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The Systemic Corruption in the Palestinian Authority

April 13 2018

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, a Palestinian group that monitors corruption in Gaza and the West Bank, recently released its annual report. Praising the organization as an exemplar of Palestinian civil society, Elliott Abrams summarizes its conclusions:

The rule of law is weak both because the parliament never meets to pass laws and due to executive interference. . . . Government jobs, which are prized due to the weak private economy, are awarded on the basis of cronyism rather than merit. . . . While there is a high import duty on automobiles, it is often escaped by big shots. . . . The security services continue to be bloated at the top, as under Yasir Arafat. . . .

Moneys are spent on non-existent entities, and here’s the best example: “salaries and raises were paid to employees of an airline company that no longer exists on the ground.” That is Palestine Airlines, about which the report says this: “The Palestinian treasury paid salaries to hundreds of employees in the ‘Palestinian Airlines,’ which is a governmental company that has a board of directors, headed by the minister of transportation. . . . The budget for this ‘company’ is included in the budget of the Ministry of Transport and Transportation with no details.” A non-existent airline—whose employees were not only paid salaries but given raises. . . .

The report also covers Gaza, where there is plenty of Hamas corruption. . . . The report is a tribute to the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity, because the text is long and detailed. Its very existence is a reminder that Palestinian civil society remains strong and continues to struggle with the political parties, movements, and leaders that dominate political life—and have so often been a curse to Palestinians.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinians, Politics & Current Affairs

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy