Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Putin Sees the World Very Differently Than We Do. By Jonathan Adelman.

Vladimir Putin inauguration, May 7, 2012. Wikimedia.

Our Problem Is that He Sees the World Very Differently than We Do. By Jonathan Adelman. History News Network, September 28, 2015.


Vladimir Putin seems to be an enigma who brings out the worst in America’s leaders. He scores over 80 percent public support in Russia but is loathed by American leaders. At the G-20 summit in Russia in 2013 Obama called Putin a “jackass.” Deriding Russia as a regional power, Obama has more recently compared Putin to a kid who slouches in the back of the classroom. Hillary Clinton has compared Vladimir Putin to Adolph Hitler in seeking to redraw the boundaries of Europe. Even worse, Putin faces international sanctions, a massive decline in the fall of oil prices, sharp decline in the ruble and a sagging Russian economy.

Yet, in the Middle East Putin has skillfully built on the semi-withdrawal of the United States from the region, Sunni Arab perception of American weakness after the Iran Deal, and the massive conflagrations in Syria and Iraq. After being ousted from the region by 2010 (save for Syria), Russia has made a strong comeback. Russia has signed a two-billion dollar arms deal with Egypt, talked of selling two nuclear reactors to Jordan and strengthened its relationship with Israel. Putin is building an air base and sending several thousand soldiers to Syria, complementing but also challenging Iranian efforts to dominate the region.

In taking South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia (2008), Crimea from Ukraine (2014) and now parts of the Left Bank from Ukraine (2015), Putin has shown himself to be a skillful leader in regaining much of Russia’s old influence in Eastern Europe.

American policy makers since the end of the Cold War have had difficulty in understanding Russian moves on the global scene.

Ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union followed by the weak Yeltsin decade, Russian studies in the United States have gone into a steep decline as the country was seen as largely irrelevant to the world scene. In the 1990s there was a 55 percent decline in the number of students in Russian politics. Together with the decline of area studies and a fascination with numbers crunching and abstract models, the average age of Russian specialists has soared into the 50s and even 60s. A classic example is Zbigniew Brzezinski, the dean of Russia watchers, who is 86 years old.

For most Americans, history is a distant shore literally and figuratively. Since the British burned down the White House and Capitol in 1814, America has never been invaded by a foreign military. Not one of the top 50 colleges or universities require a single course in American history, let alone Russian history. Neo-isolationism has been a constant thread from George Washington’s Farewell Address in 1797, when he warned against entangling foreign alliances to the “American Firsters” of Charles Lindbergh in the late 1930s. The 40 years of Cold War internationalism ended in the late 1980s and Americans, unhappy with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are ready for a partial withdrawal from the world. Americans, until recently, were future oriented, not past and historically oriented.

By contrast, history has been a powerful factor in Russia policy for over a thousand years. Russia has known numerous foreign invasions including the Mongol conquest (1240-1480), the Polish conquest of the Kremlin (1605), the Swedish invasion (1708), the French invasion (1812), the Crimean War (1853-1856) and smashing German victories in both World War I (1915-1917) and early World War II (1941-1942). With the disintegration of the Soviet superpower, Putin can play on the notion of a partial rebuilding of the Russian Empire in areas which remain populated by the 25 million Russians in the 14 non-Russian republics.

Similarly, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are adjacent to Russia or formerly part of the Soviet empire. They are near both historically and geographically. By contrast, the Middle East is 6,000 miles away from the East Coast and 8,500 miles away from the West Coast of the United States. Eastern Europe is 4,000 miles from the East Coast and 6,500 miles away from the West Coast.

Too, Putin can also play on religion. In the United States, while the great majority have some religious affiliation, religion is not formally a part of any policy. In Russia, religion is very important with Russian Orthodoxy strongly associated with the state and only four officially sanctioned religions (Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism).

To truly understand Putin’s continuing probing at the periphery with his conservative nationalism Americans need to contemplate a world often defeated, quite religious, far away and wrapped up in its history, all traits alien to the modern and liberal United States in 2015.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Jürgen Todenhöfer: ISIS Wants to Wipe Hundreds of Millions From the Face of the Earth.

Nuclear TSUNAMI: ISIS wants to wipe hundreds of millions from face of the earth. By Allan Hall. The Daily Express, September 25, 2015.

Isis planning “nuclear holocaust” to wipe hundreds of millions from face of the earth', claims reporter who embedded withextremists. By Darren Boyle. Daily Mail, September 29, 2015.

“ISLAMIC STATE” – Seven Impressions of a Difficult Journey. By Jürgen Todenhöfer. Jürgen Todenhöfer website.

“I came face-to-face with Jihadi John”: ISIS expert rattles killer in restaurant confrontation. By Sharon Feinstein. The Mirror, July 12, 2015.

Todenhöfer: “People in Mosul living under a dictator. . .” Video. CNN, December 22, 2014. YouTube.

German writer spends 10 days with the Islamic State. Video. PBS NewsHour, December 24, 2015. YouTube

BBC HARDtalk Jürgen Todenhöfer. Video. Lud Van, June 29, 2015. YouTube. Audio at BBC.



ISLAMIC State is a “nuclear tsunami” that wants to wipe hundreds of millions from the face of the earth in the biggest religious holocaust the world has ever seen.

The claim comes from a veteran German journalist who is the only reporter to have been allowed to operate as an “embed” with ISIS and escape alive.

Jürgen Todenhöfer, 75, a former MP with Angela Merkel’s CDU party, became a reporter in 2000 and has specialized in war reporting.

He spent 10 harrowing days on the ISIS frontline, dodging bullets and death threats, while being chauffeured around by none other than the UK’s own scumbag traitor “Jihadi John” – real name Mohammed Emwazi.

Todenhöfer’s conclusions – detailed in a book called Inside IS - Ten Days in the Islamic State - make chilling reading.

He believes the west cannot militarily defeat the self-styled Caliphate rulers and writes: “The terrorists plan on killing several hundred million people.

“The west is drastically underestimating the power of ISIS.”

Shockingly, he even compares them to a “nuclear tsunami preparing the largest religious cleansing in history.” 

Critics say Todenhöfer, 75, was only allowed to get so close to ISIS because of his reputation as a vociferous critic of U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But he said: “This project was opposed by my family for seven months.

“My son ultimately accompanied me – against my will. He meant to protect me. And he filmed there.”

He managed to make contact with his family only once, from an Internet cafe on the third day following their arrival, but their mobile phones were taken from them by their hosts.

He said: “My family didn't hear from us for seven days. It was very difficult for my daughters.”

Todenhöfer added the trip came about after intense negotiations with “the leadership of the Caliphate, via Skype, over several months, hammering out the security details.”

He made his will before leaving and said: “Of course I’d seen the terrible, brutal beheading videos and it was of course after seeing this in the last few months that caused me the greatest concern in my negotiations to ensure how I can avoid this. Anyway, I made my will before I left.

“People there live in shellholes, in barracks, in bombed-out houses. I slept on the floor, if I was lucky on a plastic mattress. I had a suitcase and a backpack, a sleeping bag.

“My impressions?  That they are much stronger than we here believe.

“They now control land greater in size than the United Kingdom and are supported by an almost ecstatic enthusiasm the like of which I've never encountered before in a war zone.

“Every day hundreds of willing fighters from all over the world come.

“The beheadings have been established as a strategy which they wanted to spread fear and terror among their enemies. This worked well – look at the capture of Mosul taken with less than 400 fighters!

“They are the most brutal and most dangerous enemy I have ever seen in my life.

“I don’t see anyone who has a real chance to stop them.  Only Arabs can stop IS. I came back very pessimistic.”


German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, 75, spent ten days living with Isis. He has written about his experiences with the terror group in a new book. Todenhöfer believes the terrorists want to wipe out everyone in the West. They want to impose an Islamic caliphate across the entire globe.

Islamic terrorists Isis want to wipe the west off the face of the earth with a nuclear holocaust according to a journalist who spent ten days with the group while researching a book.

The terror group allowed Jürgen Todenhöfer to embed with the group because he has been a high-profile critic of US policy in the Middle East.

The German journalist claimed the terror group wants to launch a “nuclear tsunami” against the west and anyone else that opposes their plans for an Islamic caliphate.

The 75-year-old former German MP wrote up his findings in a new book Inside IS – Ten Days In The Islamic State.

He said that upon his arrival in ISIS controlled territory, that he and his son were forced to hand over their mobile phones to their hosts.

He said he spent several months talking to the terror organisation over Skype before he was allowed to travel into their area.

He told Allan Hall in The Express: “Of course I’d seen the terrible, brutal beheading videos and it was of course after seeing this in the last few months that caused me the greatest concern in my negotiations to ensure how I can avoid this. Anyway, I made my will before I left.

