Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

MBS SPEAKS

My dear American friends: I, Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, wish to offer perspective on the unfortunate passing of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi. Prepare yourselves.

To begin, your CIA is mistaken—again. I told your president I had nothing to do with Mr. Khashoggi’s untimely demise. As he knows, when a foreign leader says “I didn’t do it” (do not see The Simpsons, season 5, episode 12), he didn’t do it. Mr. Khashoggi was strangled and dismembered. We Saudis only behead people—those who offend Islam as we define it, or commit murder (unless blood money is paid), adultery or witchcraft. I know. I not only represent Saudi law, I amthe law.

We seem to have a culture gap. Americans feel uneasy that Saudis (men only) wear beards like the Prophet, Jesus and ZZ Top, while Saudi women conceal themselves in public (eye slits do not restrict vision that much). This leads to confusion, such as Saudi’s “role” in 9/11.

Fully FOUR of the 19 hijackers were citizens of nations other than Saudi Arabia. Do the math. That’s a humongous (I love American slang) 21%. You would be thrilled if your portfolio increased 21% every year so you could experienced something of the financial fantasy enjoyed by loyal Saudi princes.

Also, some people think that as “kingpin” of OPEC, Saudi instigated oil’s rapid price rise in October 1973—and the West’s subsequent economic plunge—to hurt nations that supported Israel after Egypt and Syria attacked the self-proclaimed Jewish state. Fake news. We merely used the marketplace to express solidarity with our Arab brothers and attempt to forestall global warming. We know hot weather. And if we love big, high-performance automobiles, there are only 34 million Saudis among the planet’s 7-plus billion people. Again, do the math. How much pollution can the Kingdom produce?

Finally, do not take this Khashoggi nonsense as personal. It’s only business. My good friend Donald, who also loves gilt furniture and gold toilet seats—has explained that Saudi Arabia will purchase over $100 billion of U.S. weapons. What is a smattering of red blood against blue-collar jobs and corporate profits for white people?

In sum, America needs Saudi Arabia to depress oil prices and increase sales of American arms so we can defend your nation against our treacherous Arab brothers—Yemeni Shiites backed by Iran! Besides, their children would only grow up to be terrorists.

And without us, Jared Kushner’s secret peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians doesn’t stand a chance. Remember, Mr. Trump keeps campaigning to make America great again. Of course, he’s only had two years in office. Until America means something, the Kingdom will protect you.

A century ago, your President Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business.” Would you risk your economy—especially after General Motors announced massive layoffs—by offending my Kingdom? Mr. Trump warns that we will buy arms from Russia and China, each headed by a good friend of his but nonetheless a hard-headed businessperson (I am PC).

I conclude that a so-called journalist lacking loyalty to his country (namely me) fell to a conspiracy of which I, as all-powerful Crown Prince, knew nothing. Actually, I was shocked! So dry your crocodile tears and get down to business by minding your own.

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TRUMP’S RESIGNATION SPEECH

Jan. 20, 2018. President Donald J. Trump resigned today on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. His resignation came three weeks before special investigator Robert Mueller will release his report on alleged collusion between Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Leaked highlights of the report have produced negative reactions from Congressional leaders and the media. A transcript of Mr. Trump’s remarks follows.

“My fellow Americans. Real Americans who know what’s made America great again. Me! I’m sad. No one can be sadder than Donald Trump. Because the witch hunt… So witchy. But I’m glad. Because I’m rich. They hate that. And you know who they are.

“You keep hearing all that fake news from the so-called media. Terrible. So terrible! But the real news is, I’m here to celebrate.

“Donald Trump is celebrating the greatest presidency in the history of the real United States. Except those phony states on the coasts. I mean, the coasts north of swampy Washington D.C. Not the South. Not the Gulf out there somewhere. And California. California could drop into the ocean—the Pacific, right?—nobody would care.

“Please, don’t applaud. Not yet. Okay. Go ahead. I deserve it. In just one year, Donald Trump has made America great again. So great! That’s why I’m going to let a younger man carry on and keep America great. Not as strong a slogan as make America great, but there’s only one Donald Trump. Except for Donald Trump, Jr. But he’s a junior, right?

