Published: June 1, 2013 in The New York Times
“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.
The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.
The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book. Read more…
By KHALAF AL-HABTOOR, Thursday, 12 May 2011
Vultures circle around Gulf States
Forget the fiery rhetoric, Washington, Tel Aviv and Tehran have more in common than you might imagine. All share the same aim: to control Arab States, the custodians of the world’s largest oil and gas deposits, and prevent them from uniting under one powerful bloc. In earlier times, they have been co-conspirators in that endeavour. The question is whether Iran truly is an enemy of America/Israel and a natural ally of the Arab world as the Iranian leadership works hard to portray?
The rivalry between Persians and Arabs goes back 1,400 years to the Muslim Conquests when Persians embraced Islam. Today, Iranians wrap themselves in an Islamic flag in an effort to lead the Muslim world yet the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian New Year Norouz is still Iran’s most celebrated festival. Attempts by Iranian clerics to undermine the resurgence of the Shiite holy city of Najaf in Iraq to retain the center of religious gravity in the Iranian Shiite city of Qom exemplify Tehran’s nationalistic instincts.
If Iranians were true friends of Arabs, they would not impede Arabic being spoken or the construction of Sunni mosques when Shiite mosques and synagogues proliferate. The Iranian government also bans parents from giving traditional Arab names to their newborns. It should be remembered too that Tehran still occupies UAE islands, refuses demands from the Arab population of Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) for autonomy, has territorial claims on Bahrain and threatens airlines that use “Arabian Gulf” instead of “Persian Gulf” with being barred from Iranian airspace. With friends like these who needs enemies!
Dr. Abdullah Al-Nafisi, a university professor and specialist on Shiite affairs, says Iranians are primarily Persian nationalists who use their faith to reach Arabs via Shiite Arab minorities. He says Iranian officialdom from the Supreme Leader down to senior military officers, Revolutionary Guards and intelligence personnel once followed the teachings of the politician and cleric Abdollah Nouri. This former Interior Minister maintains that all Gulf States belong to Persia and promotes Iranian retribution on Arabs for helping to destroy the Persian Empire which may account for Iranian Arabs being treated as second-class citizens. Conversely, according to Al-Nafisi, ordinary Iranians harbour no hostility towards the country’s 25,000 Jews who are represented in Parliament and are so well-respected that most have declined cash incentives to move to Israel.
Under-the-table dealings between Israel, the US and Persia extend back to the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah when Iranian oil flowed to Israel and, in turn, Israel supplied Iran with technological knowhow, missile assembly plants and military training. Iran even supplied Israel with details of Jamal Abdul Nasser’s military planning according to an illuminating book by Trita Parsi titled “Treacherous Alliance.”
Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Yasser Arafat was lectured by the Ayatollah Khomeini on the need for Palestinians to reject Arab nationalism and revert to their Islamic roots, Parsi says. It was clear that Mr. Khomeini wasn’t serious in his support for the Palestinian cause. His primary aim was to lead the Islamic world, indoctrinate Arabs with his credo and bolster Arab Shiites.
A research paper by Xue Maior concludes Iran disseminates the principles of the Iranian revolution under anti-Israel slogans”. Israel never took the “Little Satan” slur seriously and lobbied Washington to renew relations with Tehran. In 1981, Iran facilitated Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor with photographs and maps of OSIRAK and during the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians purchased weapons from Israel with the White House’s blessing, writes Parsi. In early 1986 President Reagan signed a secret memo authorising the sale of US arms to Iran resulting in the Iran-Contra scandal.
With the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Tehran saw its plan to dominate the Arab world slipping away and so began funding and supporting Islamist rejectionist groups to spoil the peace process. Despite being included in George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil”, Iran offered to help strengthen the fledgling Afghan army under US supervision and in 2002, the US State Department initiated talks with prominent Iranian political figures.
Tehran later urged Iraqi Shiites not to resist the US-led occupation for good reason. Iraq – the main obstacle to Iran’s access to Gulf States – had been conveniently defanged and was now ruled by political figures that have either lived in Iran for many years or consider it as their spiritual home. Inadvertently or otherwise, Mr. Bush spent billions of American taxpayers’ money and sacrificed tens of thousands of lives only to bring Iraq into Iran’s sphere of influence.
Tehran has since made efforts to woo Washington so as to gain access to the IMF, win clout in the UN and oil the lifting of anti-Iranian sanctions. It’s worth noting that economic sanctions against Iran have not heavily impacted the Iranian economy, certainly not in comparison to those that crippled Iraq and were considered responsible for the death of 500,000 Iraqi children – perhaps indicating that the West isn’t serious about disciplining Iran.