“People there live in shellholes, in barracks, in bombed-out houses. I slept on the floor, if I was lucky on a plastic mattress. I had a suitcase and a backpack, a sleeping bag.”

Mr Todenhöfer said ISIS uses its beheading videos to instill terror into the civilian population in order to make it easier for them to take an area under control.

Mr Todenhöfer warned that ISIS were the most dangerous terror organisation he ever witnessed.

“I don’t see anyone who has a real chance to stop them. Only Arabs can stop IS. I came back very pessimistic.”

He warned that the terror organisation is far more “dangerous and organized” than people in the West realise.

He said the West has “no concept of the threat it faces” from the Islamic State and has underestimated the risk posed by ISIS “dramatically.”

The German reporter spent most of his time in Mosul in northern Iraq, but he also traveled to the ISIS-controlled territories of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor in Syria.

He added: “They are extremely brutal. Not just head-cutting. I’m talking about the strategy of religious cleansing. That’s their official philosophy. They are talking about 500 million people who have to die.”

He went on to say that ISIS are “completely sure they will win this fight.”

In a stark warning issued in a detailed post on Facebook, the journalist wrote in German: “The West underestimated the risk posed by IS dramatically.

“The IS fighters are much smarter and more dangerous than our leaders believe. In the Islamic State, there is an almost palpable enthusiasm and confidence of victory, which I have not seen in many war zones.”

Mr Todenhöfer went on to say that ISIS have plans for mass genocide, with the aim or eradicating all atheists and religions that are not “people of the book” or who do not subscribe to their particular brand of Islam.

“The IS want to kill... all non-believers and apostates and enslave their women and children. All Shiites, Yazidi, Hindus, atheists and polytheists should be killed,” he wrote.

“Hundreds of millions of people are to be eliminated in the course of this religious ‘cleansing.’

“All moderate Muslims who promote democracy, should be killed. Because, from the IS perspective, they promote human laws over the laws of God.

“This also applies to – after a successful conquest – the democratically-minded Muslims in the Western world.”

The reporter describes the Islamic State is currently operating as a functioning totalitarian state – one which, he claims, many Sunni residents in Mosul are unopposed to since it is preferable to the oppression they suffered under the previous regime.

He told German television that ISIS wants to “conquer the world.”

“This is the largest religious cleansing strategy that has ever been planned in human history,” the journalist added. 

Ralph Peters: Vladimir Putin Is Ugly, Ruthless, Vicious, But Brilliant.

Ralph Peters: Vladimir Putin Is Ugly, Ruthless, Vicious, But Brilliant. Video. Fox News Insider, September 28, 2015. YouTube.

Vladimir Putin’s next trick: a strike Obama won’t answer. By Ralph Peters. New York Post, September 27, 2015.


The late, great strategist Yogi Berra claimed that “you can’t predict the future.” Well, if you remove your partisan lenses and analyze a situation objectively, you can sometimes come very close to projecting an adversary’s next move.

The coming US-Russia clash in Syria is a good example.

Vladimir Putin’s next strategic gambit may be to order the shootdown of an American military aircraft over Syria. If we’re “fortunate,” it will only be an unmanned airframe he chooses to make his point.

But it may be a manned fighter. Putin is confident that the Obama administration wouldn’t respond militarily, but would eagerly accept his explanation that the shootdown was an accident, a simple misunderstanding.

Why would Putin do it? Why take such a risk?

Because he sees little risk. Because he wants the United States out of the region and Russia in. Because the lack of a US military response would be read globally as an American defeat and retreat — and a Russian victory. Because he realizes that the lack of retaliation would crush American military morale.

And because he enjoys humiliating the American president.

Because Putin didn’t go to the right prep school and has poor table manners, Western elites continue, even now, to underestimate his intelligence, his strategic vision and his ruthlessness. Putin cynically portrays his intervention in Syria as part of a common fight against the Islamic State. But the immediate target of his military will be the (relatively) moderate Syrian opposition, leaving the West with a choice between Bashar al-Assad and Islamist fanaticism.

Putin has a vision of a wall of Iranian-dominated, Russia-friendly, anti-American states stretching from western Afghanistan through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea. And he’s well on his way to achieving it, thanks to the nuclear deal with Iran, US military hesitancy in the region and, now, an open alliance between Russia, Iran, Iraq’s Shia militias, Hezbollah and the forces of the Assad regime.

That wall would not only keep out the United States, it would isolate our Kurdish allies and overshadow our last clients in the region, including Israel (which has already moved to improve relations with Moscow).