“I hear crying out there. So many people crying. You miss me already. So sad. I mean, one of the greatest presidents in history, right? Washington. Lincoln. Reagan maybe. Kind of Hollywood. And Trump! No. Hold the applause. Okay, don’t. I mean, you name a great thing, I’ve talked about it. Like telling Congress to cut taxes to stimulate ten percent growth. Four? I said four? Details. And keeping Muslims out of our country. That screw-up’s on the so-called courts. Pardon my French but they’re just like Congress. No balls!

“And China. I had Xi Jinping for dinner at Mar-a-Lago. I let him see how we handle our business. Now he knows. And those new islands China’s building in the South China Sea? Great development opportunities for American companies. Jobs, jobs, jobs. You’ll see the Trump name everywhere.

“North Korea? They only launched a dozen missiles during the past year. Not even. Something like eight. Maybe fourteen. Details. Doesn’t matter. Know why? The kid with the funny haircut, he’s scared. Of me. Syria? Very peaceful now. Very little fighting. Great opportunities for American companies to rebuild some of those ruins. A Trump golf course in Damascus? Beautiful! That’s how you kick ISIS’ ass. And Iran’s.

“Sure. Applaud. I earned it. That’s why starting today, I’m going to spend more time with my family. Who knew being president would take more than three days a week? Four in a crisis? And if President Pence needs me, he can call my villa outside Moscow. Or text. But not tweet. Donald Trump doesn’t follow tweets. Facebook, maybe.

“No worries. My portrait in the Oval Office? It’ll inspire him. The steely eyes. The iron jaw. All those emeralds and rubies set in a gold crown. Za zdarovye!”

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ALEPPO REVISITED

Two months ago, I wrote about the battle of Aleppo pitting Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia against a hodgepodge of rebels, from secular to Islamist. Despite the horrific violence, I thought major U.S. involvement unwise: “Only the peoples of the Middle East can create lasting peace for themselves.” The battle’s over. I haven’t changed my mind.

The Syrian bloodbath didn’t occur because President Obama foolishly drew a red line in the blood-soaked sand then backed off when Assad used chemical weapons. (True, he did.) It started well before and increased in ferocity when Russia and Iran tilted the battlefield towards Assad.

Are Americans aghast at the slaughter and destruction in Aleppo? Yes, and rightly so. But using American military power to halt the ghastly actions of appalling political leaders sometimes runs deep risks.

Would Russia and Iran have withdrawn so we could roll over Syria’s military and depose Assad? I doubt it. If they did? We’d have won a short-term victory then been saddled with overseeing the formation of a new government.

Once again, American troops would have to protect a government lacking widespread support. We’d also have to build a trusted Syrian security force while American troops faced insurgency and terrorism from many quarters. We’d suffer casualties. And all with no guaranty of Syrian stability once—whenever that might be—we left.

Some Americans might say, “We have to project American power in the face of inhumanity. Freedom isn’t free.” They can afford that stance. I agree that freedom’s not free, but they don’t pay the price. Ours is a military of courageous volunteers. Many Americans encouraging the nation to throw its weight around have no skin in the game. Their children don’t serve. They never served.

Is America toothless? Hardly. Should we withdraw to Fortress America? No. The U.S. plays a special role in helping keep peace—where strategic considerations are most critical. An evolving geopolitical climate demands that we understand military power’s limits.

Reality is, we’ve never ruled the world. That’s why I was taken aback when the New York Times’ Roger Cohen wrote that the Pax Americana—the global peace guaranteed by the United States—is over (12-16-16). Pax Americana represents a semi-myth.

Yes, we kept the former Soviet Union from overrunning Western Europe. We prevented China from expanding in Asia, although China never sought to invade other countries; it seeks to co-opt them economically. We helped protect South Korea but at the cost of over 50,000 U.S. lives. North Korea eventually developed nuclear weapons. Vietnam proved a debacle with 58,000 American lives lost. Genocide ravaged Rwanda, Darfur and the Balkans on “our watch.” Our 2003 invasion of Iraq didn’t remake the Middle East in our image. It destabilized it. Witness Syria and Libya. (Yemen had been fractured earlier.)

