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by CTuttle

MENA Mashup: Bahrain, Bureau of Democracy, Egypt, House of Saud, Qatar, and Turkey

3:45 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

Honestly, folks, isn’t this just lovely…?

US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists

Documents reveal US money trail to Egyptian groups that pressed for president’s removal.

…The State Department’s programme, dubbed by US officials as a “democracy assistance” initiative, is part of a wider Obama administration effort to try to stop the retreat of pro-Washington secularists, and to win back influence in Arab Spring countries that saw the rise of Islamists, who largely oppose US interests in the Middle East. {snip}

‘Bureau for Democracy’

Washington’s democracy assistance programme for the Middle East is filtered through a pyramid of agencies within the State Department. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is channeled through the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL), The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), USAID, as well as the Washington-based, quasi-governmental organisation the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In turn, those groups re-route money to other organisations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and Freedom House, among others. Federal documents show these groups have sent funds to certain organisations in Egypt, mostly run by senior members of anti-Morsi political parties who double as NGO activists.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative – launched by the George W Bush administration in 2002 in a bid to influence politics in the Middle East in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks – has spent close to $900m on democracy projects across the region, a federal grants database shows.

USAID manages about $1.4bn annually in the Middle East, with nearly $390m designated for democracy promotion, according to the Washington-based Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

The US government doesn’t issue figures on democracy spending per country, but Stephen McInerney, POMED’s executive director, estimated that Washington spent some $65m in 2011 and $25m in 2012. He said he expects a similar amount paid out this year…

So, Cui Bono…?

Morsi’s fall in Egypt comforts Saudis, disconcerts Qatar

The $12 billion in aid Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait offered Egypt this week showed their delight at the army’s ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in a reversal for Islamists empowered by the Arab ferment of 2011.

It also marked a recalibration of power among Gulf Arab states which, with the notable exception of Qatar, had viewed the Arab uprisings as catastrophic for regional stability and feared the Muslim Brotherhood would use its domination of Egypt to push a radical, Islamist agenda in their own backyard.

Qatar, however, saw support for the Muslim Brotherhood as a means to project its influence in the Middle East, and gave Egypt $7 billion in aid during the movement’s year in power.

“I suspect the Qataris will draw back somewhat,” said Robert Jordan, a former U.S. ambassador to Riyadh. “Their infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood has probably been dampened. They’re likely to come around to a position closer to the Saudis.”

Saudi Arabia in particular was alarmed by the popular unrest that toppled Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali, and rippled through Bahrain, Yemen and other countries.

But most Gulf rulers had fewer qualms about rebellions against Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose links with Shi’ite Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement had long antagonised U.S.-backed Sunni Arab states.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has challenged Riyadh’s traditional leadership in recent years, were broadly aligned on support for rebels in Syria and Libya, but they bitterly disagreed over their attitude to Islamist groups. Now that argument appears to be over – at least for now…

From the Angry Arab…

Qatar in retreat

Aljazeera after the coup is almost dead. And the editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Abdul-Bari Atwan, has just resigned without explaining the reasons as he had promised on Twitter. House of Saud will now take full control of all Arab media. From bad to worse.

Now, here’s an interesting new wrinkle on Saudi intentions… Saudis may be targeting Iran, Israel with new missile program…

Meanwhile, right next door to the House of Saud, and home to the US 5th Fleet… Al Khalifa regime to collapse soon…

In wrapping up, Turkey is on the wrong side of history…

…So the simplistic assumption that being Islamic is enough to unify all Muslims in one “ummah” is shattered. This assumption actually started to crumble with Syria first, where Islam was seen not to be enough to unify people under a single umbrella. One could argue, of course, that the reasons for the sectarianism in Syria go back centuries and the outbreak of a civil war along the Alevi-Sunni line in that country should not have come as a surprise to anyone.

But Ankara misjudged the situation by hardly paying any attention to historical tensions that exist between rival communities in Syria based on sectarian and religious affinities.

It chose instead to demonize Bashar al-Assad – which is of course not hard to do given his brutal and ruthless nature – while overlooking the fact that large number of non-Sunni Syrians actually support al-Assad and his regime.

Turkey’s Syria policy also drove a wedge between Ankara and Tehran, because the two countries are backing opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, and worsened the already-tense relations between Ankara and Baghdad following Iraqi accusations of Turkish meddling in that country to promote Sunni interests. Ankara’s Syria policy has also resulted in gaining a new Islamic enemy for Turkey in the form of the region’s Shiites, and most notably Lebanese Hezbollah.

Now we see a new crisis looming for Turkey’s policy toward the region, with Saudi Arabia leading those standing on the opposite side of the fence from Ankara on Egypt. While Islam was seen, as a result of Syria, not to be the unifying religion that AKP circles assumed, Sunni Islam is also proving to be insufficient in doing this, given the radically different positions that Ankara and Riyadh have taken on the Egyptian coup.

Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will, of course, still try to influence the events in Egypt in line with their own political expectations. It is very unlikely, however, that they will make much headway now that major Arab powers have stepped in to shape the Middle East in line with their own expectations, and not those of a country like Turkey that is ultimately an outsider for Arabs, and one that has not endeared itself to everyone in the region, Shiite, Sunni or otherwise.

What a Clusterf*ck…! *gah*

by CTuttle

Where Are Our Tax Dollars Going In Afghanistan?

7:56 pm in Uncategorized by CTuttle

The BBC reported today…

UN Afghanistan survey points to huge scale of bribery

Afghans paid $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in bribes over the past 12 months, or the equivalent of almost one quarter of legitimate GDP, a UN report suggests.

Surveying 7,600 people, it found nearly 60% more concerned about corruption than insecurity or unemployment.

More than half the population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official last year, the report adds.

It truly is a bleak picture…

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said corruption was contributing to drug-trafficking and terrorism in Afghanistan…

In 56% of cases, the request for illicit payment was an explicit demand by the bribe-taker, it said.

In three out of four cases, bribes were paid in cash.

Around one in four Afghans surveyed had to pay at least one bribe to police and local officials during the survey period while between 10 and 20% had to pay bribes either to judges, prosecutors or members of the government.

"The Afghans say that it is impossible to obtain a public service without paying a bribe," said Mr Costa.

"Bribery is a crippling tax on people who are already among the world’s poorest," he added.

Mr Costa noted the emergence of a "new caste of rich and powerful individuals who operate outside the traditional power/tribal structures and bid the cost of favours and loyalty to levels not compatible with the under-developed nature of the country".

"Criminal graft has become similarly monumental, perverse and growing and is having political, economic and even security consequences," he said.

He expressed his concern that the lack of confidence in the Afghan authorities apparent in the survey was making the Taliban’s advocacy of "more violent forms of retribution… treacherously appealing".

"It’s time to drain the swamp of corruption in Afghanistan, to stop money and trust disappearing down a big black hole," the UNODC chief concludes.

"Corruption is the biggest impediment to improving security, development and governance in Afghanistan."

One should point out that Shrub and the CIA led the way with cash hand outs and kick started the whole ‘Protection Racket’ in Afghanistan…

And Karzai has been the CIA’s darling throughout this sordid ordeal and truly epitomizes the role of a Don. As that UN report clearly points out, the Afghani’s desire for clean government outweighs all other political factors…

Karzai was re-elected following a national election marred by voter intimidation and rigging at the polls. Sworn into office in November for another term, the Afghan president is under intense pressure to wipe out corruption that runs rampant in Afghanistan.

The Cabinet reshuffle was being watched closely by the United States and other Western allies as an indication of Karzai’s commitment to making his government more transparent.

Karzai made at least two key changes — at the Ministry of Mines and at the Ministry of Hajj and Islamic affairs. Both officials have been accused in corruption scandals.

However, this is what I found most disturbing in the report…

There was also a perception among 54% of Afghans that international organisations and NGOs were corrupt and "in the country just to get rich", the survey added.

"This perception risks undermining aid effectiveness and discrediting those trying to help a country desperately in need of assistance," the UNODC said.

It under cuts all our real Humanitarian efforts… One thing that has been noted repeatedly, is the factor of ‘scalability’

USAID: Understaffed and overwhelmed in Afghanistan

Obama’s troop surge fails to address how to improve delivery of aid.

Wilder observed that the US government is “recklessly pouring money into Afghanistan with perverse incentives.”

He said too many of the projects have budgets of $50 million and sometimes as high as $100 million and insufficient staff on hand to monitor the contracts. He pointed to the successes of smaller projects, such as those coordinated under the National Solidarity Program, funded by the World Bank and a host of other donors, in which $20,000 grants are distributed in coordination with village elders.

“The big contracts become faceless and more open to corruption. They tend to have little or no connection to the community,” explained Wilder, who is now a professor at Tufts University heading up research into the effective use of aid.

Here’s a few more recent observations…

Until we can provide the people the peace of mind that we will defend them against corruption, we will not succeed
–Hamid Karzai

Good money after bad in Afghanistan?
Poppy planting is down, but graft is up. So why is the U.S. mimicking a British agriculture program in Helmand?

"It’s a perfect war. Everybody makes money."
How US military funds are ending up in the hands of the Taliban.

The other half of the ‘recruits’, the one’s that aren’t Taliban embeds, for the ANA and National Police Forces are stoned…!

Wake up, Folks…! I want real answers to real questions…!