It gets worse. The US approach (it can’t be called a strategy) to the region’s web of crises has been so superficial and focused on a minimalist and non-integrated menu of tactics that it has left our forces vulnerable on multiple levels — even if the Obama administration wished to respond militarily to a shootdown.

Were we to take on Russia in the skies over Syria, our advisers in Iraq (those outside of Kurdistan) would immediately become the hostages of Shia militias. Turkey would be pressured by Russia to restrict our use of Incirlik airbase and other facilities, crippling our capability to respond. And Iran could create a crisis in the Persian Gulf and effectively close the Strait of Hormuz.

There is no sign that we are even war-gaming this scenario.

So what should we do (Shto dyelat? in Russian)? As soon as Putin deployed his military forces to Syria, we should have announced that we will arm the Ukrainian military with contemporary weapons and provide a significant training presence. We should, immediately, withdraw our advisers from Iraq outside of Kurdistan (our efforts in Anbar Province have failed miserably, in any case). And, above all, our pilots over Syria, Iraq and the eastern Mediterranean should be given very liberal rules of engagement, including pre-emptive self-defense.

Finally, any attack on a US manned aircraft over Syria should result in our forces immediately sweeping the skies of Russian planes and drones.

Would that precipitate a war? No. Putin’s a master of the bluff. He knows his forces can’t defeat the US military. But he relies on the psychology of the current US president, who has, to date, proven indecisive in crises and reluctant to respond to force with force.

Putin’s a classic bully. The American willingness to continue to act as his feckless victim only guarantees that, having taken our lunch money, he’ll do his best to take the Middle East.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Obama and Putin at the U.N.

President Obama Addresses the 70th United Nations General Assembly. Video. White, September 28, 2018. YouTube. Also at PBS News Hour. Transcript.

Transcript Excerpt:

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are all different and we should respect that. Now one has to conform to a single development model that someone has recognised as the only right one. We should all remember what our past has taught us.

We also remember certain episodes from the history of the Soviet Union, social experiments for export, attempts to push for changes with other countries based on ideological preferences, which often lead to tragic consequences. And to degradation rather than progress.

It seems that far from learning from the mistakes of others, everyone keeps repeating them. And so the export of revolutions, this time of so-called democratic ones, continues. It was enough to look at the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as was mentioned by a previous speaker. Certainly political and social problems in this region have been piling up for a long time and people there wish for changes, naturally.

But how did it actually turn out?

Rather than bringing about reforms and addressing foreign interference, it resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and lifestyles.

Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social division.

And nobody cares about about human rights, including the rights to life.

To the people that have caused this commotion, do you realise what you have done?

But I am afraid that no-one will answer that.

Policies based on the belief of self-exceptionism have never been abandoned. It is now obvious that the power vacuum created in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and the emergence of violent areas that were immediately filled with extremists and terrorists...

Putin’s UN speech: Big on ideas, short on details. By Dmitry Polikanov. Russia Direct, September 28, 2015.

Obama and Putin Clash at U.N. on Mideast Crisis. By Michael R. Gordon and Gardiner Harris. New York Times, September 28, 2015.

All Eyes on Putin: The 60 Minutes Interview with Charlie Rose.

President Putin, Part One, Part Two. Interviewed by Charlie Rose. Video. 60 Minutes. CBS News, September 27, 2015.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Next Stage of the Syrian Civil War. By Walter Russell Mead.

The Syrian Civil War: The Next Stage. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, September 27, 2015.

Putin: My Goal Is to “Rescue” Assad. The American Interest, September 25, 2015.

A Critical Moment in the Syria Crisis. By Simond de Galbert and Benjamin Haddad. The American Interest, September 27, 2015.

Putin has checkmated Obama in Syria. By Hisham Melhem. Al Arabiya News, September 26, 2015.


The hallmark of identity wars, both religious and ethnic—as the fighting bogs down and passions are more bitter, communities start purging minorities—has arrived in Syria. The New York Times:
In one of the most ambitious deals yet struck between combatants in the multisided war in Syria, supporters and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad will essentially trade territory in two different parts of the country, stop bombing and besieging one another’s civilians and pledge to observe a six-month cease-fire.

If the deal holds, it will be the most far-reaching since a pact struck more than a year ago that allowed the evacuation of rebel fighters from the center of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city.

The deal would end attacks by the government and its allies on Zabadani, a city between Damascus, the capital, and the Lebanese border that has long been held by local insurgents, as well as attacks by rebels on the Shiite villages of Foua and Kefraya in Idlib Province.