We court disaster when our hubris exposes our troops to the physical and emotional hazards in lands whose cultures we don’t understand and whose people reject us. The folly grows when many of our most enthusiastic proponents of using force talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. American power takes many forms. Military force is one but not always the wisest choice. That’s a hard lesson to learn. We’re best off learning it.

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SEND ME A DOLLAR—NOW!

Donald Trump’s big showing on Super Tuesday inspired me. A year ago, who would have thought him a serious presidential candidate? So in response to his triumph, I want to say this: Send me a dollar—now!

I’m gonna make America great again. It’s simple. There are 320 million Americans. Some are legal. All I’m asking is a buck a head. Old heads, young heads—doesn’t matter. I love any head. Especially with hair. Giving a buck is easy. Even homeless people have a dollar lying around somewhere. But they scrounge dumpsters. What do they need a dollar for?

So what’ll I do with $320 million dollars? I’m gonna make America great again. Did I say that? Anyway, don’t ask for details. Only a schmuck shows his hand. But you’re gonna love it. You’ll think it’s great. You’ll thank me. You will.

Okay, I’ll give you a peek behind the curtain. I’ll skip the facts, because there are people out there who, if they knew, they’d try to screw America. You know who they are. One look at those brown faces, and you know. But they can’t screw America. Not if you send me a dollar.

First, I’ll buy a home in Sea Cliff, one of San Francisco’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Winners look like winners, right? All those bedrooms and bathrooms. Makes me want to have more kids. And rich-people views of the Pacific, the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m gonna buy a home worth $25 million. But I’m only gonna pay $10 million. Tops. Because the people who own that home, I’m gonna get them to practically give it away.

Then I’m gonna do renovations. That’ll put money in the hands of American workers. Unless I hire Mexicans. Maybe Poles. It’s all about the free market, okay? Anyway, I’ll do $10 million worth. But it’ll only cost me $3 million. Tops. Like what? Gold fixtures in the kitchen and the bathrooms. Winners look like winners, right? Did I say that already? Gold railings on the stairs. And gold toilet seats. There’s nothing like settling your tush onto gold. Those toilets are gonna be American, too. And the manufacturers are gonna give them to me.

What else? You’re gonna love this. Someone with $320 million can be a target for people with un-American ideas. Anyone who hates rich people. Although they’ll all be in jail soon. Meanwhile, I’m gonna hire the best private security force ever. Guys with the best training and the best weapons. So tough, they could kick the ayatollahs’ asses tomorrow. The Iranian people are gonna beg me to send them over there to Africa or wherever Iran is. The Iranians are gonna pay their expenses, too. And these guys are gonna work for minimum wage.

It’s terrific. I can’t get over it. I’m gonna make America great again. And remember, when you send money—$5 a head’s also good; so’s $100—you’ll also be sending a message: You’re mad as hell and you’re not gonna take it anymore. Was that in an old movie? I don’t know. I have people who write this blog. I only know three things. God bless America. Send me a dollar—now. And make it cash.

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LOYALTY AND BETRAYAL

Something ordinary drew my attention during President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The ordinary being rather sense numbing, most Americans undoubtedly noticed but had no particular response. We should all be concerned.

If you saw the speech on TV, you know that Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Republican, responded quite differently. Mr. Biden smiled, applauded almost every remark made by the President and rose often to his feet. Mr. Ryan looked pained. He stood only when Mr. Obama mentioned the military and applauded Mr. Obama’s goal of tackling poverty. Yet in the context of American politics, Mr. Ryan was not acting up.

When Republican presidents have addressed Congress with a Republican VP and a Democratic Speaker behind him, the results have been the same. So there’s no good party and bad party here. What we have is a crisis of loyalty overriding the general welfare.

