagon likes to call it the “Sparta of the Middle East.” They think that is a compliment. I would remind people, Sparta produced nothing, and today is a field in the Peloponnese.

But Abu Dhabi has outsized influence. It now controls more ports in the Horn of Africa and Yemen than any other country. The forces it’s arrayed in Yemen are the real ground forces, not the Saudis anymore. It’s become what Qatar was about 10 years ago when Hamad bin Jassim was the half and conspired to be the whole in influencing the region. Now we really have Mohammed bin Zayed.

JEFFREY FELTMAN: The United Arab Emirates play a very significant role in defining the politics of the Persian Gulf. Their strategic goals are counter-revolution, counter-Muslim Brotherhood, protection of the Emirati government system, and crucially, stability in Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates have become extremely concerned about the stability of Saudi Arabia, see Mohammed bin Salman as the key to Saudi stability, and have invested in his success. The participation of the United Arab Emirates in the Yemen war is largely because of Saudi Arabia. As I understand it, the diplomacy of the Horn of Africa was mostly done by Abu Dhabi, but the ceremony was in Saudi Arabia. This shows the influence of Abu Dhabi but also shows that Abu Dhabi wants to play up the stability and leadership role of Saudi Arabia. It’s worth thinking about the relationship between Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown price of Abu Dhabi, and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The fight with Qatar was born more in Abu Dhabi than in Riyadh, and it was used to help elevate Mohammed bin Salman into his current position perhaps earlier than might have otherwise happened. It became a tool by which Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince because his predecessor Muhammad bin Nayef was accused of being too pro-Qatar, too indulgent of Qatar’s Muslim Brotherhood sympathies. I think Mohammed bin Salman probably feels a certain loyalty to Mohammed bin Zayed over how he became crown prince and why.


BRUCE RIEDEL: Let’s not forget about Iraq, which has significant deposits of oil and natural gas, and a population that’s large enough to be significant. If you were to ask, “what is the power that is going to break this four-plus-two-plus-one structure and emerge and become another power?,” it’s almost certainly the Iraqis. They will come back at some point.

US role in Mideast

BRUCE RIEDEL: I am struck by a paradox. America’s military footprint in the Middle East today is more widespread than it’s ever been before. We now have American troops in Turkey, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and every Gulf state. Iran and Lebanon are the only two countries I can think of in the region where is there is no American troop presence. This reinforces a point that Martin made earlier, which is that Americans are tired of it, understandably. We look to be in an ever-growing quagmire with no end in sight, involved in civil wars that no one expects to end anytime soon, and we’re in the crossfire in all of them.
JEffREY FELTMAN: The fight within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) against Qatar is an example of declining U.S. influence. Those of us that worked in the government remember the many times that we would bring together the six GCC countries for various meetings, usually with an anti-Iran focus. And it was clear that there were differences between Doha and Abu Dhabi, and between Doha and Riyadh even then. But somehow we were able to manage this. That no longer seems to be the case. The United States has not been able to help the GCC overcome this ideological difference between the Muslim Brotherhood-Qatar crowd and the anti-Muslim  Brotherhood-UAE-Saudi Arabia crowd.
BRUCE RIEDEL: The Iran example points to another odd thing. Since 1979, no Middle Eastern country has taken oil off the market. Only the United States has taken oil off the market. It’s been American sanctions against Iraq, Libya, and Iran, and now Iran again, that have reduced oil on the market. It isn’t the region that’s a threat to the market. If you look at the historical record of the last quarter century, it’s the United States of America that’s a threat to the market.

Saudi Arabia

BRUCE RIEDEL: I think there are four principal Saudi objectives. The first is to counter Iran. The Saudis see Iran as their principal threat in the region, and they rapidly go from countering Iran to countering Shi’ism. This is rooted deeply in Wahhabi ideology. There’s virtually no difference in their minds between the two.
The second is counter-revolution, and by that I mean countering moves toward democratic political reforms in the region, which Saudi Arabia is adamantly against. Saudi Arabia makes no secret it is an absolute monarchy and has no intention of ever becoming a democratic state. 
The third is counterterrorism. Here there’s a paradox of course. Saudi Arabia is determined to fight terrorist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State, which target Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is also, because of its Wahhabi ideology, often the petri dish in which radical Islamic ideas flourish, particularly in the Muslim communities in Europe. 
The fourth is to counter Israel. Although here I think there are more signs of confusion within the Kingdom than we’ve seen heretofore.
I make two overall comments about this. From the Saudi standpoint, many of these issues overlap. A good example is the intervention in Bahrain in 2011, which was undertaken to counter Iran, counter democratic reforms, counter Shi’ism, and, since anyone who is espousing all of those things must be a terrorist, to counter terrorism as well. They only lacked an Israeli angle. And I’m sure if they tried, they could have found one.
The other thing I would say is that when you look at issue number one—countering Iran—the sorry story for the Saudis is that they’re losing, and losing badly. Lebanon and Syria were essentially lost to the Iranians in the 1980s, and the Syrian civil war has just moved them even further out of the Saudi orbit. Iraq was lost by the disastrous decision of the George W. Bush administration to intervene and then to foolishly hold elections, which guaranteed a Shiite takeover, at least from the Saudi standpoint. Yemen is a more complicated story, but the bottom line there is that the Saudis have gotten themselves into a quagmire that costs them billions of dollars a month, and costs the Iranians, at most, a couple of million dollars a month. If anyone was to look at this as a corporate entity, they would say this is a disastrous decision for you to make. 
Which gets me to my last point. Saudi Arabia may have more aspirations for regional leadership today than it has ever had. Witness that they just signed a peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea in Saudi Arabia, and brought in Djibouti as well. The prime minister of Pakistan made his first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia, and President Trump made his first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia. Yet while the Saudis are definitely very active diplomatically, questions about the stability of the Kingdom are higher now that they’ve been in 50 years. And there is a very serious question about what the line of succession is going to produce, and whether it will be disrupted by some kind of internal political upheaval. It is very fascinating that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has spent the last four months sleeping every night on a yacht off Jeddah in the Red Sea because he doesn’t feel safe sleeping on the ground. 