It’s curious, too, that Washington has been flexing its muscles over Iran’s uranium enrichment program since a 2006 UNSC resolution demanding its suspension but despite Iran’s intransigence the West has refrained from packing a punch – a dramatic contrast from its determination to punish Saddam for his non-existent WMD. Why the double standards?
In recent decades, Iran has hardened its grip on Lebanon and expanded its influence to Syria, Iraq and Yemen as well as to Shiite minorities in the Gulf. Prior to the “Arab Spring” that may have been planned by American NGOs working with Arab youth movements – as reported in the Washington Post and New York Times – veteran leaders kept a lid on Tehran’s ambitions.
The toppling of strong Arab leaderships is an invitation to sectarian conflict, extremist organisations, secessionist groups – and civil war. I would argue that division and chaos under the banner of “freedom” will serve Iran. It’s already happening. The new Egypt has permitted Iranian warships through the Suez Canal and is preparing to normalise diplomatic relations with Tehran despite deep reservations within the GCC.
It’s notable that while the US is vehemently supportive of revolutionaries in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria and is using its airpower to attack the Libyan regime, its condemnation against Iran’s repression of anti-government activists has been lukewarm. I have always suspected that the ‘enmity’ between Iran and the US/Israel may be an elaborate act. If Tehran has covertly cooperated with its so-called enemies in the past, it’s not that much of a stretch to believe that may be occurring now.
In any case, keeping up the pretence of enmity is a symbiotic win-win situation for all concerned. Israel has a pretext to expand its nuclear arsenal and propagandise its need to put security first in the face of an Iranian existential threat. Iran uses anti-Israel slogans to increase its standing among Muslims. And the US has an excuse to maintain its military footprint in the Gulf.
What if, in the future, Washington, Tel Aviv formed an alliance similar to the one that existed at the time of the Shah? How would that impact the independence of Gulf States? It may be that such a scenario is in preparation which would explain the West’s softly-softly approach towards Iran’s nuclear program, oppression of dissidents and support of armed religious militants in Arab lands.
In conclusion, I would strongly urge GCC states to increase their military might and initiate a unified strategy to defend against threats to our land, dignity and freedom. In an increasingly unprincipled geopolitical climate where major powers are willing to dump even close allies to suit their interests we cannot rely on protection from others. We’re on our own – and the sooner we face up to that fact and take care of ourselves the better.
Source: Al Arabiya
I grew up in a conservative household. That was the life of the time in Egypt, a conservative, middle-class household. [I had] good caring parents, with lots of roots but a lot of affection and love. But it was basically a conservative upbringing; we focused on values, focused on education. I was exposed, early on to a lot of things which I still enjoy, like classical music. My father used to love classical music.
- Did your mother wear a headscarf?
No, only lately, she started to wear them. When I was growing up, there was not a single woman in Egypt that was wearing a scarf. That was not the thing. This is all the last ten years, I would say.
- So she has started to wear one now?
Five, ten year. I think it’s more of a … I don’t know whether it’s peer pressure. It’s tradition now. This is one of the issues I discuss with her every single day, that it doesn’t make sense for you to wear it. But, in a joking way. She’s 82, so I’m not going to change the way she thinks now. But this is one of the contentious issues I have with her, that I tease her about it.
- To what extent does your religion help shape your world view?
Not much, as much as any religion. To me religion is the core values [with] which I felt as comfortable Christians, with Buddhists, with Jews. I don’t see much difference. [...] Egypt at that time was multi-cultural. I remember I used to play squash. I bought the equipment from a shop that was run by Australians. My father used to go rowing and his trainer was an Italian. My mother used to go to a tailor, “Madame Euphegine”, she was French. My parents used to buy me toys from a shop, Mr. Zak, who was Jewish. Egypt was in a way was very much, religion was not something people talked about. [...] But, religion to me, at that time, and continues to be, it’s a good guiding set of principles which I share with everybody else. My daughter’s husband is British, my first girlfriend was Jewish. I never really felt that religion is a major factor I have to take into account.
- On becoming a lawyer:
I always wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t know why. [...] I guess law was always interesting to me because you deal with constants. I like to deal with constants, abstracts, constants and reason and ration, rational approaches to things. I don’t know, I never really thought why I wanted to study law. But if you ask me, whether I would do it again, absolutely. I love law, more in the sense of having a structured approach to dealing with irrational approach. You learn how to think in a rational way, in a logical manner. That helps you in anything you do in life.
- On his role as IAEA Director General:
I would probably say: I’m not a technician fixing cameras. People would like to downsize me, put me in the job of a technician fixing cameras but I don’t see my role like that.
- On running for a third term:
I thought two terms was more than adequate. I’ve done my duty as a public servant and it was time to move on. Less stress and something new in my life. It was 99% decided that I should not stand up for a third term. My daughter was very much pushing me not to go and my wife also, although she said, “it’s up to you”. But the whole family was not really keen that I should run again, including myself.
- You could have left with the legacy of Iraq…
That is correct. Iraq was behind us. It was a great achievement for the Agency and myself that we at least proved ourselves in such momentous issue. To be on the right side. I could have left and basked in the good will of public opinion and moved to the lecture circuit. I had three or four offers at that time from the Fletcher School [at Tufts University], the Kennedy School [at Harvard University], to go and do whatever Fellow teaching, write books. Everything was set to go. Then of course, I got the message from our friend [then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Mr. [John R.] Bolton, that the US is not ready to support me and it took me one day to put my name on the back on the ballot. Really … the second day. It was a sense of revulsion, that basically, this decision should be made by me and not by anybody else and even if you do not want to support me, that’s your choice, but you can not tell me in advance. Don’t try.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000524
STATE FOR S AND NEA/FO WHITE HOUSE FOR OVP DOD FOR OSD
E.O. 12958: DECL: 3/16/28
TAGS: PARM, PREL, PGOV, MASS, MARR, PTER, IS, EG, XF“>XF
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR MINDEF TANTAWI’S VISIT TO THE U.S. MARCH 24-28
REF: A. CAIRO 452 B. CAIRO 488 C. CAIRO 507
CAIRO 00000524 001.2 OF 002
Classified By: Ambassador Francis Ricciardone for reasons 1.4 (a)(b)&(d).
1. (S) Summary: Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi will travel to Washington, Tampa, and Chicago March 24-28. He will meet senior officials in Washington and at USCENTCOM HQ in Tampa, and view U.S. civil defense arrangements in Chicago. Mrs. Tantawi and as many as five senior generals will accompany him. Tantawi will seek assurances that the USG will not condition or reduce military assistance to Egypt in the future. He will emphasize Egypt’s continuing value to the United States as an indispensable ally in the region, and he will press to return BRIGHT STAR to a full field training exercise. The eighty-year-old veteran of five wars with Israel is committed to preventing another one ever. But he is also frozen in the Camp David paradigm and uncomfortable with our shift to the post-9/11 GWOT. Recognizing that he is reluctant to change, we nonetheless should urge Minister Tantawi towards a broader and more flexible partnership based on shared strategic objectives, including border security, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and civil defense. End Summary.
General Omar Soliman, head of Egyptian intelligence, tells US ambassador that Cairo will keep up pressure on Palestinian Islamist movement. He sees Iran as a “significant threat” to Egypt and advises other Arab countries to keep their distance from it. Key passage highlighted in yellow.
Wednesday, 02 January 2008, 18:07
S E C R E T CAIRO 000009
EO 12958 DECL: 01/01/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, IS, IZ, SY, EG
SUBJECT: CODEL VOINOVICH MEETING WITH EGIS CHIEF SOLIMAN
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Stuart Jones Reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (S) Summary. EGIS Chief Omar Soliman told Ambassador and a visiting Codel led by Senator George Voinovich December 31 that he is optimistic progress will be made on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, Soliman was concerned with continuing Israeli criticism of Egyptian anti-smuggling efforts. He was worried that the Egyptians would not be able to work out an arrangement with the Israelis for Hajj pilgrims to return to Gaza. On Iran, Soliman said that the USG’s release of the National Intelligence Estimate had altered the calculus through which Arab states are interacting with Iran. On Iraq argued that the Iraqi government needed to amend its constitution and that Prime Minister Malaki should not deal with the Iraqi people in a “sectarian way.” End summary.
2. (S) Soliman led off the New Year’s Eve meeting by telling the Codel that the region is at a special, critical juncture. Egypt is America’s partner. Sometimes we have our differences. But Egypt will continue to provide the USG with its knowledge and expertise on the critical regional issues, such as Lebanon and Iraq. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core issue; Soliman contended a peaceful resolution would be a “big blow” to terrorist organizations that use the conflict as a pretext. For this reason, President Mubarak is committed to ending the Israeli-Arab “stalemate.”
3. (S) Soliman applauded the Administration’s efforts, commenting that Annapolis had given hope and begun a process. The timing is right for progress based on four factors. First, the PA leadership is moderate and willing to negotiate. Second, Hamas is isolated and politically cut off in Gaza. Third, the Israelis are ready for peace; Soliman assessed that the GOI coalition is broad and strong, and larger than Rabin’s coalition of the mid-nineties. Fourth, Arab states are ready to see an end to “the struggle.”
4. (S) Soliman stressed that Egypt stands ready to help the U.S. effort. The GOE knows both the Palestinians and the Israelis, and knows the obstacles to peace. Soliman recommended two steps be taken. First, both the Israelis and Palestinians must be pressed hard to sign an agreement, which the U.S. and international community could endorse, to be implemented at the proper time. Second, the U.S. should insist that “phase one” of the Roadmap should be completed before the end of 2008.
5. (S) Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Soliman opined that the Palestinian Authority was ready to sign an agreement, but that establishment of a state may take between 1-3 years. While Hamas is isolated politically and unable to stop an Israeli-PA agreement, it remains entrenched in Gaza, and it was unclear to Soliman how long that would last. At one point in the discussion, Soliman seemed to imply Hamas may remain in control of Gaza for more than a year; at another juncture, he told Senator Voinovich that if negotiations proceeded briskly, Hamas may be forced to cede power in Gaza in 3-4 months. The bottom line for Hamas, according to Soliman, is that they must be forced to choose between remaining a resistance movement or joining the political process. They cannot have it both ways, he said.
S E C R E T CAIRO 003126
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2017
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, EG, IQ
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR AMBASSADOR CROCKER’S VISIT TO CAIRO
Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION STUART JONES. REASONS: 1.4 (B) and (D)
1. (S) Welcome to Cairo.
2. (S) Cairo-Baghdad Relations: The Egyptian leadership wants assurances that the USG will not withdraw from Iraq precipitously. The Egyptians were also taken aback by Senate resolution on sectarian division, which got broad press play here. The GOE has played a constructive role in the expanded neighbors forum. Mubarak hosted the group in Sharm el Sheikh in May and Aboul Gheit will join the Istanbul meeting. The GOE dislikes and distrusts PM al Maliki, but stops short of calling for his removal, so far, even in private. Vice President Abdel Mahdi was received warmly in September and made a positive impression.
3. (S) The best thing the Baghdad can do now to improve relations with Cairo is appoint a full-time Ambassador. The GOE is still stung by the August 2005 assassination of its emissary, Ihab el-Sharif, but has made noises about appointing an Ambassador to Baghdad resident in Cairo.
4. (C) Egypt has a strong record on intelligence liaison and blocking foreign fighters en route to Iraq. This has included several arrests here. You may wish to praise Egypt’s help and also ask how the Egyptians regard the problem of Syria transit. Egyptian has not experienced the huge refugee influx of Iraq’s neighbors but the approximately 200,000 displaced Iraqis are a source of anxiety and concern. The Egyptians want to be involved in any refugee solution.
4. (C) DEBT: The Egyptians are not accustomed to forgiving other countries’ debts and regard the Iraqis as oil-rich. MFA reportedly has the portfolio to negotiate the debt issue, but most of the debt is held by MOD, which is not engaged. The parties have discussed a compromise that the GOE would forgive official debt — approximately $700m — if the Iraqis paid off their private debt, owed mainly to Egyptian workers who had worked in Iraq, estimated at approximately $400m. But there is considerable dispute over the figures and the Iraqis seem no more eager than the Egyptians to close a deal. We expect this process to drag on for some time.
5. (S) IRAN: The Egyptians dismiss news reports that the GOE is moving towards normalization with Iran. Aboul Gheit met with his Iranian counterpart on the margins of UNGA. Omar Soliman takes an especially hard line on Tehran and frequently refers to the Iranians as “devils.”But bilateral contacts are on the rise. Soliman will press you for an assessment of Iranian activity in Iraq and also of al Maliki’s ties to Tehran. Mubarak and Soliman are furious about Bashar Al Assad’s collaboration with Iran. They want the USG to improve relations with Damascus to lure Bashar back to the Arab fold. But Egyptian influence is very limited and Cairo is out of ideas.
6. (S) Arab League Secretary General Amre Moussa is one of the few Arab leaders to serially visit Baghdad. (Aboul Gheit will not go). The Arab League has exchanged ambassadors with Baghdad. You may wish to enlist Moussa in efforts to increase Arab diplomatic representation in Baghdad.