Yes, we all have our loyalties. They begin with our family, extend to our friends, houses of worship, clubs, political parties certainly, cities and states. If you’re an ethnic, you have a certain loyalty to your country of ethnic, or in my case religious, origin. But at what point do the positives of loyalty—assisting others, advocating for fairness and justice, and making sacrifices—become betrayal?

Three incidents struck me in this regard. Two took place hours before the State of the Union. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval forces commandeered two American Navy boats and their crews—ten sailors in all—near an Iranian island in the Persian Gulf. When CNN host Wolf Blitzer interviewed Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Blitzer mentioned the White House saying that the incident didn’t seem to be hostile. Mr. Cotton nearly went ballistic: President Obama was not only clueless but actually defending Iran. What would you expect? That’s the Republican Party line. Less than 24 hours later, Iran released the boats and their crews.

The second matter struck me during the CBS Evening News. White House correspondent Major Garrett reported that Senator John McCain (R–Arizona) had considerable differences with Donald Trump but would support Trump if he were nominated for the presidency and won that office. The inference: Loyalty to party takes precedence, even if it includes accepting a distasteful candidate.

Finally, when President Obama mentioned the military, almost all Republicans stood. That was the only time they did so. Surely the President offered a few thoughts worthy of praise. But party loyalty demands that Republicans recognize Democratic ideas at their own risk. The Republican base along with billionaire donors to Political Action Committees (PACs) can oust incumbents in primaries not because they can’t win but because they won’t repeat the far-right mantra.

In 1816 Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. (1779–1820) offered an after-dinner toast: “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” At what point does demonstrating uncompromising loyalty betray the ideals we profess, in effect throwing the nation under the bus?

In 1872, U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (1829–1906) took a different approach. “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” Schurz got it.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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PARIS AND BEIRUT

Last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris continue to dominate the news. Not everyone thinks that’s good. Lebanese commentators ask why Paris eclipses ISIS suicide bombings that killed 41 in a southern suburb of Beirut. That was a horror. But there are understandable reasons why the West cries for Paris.

Yes, the City of Light represents the West. Beirut is Arab. But here’s what really impacts Western sensibilities: Following the barbarity of World War Two, Europe reinvented itself. The Middle East—allowing for colonial and post-colonial influence—did not. The region failed to address its underlying religious, tribal and political conflicts.

Take Lebanon’s civil war. From 1975 to 1990, multiple factions slaughtered each other and innocents. Christian, Muslim—Sunni and Shiite—and Palestinian militias went at it. Syrian, Iranian and Israeli forces—as well as a multinational force—entered the country. Deaths are estimated at 150,000.

Now look at failed Arab wars against Israel despite the United Nations partition of Palestine, the assassination of Egypt’s president and peacemaker Anwar Sadat, and the bloody aftermath of the Iranian revolution. Add in the Iran-Iraq war in which at least half-a-million troops perished. Consider the brutal dictatorships of Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Muammar Qaddafi (Libya) and Syria’s Hafez al Assad, who in 1982 repressed the Muslim Brotherhood by flattening the city of Hama and killing from 10,000 to 20,000 people.

Tragically, there was more: Taliban savagery in Afghanistan. Jihadi attacks in Pakistan and India. Al Qaeda and 9/11. Saddam’s sacking of Kuwait. Iran-backed Hezbollah taking over southern Lebanon. The Arab Spring that produced Arab Winter. Hamas’ attacks on Israel that brought great destruction to Gaza. Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel and resultant suffering in Lebanon. The death cult of ISIS perpetrating such cruelties as the slaughter and sexual enslavement of Yazidis. Then there’s the Syrian civil war and more than 250,000 deaths.

Beirut didn’t disappear from the headlines because the West devalues Muslim lives but because Islamists and so many Muslim leaders do. The West is far from perfect. Colonization was wrong. But that was yesterday. Much of the Middle East so dwells on the past that it can’t focus on the future. (Sidebar: Only twenty years after the Holocaust, Israel established diplomatic relations with West Germany.)

