World

We’ve had more than a few homilies from the president about how Islam is a communion of peace. And I don’t doubt that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who yearn for quiet and productive lives. May Allah be with them, according to their prayers. If they are a majority in Islam--and I’m not sure they are--they are a silent majority. In any event, the defining strain among many Arab and Muslim states is the reign of violence and the dread fear of it.

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What were two members of a violent Basque separatist group doing with 11 members of Colombia's narco-Marxist insurgency in a remote corner of southwestern Venezuela in August 2007? According to a blockbuster indictment handed down by a Spanish judge last week, they were participating in a kind of intercontinental terrorist training camp held under the aegis of the Venezuelan military.

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“Let’s talk about why you plan to kill me.” It was March 1987, and Milt Bearden was sitting in a spare interview room at the Islamabad headquarters of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Bearden was then the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, serving as the link between Washington and the U.S.-funded Afghan rebels bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had come to see the mujahedin’s most lethal warlord, a radical Islamist named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

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I’ve written myself about the Obama administration’s more-than-flatfooted policies on Syria (here, here, and here) and Iran (here, here, and here). So I am particularly gratified when I find myself in alignment with Barry Rubin, a truly brainy scholar with a slight polemical touch. His latest analysis is below. Syria is a galling instance of the president’s obsessions ... and for several reasons. A weak country, both economically and militarily, its only possible political sway is to exacerbate the hatreds of its neighbors towards Israel.

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There were moments--long moments--during the Iraq war when I had my doubts. Even deep doubts. Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture like this in the Arab world turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong. Of course, Iraq hasn’t turned out that well. Sunni jihadniks are still routinely murdering pious Shi’a on pilgrimage to Karbala.

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Sunday is election day in Iraq—the second national parliamentary vote since the American-led invasion in 2003. U.S. officials maintained this week that Obama’s plan to withdraw all American combat troops by September 1st is still on track, but that’s almost certainly untrue if the elections don’t go smoothly.

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Yes, I’ve been harping on the FT’s coverage of Israel. Perhaps, you haven’t agreed with my complaints. Well, read what the paper has to say about the subject this morning. The column is by the historian Andrew Roberts, and it’s a must read. Keep up with TNR on Facebook and Twitter.

Hardly a day goes by that the Financial Times doesn’t do a hit job on Israel. The otherwise sober pink sheet has such an obsession with the Jewish state that I’ve come to wonder what its views were on the rescue of Jewish children into England during the Nazi onslaught on them and on their parents. Tobias Buck is virtually on call full time to twist Israeli reality into his own jaundiced view of Zionism. Last week in the FT, he came to conclusions about Israel’s diplomatic isolation which he himself had trumpeted.

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The Boston Globe must be one of the most fastidiously civil-libertarian newspapers in America. So much so that it has lost many of its normal liberal readers (that is, Americans who are not blind to the perils the country faces from Muslim terrorism). In an editorial on Thursday, “Al Qaeda’s troubling new focus,” the paper offers a short (but very incomplete) narrative of what has occurred recently on the domestic terror scene. But the fact is that I do not concur that the change is so dramatic. There has been home-grown and violent Islamic jihadism since before 9/11.

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That would make one less “special envoy” in the president’s service, which couldn’t be bad. According to Jack Khoury in Ha’aretz, the information came from “an Arab political source,” unidentified but published in Hadith a-Nass, a Nazareth-based daily (responsible, I’m told). Mitchell’s reason for wanting to quit are said to be two. One is that he believes “that certain elements within the State Department hold biased favor toward Israel.” Historically, this would be a brand-new departure in attitude for a bureaucracy that has always been more than a bit churlish towards the Jewish state.

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