Let’s turn to Turkey. It seems to me that a central and surely driving concern of Turkish engagement in the Middle East is its internal politics, including the role of President Erdogan and a repositioning of Turkish domestic politics toward Islam. 

KEMAL KIRISCI: First of all, it’s Erdogan’s strategy, not Turkey’s. The easiest way to capture his strategic perspective is reflected by two different hand gestures he frequently employs. From about 2012 to about nine or ten months ago, Erdogan’s strategic perspective on the Middle East was symbolized by the four-finger Rabia salute, denoting solidarity with the Muslim Brotherhood. From this you can deduce the poor relations with Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, the close relations with Qatar, and Turkey’s ambiguous, confusing policies over Libya. 
But during the run up to the presidential elections in June 2018 he raised his other hand too in a four-finger salute, denoting “one state, one nation, one flag, one language.” This is Turkish nationalism pure and simple. And that helped him win the elections with 52 percent of the vote by receiving a substantial part of the nationalist votes. So his strategic perspective now is a very confusing and conflicting one because voices captured by the nationalist four finger hand sign are openly telling him that he has to build bridges with Bashar Assad and pre-empt the emergence of a Kurdish autonomous entity in northern Syria and ensure the return of at least some of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees. And that a huge economy like Egypt cannot be ignored. And to get on with Israel and the United States. So in a nutshell, I think we’re seeing a tug of war in Turkey’s strategic perspectives between two very separate constituencies that have coalesced under these two hand gestures.

After the accession of King Salman to the Saudi throne, Turkey developed close relations with Muhammad bin Nayef and managed to sustain a collaborative relationship against all odds. However, once Mohammed bin Salman successfully maneuvered himself into the position of crown prince in July 2017, the picture began to change dramatically and the Saudi-Turkish relationship became increasingly strained. This coincided with an escalating crisis between the two sides when Saudi Arabia together with Bahrain, the UAE, and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar and imposed an economic blockade over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its refusal to terminate its ties with Iran. In response, Turkey sent additional troops to its small military base in Qatar as a deterrent against a possible Saudi military intervention, which would seek the overthrown of Tamim al Thani, the emir of Qatar. Turkey further deepened its ties with Qatar establishing a new food logistic line via Iran, enabling it to withstand the blockade. Yet, what aggravated matters for Erdogan most were Mohammed bin Salman’s policies toward Israel, his willingness to entertain Trump’s Middle East peace plan with Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, his close relationship with Jared Kushner, and his decision to pledge $100 million to help with reconstruction in northeastern parts of Syria controlled by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds.  The murder of Khashoggi thus became a golden opportunity for Erdogan to embark on an ambitious project and seek a change in the line of succession to the Saudi throne by discrediting the legitimacy of the crown prince. The whole Khashoggi affair has benefitted Erdogan domestically as well as internationally, even though it is not evident that he succeeded in achieving his ambition to see Mohammed bin Salman removed from power. Yet, throughout the saga, Erdogan kept King Salman out of the scandal and showed deference by referring to him as the custodian of the holy mosques. This suggests that for the time being Erdo??an is likely to continue to seek a pragmatic relationship with Saudi Arabia, especially at a time when Turkey is going through economic difficulties and needs Saudi finance and trade. However, the presence of Mohammed bin Salman at the helm of Saudi foreign policy will ensure that both sides remain locked in a major rivalry as far as the future of Middle East geopolitics is concerned.

What are Israel’s strategic objectives in the region? 

NATAN SACHS: I think there are just three strategic interests, and then a fourth outcome of them. The first strategic interest is itself often described as threefold: Iran, Iran, and Iran. This is the Israeli focus on countering Iran and Iranian influence in a variety of different realms. The nuclear realm, which still underlies a lot of what Israel thinks about, and is in some ways the only existential threat that the Israelis, especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, identify on the horizon. Countering Hezbollah, Iran’s main proxy, as Suzanne described it, and the main conventional military threat that the Israelis identify—it’s not the Egyptian military or the Syrian military, as in the past--Hezbollah is the one the planners are really concerned about. Israel’s military planners are actively preparing to counter Hezbollah’s rocket arsenal or an attack targeting the Galilee. The third realm of Iranian influence is Syria and Iran’s military presence there. This is another major concern for the Israelis. As a byproduct, Israel has invested in its relationship with Russia, now a very important focal point and an important Israeli interest, as we saw recently in the headlines.

Speaking of Russia

ANGELA STENT: Russia’s return to the Middle East after the withdrawal from the region that followed the Soviet collapse is one of Putin’s major foreign policy achievements. Unlike in Soviet times, Russian policy is pragmatic and non-ideological, which gives it considerable flexibility. Russia has ties with all the major regional players, irrespective of their internal politics. Indeed, Russia is the only major power that talks to the Shiite states, the Sunni states, and to Israel. It has been able to establish cooperative ties with the region’s main protagonists and antagonists: Israel and the Palestinians; Israel and Iran; Iran and Saudi Arabia; Turkey and the Kurds; both Libyan governments; and Hamas and Hezbollah. Putin has taken advantage of the U.S. ambivalence about its future role in the region to re-assert Russia’s influence there. Indeed, Russia has begun to replace the United States as the go-to player in this fractured region. Its intervention in Syria and support for Assad have enabled Putin to achieve one of his major goals—Russia’s return to the global board of directors. Russia is in the Middle East for the long haul. It is seeking to convert its decisive role in Syria—ensuring that Assad prevailed and stayed in power—to a broader role of regional power broker. But there is also a domestic element here. Russia has an ongoing problem with radicalization and jihadism amongst its Muslim population—20 million and growing. The Kremlin viewed the Arab Spring, particularly what happened in Libya, as a dangerous precedent for what could happen elsewhere—including in Russia. Putin has given the figure of 4,000 people who have gone from Russia to fight with ISIS. Russia wants to ensure that these jihadists do not return home and it seeks to minimize the ability of foreign terrorist groups to radicalize Russian citizens.
Since Putin came to power, Russia has developed close ties with two countries that were shunned in the Soviet times—Israel and Saudi Arabia. In the Israeli case, the driving factors are Iran and domestic politics. Netanyahu depends on Russia to restrain Hezbollah’s activities in the Golan Heights and 1.4 million Israeli citizens come from the former Soviet space and retain links with Russia and its neighbors. In the Saudi case, the driving factors are Iran and oil. Like the Israelis, the Saudis seek Russian help in containing Iran. And the two countries are cooperating on restricting oil production to maintain higher prices. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia—like the Trump administration—- hope that Russia will curtail Iran’s role in Syria once the war is over. But that overestimates Russia’s influence over Iran. Russia will remain in Syria once the war is over and is actively seeking Western help in its reconstruction. But Putin has said that Iran will remain in Syria. However, the Russian-Iranian relationship could become more conflictual once the war is over.

QATAR WILL HOST THE WORLD SOCCER FINALSTo warm up they took the Asian Cup against all odds. They won most of their games in Abu Dhabi, UAE where their fans could not come to follow them because of the blockade. The UAE fans during the semifinals were rude and disgraceful throwing shoes at players after they scored points. See discussion above about the different roles Qatar and UAE play in Mideast affairs and also the huge cultural difference between Dubai of the UAE  and Abu Dhabi of the UAE.

A TERRORISM CONFERENCE: Brookings Institute John Allen concludes with a call not to invade Iran because the overwhelming cause of worldwide terrorism is jihadist Sunni. He also implies Syria and other real states should be supported not overthrown if we desire peace. Bruce Reidel showed the destabilizing effect of the Saudi under Muhammad bin Salman.  The think tank conversation is improving.

IN YEMEN: US ARMS SOLD TO SAUDIS ARE IN HANDS OF AL QAEDA AND A FEW ARE WITH HOUTHISThe arms are in hands of Al Qaeda because they are willing to fight the Shiites so the Saudi Arm Merchants give the guns to the men who will use them.  The Houthis only get US arms when they take them from defeated enemies  in battle. From the beginning of MbS war against Shiite Houthis , the journalists who knew Yemen (see Gregory Johnsen analysis) reported this will only help Al Qaeda.

WHO ARE THE HOUTHIS? UNDERSTANDING YEMENExcellent short history by Bruce Reidel.

ABOUT VENEZUELAThe worldwide leftists are stuck in a failing paradigm.

CHINA AND THE TECH WAR;  THE THOUGHT OF XI JINPING5G is the new SputnikGood explanation of the party state nationalism of Xi Jinping.

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