But it involves a sectarian population exchange, sending the Shiites in Idlib to other government-held areas, and moving Zabadani’s Sunni rebels and their families to insurgent-held Idlib, raising the specter of forced demographic change.
When it’s organized, it’s called “exchange of populations.” When it happens on the fly in wartime, it’s called ethnic cleansing or mass flight. Literally tens of millions of people were forced out of their original homes during the 20th century in exactly this way—most of them before 1950. Hindus and Muslims in British India as it divided, Palestinian Arabs and Jews from across the Middle East, Germans after World War II, Greeks and Turks after World War I, Crimean Tatars, Balkan Serbs, Bosniaks, Albanians and Croats… In Iraq, Christians, Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Yazidis have all lost their homes.

It’s a terrible thing, but more than once it has been embraced by world powers as better than what in many cases is the likeliest alternative: a genocide of the weak, the destruction of the losing side in a civil war.

So far, every twist in the story of the Syrian civil war has revealed new and deeper visions of the hell of hatred and brutality that civilization and order normally keep under wraps. Even the most destructive wars sometimes ultimately burn themselves out, but this one still seems to have a long way to go. With Iran and Russia bolstering a sagging Assad, and panicky Sunni states shoveling money and weapons toward any force they think can stand against Iran’s allies, the conditions for an even longer and more destructive war are beginning to appear.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why the Right is Right. By Greg Gutfeld.

Why the Right is Right. By Greg Gutfeld. Video. Prager University, September 21, 2015. YouTube. Also here.


Why are you Right? Yes, you, conservative person. Can you answer that question?

I think it’s so important that I wrote a book about it – How to be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct. Because if you can’t be persuasive about why you are right, then we, the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands, are lost. So, here is the simple answer to why you are Right: It is a more practical, generous, and compassionate way to live. Let me explain:

There have been a bunch of academic studies on how those on the Left and Right approach problems. They pretty much all come to the same conclusion. The Right tends to be risk averse, more concerned about external threats like tyranny and terror. Conservatives – get this – tend to be conservative. They are less likely to play with fire, in just about every sense: financially, artistically, sexually. They are cautious about changing traditions (sometimes to a fault), which is why they cling to that crazy Constitution they like so much – and to their guns and their religion.

We conservatives also focus on what we can fix, and accept what we cannot – which is one of the many reasons we’re not obsessed over global warming. With Radical Islam we know what the threat is, and that it’s a lot worse than a few missing polar bears (I know that makes me sound mean – sorry polar bears).

Liberals, the research tells us, are generally more outgoing, more likely to try new stuff. They are open to new ideas (though not school choice, or flat taxes, or a market based health care reform), and are less likely to feel threatened by unfamiliar things. This is why, in general, they seem to have more fun. They are more likely to try drugs, for example (which is fine, as long as they don’t end up throwing up in my toaster). In short, liberals are pretty liberal. They feel free to take risks that the risk-averse usually end up paying for – over and over. Which explains the necessity for conservatism. We are the clean-up crew.

Liberals may seem to have more fun (and many do), but according to polls they aren’t as happy as conservatives. And with all the fun they’re having, I’ve never quite figured out why the angriest people I’ve encountered in my life have been liberals. Maybe it’s because short-term fun doesn’t translate into long-term happiness. Marriage, families and religion do that and those are the things conservatives most value. Liberals tend to live for now. Conservatives for later.

A risk-averse conservative is more likely to save money. He is more likely to protect his investments. He is more likely to protect property, and advocate for rule of law and preservation of individual protections. And he offers no excuses for looting. Instead, he empathizes with the Asian, Arab and black small businessman whose convenience store, laundry or restaurant goes up into flames during the riot that liberals reflexively endorse as an “understandable response to injustice.”

Of course, conservatives aren’t risk-averse in everything. But they take risks with their own lives, not with the society. Conservatives risk all to build businesses. That risk, however, is rooted in a fact-based belief (not faith) in the free market. If people want the product or service you’re supplying at the price you’re asking, you will succeed and the risk will pay off.

Over time, it’s conservative risk-taking that creates a civilization, by building families, businesses, and nations. All of which creates more wealth – wealth that can then be used to help those in need. You need money to make money, but you also need money to give money. Conservatism makes what liberalism takes.