7. (C) Moussa met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan October 18, and reportedly advised against Turkish intervention in northern Iraq, taking the view that Iraq had enough issues to deal with already. A key Arab League contact told us October 18 he was confident that the Turks will not enter northern Iraq, but noted the idea (apparently proposed by Maliki) of a joint Turkish-Iraqi force to address Turkish concerns would not be unreasonable so long as the two governments agreed to it. RICCIARDONE
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000746
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/26/2019 TAGS: PREL, MASS, MOPS,PARM, KPAL, IS, IR, SO, EG, SU
SUBJECT: ADMIRAL MULLEN’S MEETING WITH EGIS CHIEF SOLIMAN
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. Key Points:
- (S/NF) During an April 21 meeting with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Soliman explained that his overarching regional goal was combating radicalism, especially in Gaza, Iran, and Sudan.
- (S/NF) On Gaza, Soliman said Egypt must “confront” Iranian attempts to smuggle arms to Gaza and “stop” arms smuggling through Egyptian territory.
- (S/NF) Soliman shared his vision on Palestinian reconciliation and bringing the Palestinian Authority back to Gaza, saying “a Gaza in the hands of radicals will never be calm.”
- (S/NF) On Iran, Soliman said Egypt was “succeeding” in preventing Iran from funneling financial support to Hamas through Egypt. Soliman hoped that the U.S. could encourage Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and stop interfering in regional affairs, but cautioned that Iran “must pay a price” for its actions.
- (S/NF) Egypt is “very concerned” with stability in Sudan, Soliman said, and was focusing efforts on convincing the Chadean and Sudanese presidents to stop supporting each others’ insurgencies, supporting negotiations between factions in Darfur, and implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). “Egypt does not want a divided Sudan,” Soliman stressed.
S E C R E T CAIRO 000326
FOR NEA AND H
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/23/2019
TAGS: PREL, KPAL, ECON, IR, SY, IZ, EG, IS, QA
SUBJECT: SENATOR LIEBERMAN’S FEBRUARY 17 MEETING WITH GAMAL MUBARAK
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. (C) During an hour-long meeting on February 17, Gamal Mubarak discussed with Senator Joseph Lieberman the problems with Gaza and Palestinian reconciliation, as well as the broader political split within the Arab world. Senator Lieberman sought Gamal’s advice on ways for the U.S. to engage Iran; Gamal offered that the best way to defeat Iranian ambitions in the region is to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Unfortunately, Qatar is playing “spoiler” in order to get “a seat at the table.” Gamal, a former international banker, opined that the U.S. needed to “shock” its financial system back to health, and said that Egypt — which had so far escaped much of the pain of the global economic crisis — was preparing to face tough economic times ahead. The Ambassador, Senator Lieberman’s foreign policy adviser, and the ECPO MinCouns as note taker were also present. End summary.
By Genevieve Cora Fraser
Al-Jazeerah, November 8, 2006
It was meant to be a joke and it got a big laugh from TV host Tavis Smiley when his guest, political pundit Andy Borowitz quipped, “George Bush plans to withdraw all his troops from Iraq – to Iran. That’s the plan – the exit strategy.”
But no one was laughing, least of all Turkish military officers, on September 15th when a map was presented at the NATO’s Defense College in Rome that included a reduced Turkish landmass. The new Middle East map prepared by retired US Col. Ralph Peters and published in the Armed Forces Journal in June featured a “Free Kurdistan” that included additional territory taken from Syria and Iraq. Indeed, Iraq was a fragment of its former self and had been carved up to also include Sunnis Iraq and the Arab Shia State.
Within the proposed new Middle East, Iran was also reduced, not only by Free Kurdistan, but by “Free Balochistan” which had also borrowed heavily from territory currently claimed by Afghanistan and Pakistan. Balochistan, which lies in the southwest corner of Pakistan, is the largest but least populated of the Pakistani regions. Lately the Chinese have invested heavily in the area by expanding the port city of Gwader. Natural gas, coal, copper and gold offer vast wealth and pipelines will be stretched from Iran to India through the province. Balochistan is also rich in opportunities for drug smugglers with its massive border alongside Afghanistan’s most frequented heroin routes. Some political pundits have labeled heroin as the new American Gold Standard – the only thing propping up the bankrupt American economy and the real reason we occupy Afghanistan. Yes, endless war is very expensive for taxpayers but the fat cat international banking and corporate interests in armaments and energy grow wealthier by the minute.