When bombs explode in Lebanon—or elsewhere in the Middle East—the West takes such violence in stride. Sadly, bloodshed will continue as the norm until the region re-imagines governance beyond religious tyrannies, military dictatorships, royal families and corrupt faux democracies.

And this: On Tuesday, Islamist suicide bombers killed 32 people in northeastern Nigeria. The online edition of the Daily Star, Lebanon’s English-language newspaper, provided no coverage on its home page. I had to click on World News then scroll. Way down. In fairness, today’s Daily Star home page reported deadly terrorist attacks in Bamako, Mali and in Baghdad. Ongoing coverage remains to be seen. Lebanon, like the West, has its own issues.

So let’s mourn the deaths in Beirut. Let’s also see Muslims worldwide stand up to the hatred in their midst—the only hope for permanent change. Some are doing so now. I salute them. As the 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke wrote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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FINGERS ON THE TRIGGER

Two weeks ago, I wrote about paranoia in Middle America. Last week, I wondered about the nuclear deal with Iran. A recent experience and a reader’s comments induce me to amplify my remarks.

Regarding paranoia, many Americans fear both crime and an encroaching federal government. They often turn to guns for protection. Fear of Washington is misplaced, I believe. Not so fear of crime—particularly in small towns and rural areas.

Carolyn and I spent last weekend among the redwoods up north in Humboldt County with my cousin and her husband—I’ll call him Bob. Summer days reach 100 degrees. Nights cool down. Perfect for growing marijuana. Seemingly powerless, Humboldt civic leaders throw their hands in the air—or look the other way. The economy depends on pot. Many Humboldt residents oppose legalization to keep the industry in place, prices high and money circulating.

Big-time operators, including Mexican cartels according to Bob, have established huge grows. Bob points to the mountains—challenging terrain for law enforcement. Big grows exist on federal and tribal (Hoopa) lands. Growers level hilltops and divert streams. They set out poison to kill “invasive” deer. They’re also heavily armed. You don’t want to hike up there.

Job seekers abound. But growers hire only people they trust. Rebuffed, unsavory characters engage in crime. In Bob’s quiet neighborhood, break-ins occur with disturbing frequency. Several took place while we were there. One neighbor doesn’t bother locking his door. It’s cheaper to lose something trivial than replace a doorframe. Guns go off. Saturday night, I heard a rifle shot. Possibly someone was hunting—illegally. (Summers, deer forage at night.) Or someone spotted an intruder. Bob—no paranoid—keeps a .38 handy.

Now to Iran. Chris, a friend of a regular reader, states that Americans misunderstand that country. Having lived in Iran and traveled extensively, he believes that Iranians don’t mean it when they march, chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel!” It’s all a wink-and-nod affair. The marchers are bused in and paid. They also get “brownie points” from the government. University admission might ride on participation. Chris also emphasizes that the government is weaker than Americans think. “There are so many cabals and power camps that it makes ours look like streamlined, FAR more complex than red vs. blue.”

My response: No and yes. No, not all Iranians hate America. Or even Israel (not so sure there). Yes, Iran’s threat in the Middle East is real. Most Iranians may wish only to pursue their education, careers and family matters. But the ayatollahs and the military, chiefly the Republican Guard, still hold their fingers on the trigger to extend Iran’s influence. They support their regional proxies in doing the same. When Tehran—the government as opposed to the people—launches its version of street theater, the world rightly takes such hostility seriously. Still, I agree that ordinary Iranians have much in common with us.

Bottom line: I’m skeptical that we’ll enhance our security by arming ourselves to the teeth at home. Or dropping bombs half a world away. But let’s listen to those who fret that the world can be a scary place. It can be. Common sense might lead us to common ground. And wouldn’t that be refreshing?

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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IRAN: NOW WHAT?

The Iran deal is done—at least until Congress votes on it. President Obama will veto a “no” vote, and overriding that veto will be difficult. So what lies ahead? We can only speculate. But I do have a warning.

First, let’s look at some possibilities. We’ve bought time, but following the ten-year agreement, Iran—unless a younger generation abandons revolution—may rush to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran’s holding a nuclear threat over Israel, the Middle East and American policy is unsettling. Some think tank inhabitants believe we can live with a nuclear Iran. Until we get there, it’s all theory.