So, for example, for liberals to get their minimum-wage hike, first we need conservatives to build businesses, to think like businessmen, to sacrifice their own salaries in order to pay others; to sleep on floors if necessary in order to break even. Then when they make a profit, and things are going great – when the calm sets in liberalism can appear and say, “How dare you not pay these people a living wage?” Once the tables are full of diners, and bills are being paid, and you’re thinking about opening a second joint, liberalism arrives to demand its cut. Think of it as a protection racket. Sort of like the Gambino family, but without loyalty, job prospects, and track suits.

In short, conservatism doesn’t compete with liberalism – it sustains it. Without conservatism, there is no liberalism. And so when a liberal asks you, “Why are you a conservative?” simply say, “So that you can be a liberal.”

I’m Greg Gutfeld.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Solving the Middle East’s Problems. By Mordechai Kedar.

Solving the Middle East’s Problems. By Mordechai Kedar. Arutz Sheva 7, September 13, 2015.

Small Homogeneous States Only Solution for Middle East. By Mordechai Kedar. IMRA, April 1, 2011.

The Middle East’s Tribal DNA. By Carl Philip Salzman. NJBR, November 5, 2013.

Israel and the Palestinians: An Existential War of Blood and Faith. By Michael Kaplan. NJBR, July 20, 2015. (incomplete draft)


Does anyone remember the gushing words about the “Arab Spring?”

Three months from now, in December, it will be the fifth anniversary of the transmogrification known – in its early stages - as the “Arab Spring.” When it began, in 2010, the entire world applauded the street heroes, the giants that arose from the ranks of the common man, those who single-handedly drove Ben Ali from Tunisia, put Mubarak on the dock in Egypt, rebelled against the bloodthirsty Libyan ruler Qaddafi, went out to the streets against Assad in Syria, protested loudly against President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen and held an anti-regime sit-in in the town square of Bahrain.

The entire world held its breath hoping that a new chapter was being written in the annals of Middle Eastern history, one that meant an end to dictatorships and the rise of democracies, an end to violent regimes amid the blossoming of the rights of man and civil liberties, the disappearance of corruption and the start of transparent government.

The unbelievable sights at Tahrir Square in Cairo were followed by the first democratic elections ever held in Egypt, a coalition in Tunisia, political parties in Morocco, an independent parliament in Kuwait, protests for political liberty in Syria and Muslim women who left the kitchen to demand their rights. This was the dream we were shown through the rose-colored glasses of romantic journalists as they fell into the trap of their own hopes for a new reality in the region.

Today, five years after the “great light” burst forth, the Arab world is fumbling along in a dark tunnel, forlorn and depressed, without even a sliver of light at the end of it or anywhere along its length. Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt are all battlefields where the victims are civilians, a revolt in Egypt deposed the president elected in pseudo-democratic elections and Sisi is bringing the level of civil rights in Egypt back to the dark days of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

The world keeps asking itself why the Arab Spring was such a dismal failure, trying to get to the source of the region’s problems. The answer to this question is complex, because it includes different factors that influenced events at different periods and in different ways.

Still, one can say with certainty that the main source of all the troubles is the cornerstone of Middle Eastern culture, tribal loyalties, once necessary for survival in a vast dry and arid desert area spanning the Sahara in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Sinai Desert, and also the deserts of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. In the desert man must be part of a tribe in order to protect his water sources from other tribes who are also in need of water. That fact turns the “other” into an enemy, a threatening figure who is against “us” because he is not one of “us.”

It is always “us” and “them”, our group against all the others, every man loyal to his tribe to the death, to its customs and traditions and not to a state or the state’s laws and institutions. It is called “tribalism” and the Arab world still lives under the influence of this way of life.

The second problem, spawned by tribalism, is violence. Middle Eastern culture says that since the other is an enemy, he may try to kill me as soon as he gets near enough to take my water sources, so I have to get him before he gets me.

It follows that the first reaction to any problem that arises in the Middle East is violence, violence aimed to kill.

The third problem evolving from the ancient tribal culture is the Middle Eastern concept of honor. No Muslim will accept humiliation, and he who is humiliated will seek revenge against those who caused him shame – and that revenge means murder. A person is willing to murder members of his own household, his sister and even his mother, if they have brought shame upon him by acting too freely. Honor takes first place in relations between politicians and nations, is sometimes more important that development, economics and health.

The fourth problem, also a result of tribalism, is corruption. Appointing relatives to positions in a regime – nepotism - is considered a serious problem in the West, and there are laws, rules and bureaucratic procedures that are supposed to prevent its occurrence. In Middle Eastern culture, nepotism is the name of the game, both in the political and public spheres, because anyone in power has a basic distrust of anyone from another group. A leader will appoint his family, or members of another family with whom he has a pact of loyalty, to the positions under his patronage and if the relations between the families deteriorate, he will either fire them or make sure they resign.

