We've noted that the proximity of Western and Russian military forces in Syria holds the potential for escalation to World War 5, even if both sides are ostensibly part of the global convergence against ISIS. Now comes a further sign that the centripetal tendency will prevail—the common interest in figting jihadism propeling the situation back into World War 4. At the UN General Assembly session in New York, British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad can be part of a transitional government, although adding that Assad has "butchered his own people" and that "Assad cannot be part of Syria's future in the long run." This comes across as weak lip service in light of his capitulation. (Al Arabiya News, The Guardian, The Telegraph)
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment this week issued a report on the Obama administration's planned "modernization" of the US nuclear arsenal, finding it could cost $704 billion between 2015 and 2039. The biggest chunk will likely be borne by the Navy to develop a replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarines. Together with maintaining the warheads themselves, this will amount to some 70% of the cost estimate. The Air Force will see costs break $4 billion a year between fiscal 2029 and 2031 to bring online the next-generation Long Range Strategic Bomber. (Air Force Times, Aug. 5)
Seemingly coordinated attacks left over 140 dead across four countries June 26, in what social media users are dubbing "Bloody Friday." In France, an assailant drove his van into a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, outside Lyon, causing an explosion that killed 37 and wounded a similar number. His boss, the owner of a delivery firm, was found beheaded alongside flags containing Islamic inscriptions in Arabic. (BBC News) At least 39, mostly foreigners, were killed and nearly as many injured as a lone gunman opened fire on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse before being gunned down himself. (BBC News) In Somalia, dozens of soldiers were killed as al-Shabaab overran an African Union base in the village of Lego, northwest of Mogadishu, (The Guardian) And an explosion tore through a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait City after Friday prayers, killing at least eight and wounding several others. (Al Jazeera) The attacks come amid the holy month of Ramadan, and days before the anniversary of the declaration of a "caliphate" by ISIS.
This is why UN hearings on anti-Semitism are a very, very bad idea. The General Assembly "informal" conference opened Jan. 22 with a keynote address by French philosopher (of Sephardic background) Bernard-Henri Lévy—yes, the same who was recently in the news over having pressured Charlie Hebdo to fire an anti-Semitic cartoonist, was a few months back the target of angry protests in Tunisia over his supposed intrigues against the post-revolutionary government, and also made headlines in 2011 with his unseemly defense of accused rapist Dominque Strauss-Kahn. A choice perfectly designed to turn the whole affair into a counter-productive farce. Arab and Israeli diplomats did not fail to deliver opportunistic obfuscation that just makes everyone stupider.
At least eight have been were killed and scores injured in Niger in two consecutive days of angry protests over the Charlie Hebdo affair. The French cultural center was attacked and several churches burned. Protests began outside the grand mosque of capital Niamey Jan. 16, and quickly spread to other parts of the country. Police in Algiers fired on protesters with rubber bullets after rioting broke out at an anti-Charlie march Jan. 17. In Pakistan a local photographer was hit by gunfire and seriously wounded in protests outside the French consulate in Karachi. Angry protests are also reported from Afghanistan. A demonstration in Chora district, Uruzgan province, followed Friday prayers at a local mosque where a cleric asked worshippers to rally in support of the Charlie attackers, who he praised as "true mujahedeen." (EuroNews, AFP, BBC News, News24, Jan. 16)
A dangerous social consensus can be seen consolidating behind the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie. France just announced it is sending its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to support military operations against ISIS in Iraq. This comes after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for the Paris attack in a video message by commander Nasr Bin Ali al-Anesi on the Qaedist website Sada al-Malahim (not on Google, seemingly). Al-Anesi said the attack was carried out under orders from al-Qaeda's global leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. (Yemen Post, Reuters, CNN) Reprisal attacks are sweeping France. Abdallah Zekri of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia said that since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, 26 Muslim places of worship around France have been attacked with firebombs, fired at, or desecrated with pig heads. There have been many more insults and threats. (AP) We have heard of no arrests in these cases, but French authorities have detained 54 for violating the country's strong laws against anti-Semitism and racism—seemingly all preceived apologists for Islamist terrorism. Among the detained is comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has repeated convictions under the hate speech laws. Prime Minister Manuel Valls has declared Dieudonné "no longer a comedian" but an "anti-Semite and racist." He was arrested after posting a Facebook comment playing on the popular hashtag to suggest that he "is" one of the slain assailants in the Charlie attack. (AP, AFP, Foreign Policy, Jurist) However repulsive Dieudonne's post, the cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. An attack on free speech is being used to justify further attacks on free speech... in the name of protecting free speech.
European Union government ministers met in Paris Jan. 11 to condemn the attack on Charlie Hebdo. But there is an Orwellian aspect to their reaction. A joint statement (PDF) issued by twelve EU interior ministers, including Bernard Cazeneuve of France and UK Home Secretary Theresa May, included the following text: "We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence... With this in mind, the partnership of the major Internet providers is essential to create the conditions of a swift reporting of material that aims to incite hatred and terror and the condition of its removing, where appropriate/possible." In other words, pressure on ISPs to shut down websites deemed objectionable by EU ministries, and rat out their producers to the Euro-cops—a notion rendered especially problematic due to the elastic nature of the word "terrorism." (To provide just a few examples, see here and here and here and here and here and here and here.) The statement was signed in the presence of US Attorney General Eric Holder. (Global Guerrillas, Jan. 12; The Register, Jan. 11)
By now we've all heard. Gunmen today shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, apparently while shouting "Allahu Akbar" and "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad!" Editor Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier is among the dead; he had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection. Charlie Hebdo’s offices were bombed in 2011, after the magazine released an issue in which the Prophet Muhammed was satirically billed as "guest editor." The issue included cartoons lampooning Muhammed and was redubbed "Charia Hebdo," a reference to Shariah law. The new attack is said to be the deadliest in France since 1961, when rightists who opposed Algerian independence bombed a train, killing 28 people. (BBC News, NYT)