Before the agreement ends—perhaps well before—Sunni Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and perhaps Egypt, may seek to develop their own nuclear weapons. Make no mistake. A proxy war in the Middle East now pits Shiite Iran against Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yet nations have much in common. They’re Muslim. They fund extremists. And they consider each other apostates.

Regrettably, lifting sanctions and unfreezing Iranian assets will enable Tehran to fund more terrorism, increasing its backing for the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite groups in the Gulf and probably Hamas in Gaza. President Obama admittedly focused solely on the nuclear issue. We have our work cut out.

Now let’s examine reality. Peter Beinart—a liberal who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq then later saw its folly—rejects the theory of American omnipotence (The Atlantic online, July 14). We may be the world’s most powerful nation, but power is relative. We cannot dictate terms to other nations which, while not as strong as us, are formidable regional powers capable of great harm. The administration of George W. Bush set out to remake the Middle East with the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. Lovely theory. Ugly results.

Unfortunately, saber rattling comes easy. Restraint—particularly when the United States is so potent militarily—poses a major challenge to those who think we can use force with impunity. (Side bar: we are friendly with Vietnam following a war, which cost us more than 58,000 lives; there’s always hope.) Sober commentators like Roger Cohen (New York Times, July 16) point out that the Iran deal does not bring us into the best of all possible worlds. But no one offers a better alternative.

What would have happened had we foregone deal making and ratcheted up sanctions? Would Iran really have given up its quest for the bomb? Remember the bomb drawing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held up at the United Nations in September 2012? Although tough sanctions were in place, Iran was thisclose. But Bibi and his cabinet didn’t unleash the Israeli Air Force.

Look, I’m no pal of the ayatollahs. They and the Republican Guard are odious hate mongers. Their anti-Israel and anti-America rhetoric constitutes a thin ploy to distract Iranians from their deprivation of human rights and Iran’s regional aggression. But Peter Beinart correctly notes the limits of American power and the delusional nature of “American exceptionalism”—to wit, we know it all and can do no wrong.

I’m glad the White House hasn’t trumpeted “peace in our time.” And I hope that the deal’s critics won’t advocate, “nuke the bastards.” The future is murky. Living with uncertainty is a rough challenge. Get used to it.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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CANCER IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Last Friday, Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani referred to Israel as a “cancer” in the Middle East. He accused Israel and the United States of trying to “sterilize” the Arab Spring. But what happened last week in “non-cancerous” countries?

Sunday: Six hundred Syrians fled besieged Homs under attack by snipers… A Pakistani family of eight was killed in the home of a pro-government militia leader… Mali’s minister for interior security said that MUJWA, The Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, killed 31 Tuaregs near Tamkoutat.

Monday: An instructor in suicide bombings for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) unwittingly blew up his training class. Twenty-two died, 15 were wounded… In Mosul, Iraq a roadside bomb wounded six guards of the parliamentary speaker… A doctor was found dead in Baghdad with bullet wounds in his head and chest two days after being kidnapped… A bomb near a Baghdad café killed four and wounded 11.

Tuesday: Assailants in Peshawar, Pakistan tossed grenades into a movie theater killing 10 people and wounding 16—the second theater attack in two weeks… The Tel Aviv-based Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported that 15 percent of the world’s suicide bombings in 2013 took place in Syria. In 2014, a surge of similar attacks has taken place in Lebanon

Wednesday: Syrian troops and warplanes along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah pounded the Syrian border town of Yabroud before a government offensive… In Konduga, Nigeria Islamists killed 39 people, destroyed a mosque and leveled 1,000 homes… Seventeen civilians and soldiers were killed across Iraq.

Thursday: In Mogadishu, Somalia a bomb planted by the Islamist al Shabaab targeted a United Nations convoy, killing at least seven people… In Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, 11 people were killed in an attack on a prison that houses members of Al Qaeda… U.N mediator Lakhdar Brahimi stated that failure of the Syrian peace talks was “staring him in the face.”