The fifth problem is economic corruption. A government official feels beholden financially to his family and tribe, not to the state and certainly not to other population groups in the country, so he allocates funds for investment in infrastructure in the area his tribe resides in or areas filled with his supporters. He does not allocate funds to groups that did not support him. As far as he is concerned, they can go to hell – or Europe – as they wish.

The sixth problem is the existence of a large number of ethnic groups in the Middle East: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Berbers, Jews, Arameans, Persians, and more. Often the groups live in a state of ongoing friction, their relations marked by hostility rather than tranquility. As a rule, they do not intermarry, and each group fiercely guards its dialect, customs and traditions. Each group delineates itself by defining its enemies. That is the source of the violence between the Arabs and the Kurds, the Turks and the Kurds, the Arabs and the Berbers – and let’s face it, the Arabs and everyone else.

The seventh problem is religion. Islam is the main religion of the Middle East, and Islamist extremists see members of other religions who live in their proximity as infidels deserving of death. This is the cause of the horrific violence of Islamists against Christians, Yazidis, Jews, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Mandeans, Shabakists, Druze and atheists.

The eighth problem is the internecine sectarian conflict within Islam. In the middle of the seventh century, Islam split into two parts, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Their struggle is really about wresting control over Islam, but over time the struggle has assumed a religious cast with each side making use of Allah, the Qur'an, the Hadiths (Oral Law), Sharia, history and theology for its own ends, so that Sunni Islam is now quite different from Shia islam. There is a case for claiming that, similarities notwithstanding, they are two distinct religions. The two groups have  spent the centuries since the split massacring one another, with millions sacrificed in this endless struggle, not a few during the 1980s war between Shiite Iran and Iraq, headed by a Sunni, Saddam Hussein.

The ninth problem is the prevailing culture. Schematically, the Middle East’s population is made up of three cultural groups: the desert-dwellers, or Bedouin, the falakhim – farmers who live in villages – and the urban population dwelling in cities. These groups differ in many ways from one another and each is prone to stereotyping the others to the point where there is no way to get around their mutual preconceptions. The falakh hates the Bedouin for stealing the agricultural produce he reaps by the sweat of his brow. The Bedouin considers the falakhs and city dwellers inferior to him for giving up the original Arab desert way of life and becoming weak and lily-livered in mind and body. The city dwellers consider the Bedouin primitive desert people. Marriages between the groups are rare.

The tenth problem can be laid at the door of British, French and Italian colonialism. These powers drew borders that suited their interests but had no bearing on the sociological zones of the Middle East. This is how countries were formed with populations of all kinds of ethnic groups, tribes, religions and sects who had never had any connection with one another and certainly never saw themselves as members of the same nation. Although Syria has existed for decades (that verb should be in past tense) there was no national Syrian consciousness uniting its citizens. They remained Arabs, Kurds, Turkmans, Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Shia, Sunni, et al. Iraq also did not succeed in creating an Iraqi people despite great efforts expended on the part of the regime, and its citizens defined themselves as Kurds, Sunni, Christians, Yazidi, etc. The colonialists actually created what their citizens considered illegitimate countries foreign entities forced upon them by Christian European strangers who understood absolutely nothing about the Middle East.

The eleventh problem is the modern Arab regime. In each Arab country a minority group has gained control of the entire country and preserves its power by using a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm,” a drawn sword – and subterranean torture chambers. The Alawite minority in Syria, the Qaddafi tribe in Libya and the Hashemites of Jordan are all examples of small groups that control others with little legitimacy, if any.

The twelfth problem is Israel, a small country that was established as a result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and the end of British colonialism, two world developments that made it possible for the Jews to return to the historical land of their birth after two thousand years of exile.

In general, Arabs and Muslims do not recognize the right of the Jewish people to its land, do not recognize Judaism as a living religion, and view the Jews as a collection of communities belonging to whatever country they are in and not as a people. The very existence of the state of Israel infuriates them, no matter what its size.

The rulers of the modern Arab states, with both ruler and state lacking legitimacy, were in dire need of an external enemy that would enable them to silence internal opposition and unite the people as one under their fraudulent flag. Israel was a unifying factor, an external enemy that served as the scapegoat upon which the masses could vent their rage. That is what is behind the constant hostility of the Arab media regarding Israel, and three generations of Arabs have been raised on this propaganda machine aimed solely at Israel. Their approach to Jews and Israelis is a direct consequence of this inciteful propaganda.

The thirteenth problem is oil. This important resource turned the Arab countries in the gulf to societies that sell a commodity, do not work, purchase but do not create, societies whose every possession stems not from ability, studying or work, but from what others – the Americans and the Europeans – found under their earth. The biggest effort the men of the Gulf have to expend is the walk to the bank to deposit their checks. Easy money created a materialistic, hedonist society, busy with itself and with having fun, buying luxury cars, houses that strike you blind, designer clothing, watches that cost millions and designer jewelry, showing off in the media and buying every gadget that reaches the stores. Just opposite their palatial homes are tens of millions of Egyptians and other Arabs living in abject poverty, in unplanned neighborhoods, filled with the ignorant, unemployed and despairing poor. The gap between the wealth of the Gulf and the poverty in the Arab street is mind-boggling.

The fourteenth problem is the West’s meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, not in order to solve the region’s problems, but in order to promote its own interests. Oil, gas, arms sales, development contracts, purchases and trade, all are intended to take advantage of the natural resources of the Middle East and of the cheap labor it offers in order to advance western economies. The countries of the West, the USSR and today’s Russia and China, protected and still protect non-legitimate Arab rulers, keeping them dependent on the West and the economic agreements signed with them.

Anyone who signs any kind of contract with an Arab ruler knows full well that this contract will be carried out at the price of the people who live – if you can call it living – under a cruel regime, but that doesn’t stop the money hungry Western countries. Since when did moral considerations ever move them?

The fifteenth problem is the existence of al Jazeera, the Jihad website and network run by a terror state, Qatar. From the first day it hit the air in November 1996, al Jazeera spends its time unrestrainedly inciting against dictators, Israel, against the West and against the Western culture slowly finding its way into the airspace of Islamic countries. 

Al Jazeera’s stated objective is to destroy the modern Arab state and hand over the rule to the Muslim Brotherhood. This mixed salad of messages is wrapped in attractive clichés such as “opinion and other opinion” and is covered with a mask of openness and video editing. This channel brought the angry people out into the streets at the end of 2010 and all through 2011, setting the Arab world ablaze, but it does not know how to put out the fire. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social networks played an instrumental role that helped the public organize demonstrations, but the motivation came from al Jazeera’s incitement.

The seething mass of problems that plague the Middle East have destroyed the region’s social, economic, political and normative infrastructure, leading to the waves of emigration to Europe that we are now witnessing. During the twentieth century, Europe tried to solve the myriad cultural problems that beset the Middle East by creating the Modern Arab State, cloning the Nation-State it had invented and that suited Europe’s cultural needs. The European-style Modern Arab State is a colossal failure, because the Arab population has a Middle Eastern culture, with problems that Europe knows nothing about – tribalism on the one hand, and violence, extremism and a lack of national consciousness on the other.

A striking example of an egregiously mistaken belief held by the West is the naïve and unfounded faith that democracy can flourish in the Middle East. Western democracy is based on a social order stemming from European culture: the belief in equality for all religions and ethnic groups, women’s liberation, minority rights and freedom of expression and thought. Add to that the right to choose alternative lifestyles, along with freedom of religion and from religion, a ban on violence and free elections and you have a list that is almost totally foreign to the Middle East. Most of these freedoms are opposed to the spirit of Islam or to tribal culture, but Middle Eastern societies hold “free” elections to create the impression that they have become democracies, although they have not adopted any of the other characteristics of a democracy. Elections are an easily adopted mechanism, but the other elements of democracy are substantive and are therefore difficult, or impossible, to embed in the Middle East.

Today Europe is being punished by a wave of refugees for the sins it committed in the Middle East, those it perpetrated on purpose while taking advantage of the Arab rulers’ dependency on the West, as well as those it committed unintentionally.

During this period of soul-searching it is important that the West internalize the reasons behind the troubles that have fallen upon the Middle East. It can then deal with them properly, put aside its own interests, and find solutions that can work in the region – starting with the dismantling of the existing, non-legitimate states and continuing with the establishment of emirates with homogeneous populations on the ruins of those failed states. The Gulf Emirates, with the exception of Bahrain, serve as the model of a type of regime that suits the cultural characteristics of the area and it is imperative that they become the model that is implemented when attempting to solve the problems of the Middle East.

Best wishes for a happy new year.