Also on Thursday, Israeli soldiers killed one Palestinian and wounded another on the Israel-Gaza border. Relatives said the dead man was collecting gravel to sell. The Israeli military said soldiers fired at Palestinians tampering with Israel’s security fence. Israel played a role in just one of last week’s incidents, and it’s disputed.

Still, not only the Iranian leadership but also many “justice loving” people—including those in the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDM) movement—focus their attention solely on the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. Yes, I support a two-state solution with proper security for Israel and full rights for Israeli Arabs. And no, the status quo won’t do.

I suspect, however, that there is more to this unbalanced focus on Israel than meets the eye. Perhaps much of the West assumes that Muslims will continue to slaughter themselves and others as they’ve long done for sectarian and tribal reasons. Perhaps the BDM folks hold Israel, a Western-oriented democracy with a thriving and open culture, to a higher standard

Or perhaps the image of Jews with power—which can be use for both right and wrong, witness America’s oft-checkered policies—and the existence of a Jewish state prove more than they can handle.

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Read the first three chapters of The Boy Walker, at davidperlstein.com. Order in soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Check out Green Apple Books and Books, Inc. in Laurel Village. And read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.

CRYSTAL BALL 2014

What’s ahead in 2014? I polished my Swarovski crystal ball, and here’s what I saw…

— President Obama hands over healthcare.gov to Amazon. The revised website also offers medical supplies, vitamins and supplements, books and periodicals, hairpieces for men and women, and a button for making donations for site maintenance.

— Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann propose a real-American conservative think tank to oppose and eliminate Obamacare once and for all. Following six months of study, they release the organization’s name. It is to be known by the acronym ARACTTTOAEOOAFA—A Real-American Conservative Think Tank to Oppose and Eliminate Obamacare Once and For All.

— Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un proclaim their engagement. This coincides with news that Kim’s wife, Ri Sol Ju, met an untimely death while trying on a new evening gown purloined from Seoul’s top designer. Rodman and Kim, modeling matching wedding dresses, reveal that their ceremony will be held in a state-of-the-art basketball arena hand-built by 18,000 laborers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— The National Basketball Association signs an agreement with North Korean manufacturers of jerseys and other merchandise thanks to 18,000 workers volunteering to forego wages because of their devotion to the Great Leader.

— Texas becomes the lone holdout against same-sex marriage after Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi throw in the (figurative) towel. Lame-duck governor Rick Perry promotes legislation that forbids men, including relatives, from making any form of physical contact with each other except while playing football. Still, the law bans fanny patting after big plays, post-game hugs and championship dog piles. The latter is punishable by a prison  term of not less than six months or more than fifty-seven years.

— In response to traffic congestion created by special buses taking legions of San Francisco tech workers to companies out of town, the Board of Supervisors proposes a subway running from Second and Mission Streets to Silicon Valley. The $250 billion project will be funded by a special tax on caffeinated espresso drinks and a twenty-five-cent per flush charge on residential toilets.

— In Teheran, 18,000 Iranians set a Guinness record by chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” nonstop for eleven days, seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. They protest the availability of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” on satellite TV. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei makes a speech lasting seventeen hours, forty-two minutes and twenty-seven seconds blaming the U.S. and “the Zionist entity” for the deaths of 4,332 of the patriotic demonstrators and the hospitalization of the remainder.

— Dennis Rodman splits “amicably” with Kim Jong Un and becomes the United States’ first ambassador to Iran since the 1979 revolution. He simultaneously stars in “Real Housewives of Teheran.”

— Rick Perry becomes U.S. ambassador to North Korea. At a Christmas news conference, he takes credit for influencing Kim Jong Un to establish North Korea’s first minimum wage. Based on Texas’ proven economic model, it provides workers 18 cents an hour in 2015 skyrocketing to 22 cents in 2024.

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Purchase my new novel The Boy Walker in soft cover or e-book format at Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com or iUniverse.com. Read my short-short story “White on White” in the Winter 2014 online edition of Summerset Review.