How The Middle East Celebrated Christmas, 2013…

Via Jim Geraghty at today’s Morning Jolt, an indictment of sorts of our illustrious president’s claim that the world is safer than it was when he took office…

Meanwhile, over in Lebanon:

A powerful car bomb tore through a business district in the center of the Lebanese capital Friday, killing a prominent pro-Western politician and at least five other people in an assassination certain to hike sectarian tensions already soaring because of the civil war in neighboring Syria.

The blast, which wounded more than 70 others, set cars ablaze, shredded trees and shattered windows in a main street of the posh downtown Beirut area of five-star hotels, luxury high-rises and high-end boutiques. It sent a pall of thick black smoke above the nearby government headquarters and the seafront.

The bomb targeted the car of Mohammed Chatah, a former finance minister and a senior aide to former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, security officials said. Chatah, his driver and four others were killed, the National News Agency said.

Meanwhile, over in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Two car bombs targeting Christians killed at least 38 people in southern Baghdad on Christmas.

In Afghanistan, two rounds of “indirect fire” hit the U.S. Embassy compound in Kabul, but no one was hurt.

Meanwhile, in South Sudan:

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Wednesday called for an end to ethnically based attacks on civilians, even as fighting raged in a key oil-producing region and a fast-spreading humanitarian crisis worsened.

Kiir’s appeal comes amid widespread reports of extrajudicial killings, rapes, beatings and mass graves, according to victims, witnesses and U.N. human rights officials, raising fears of a civil war. . . .

On Wednesday, the United Nations announced that the number of people who have sought shelter at U.N. peacekeeping bases nationwide had mushroomed to 58,000. More than 92,000 have fled their homes.

Don’t worry, South Sudanese! The civilized world is on the case!

[Japan and South Korea] have about 300 troops deployed as peacekeepers in South Sudan, where internal conflict looks increasingly like the makings of a possible civil war. The South Korean troops needed more ammunition, which on Monday was supplied by the nearby Japanese force.

But what should have been a rare opportunity for cooperation has quickly become the opposite. South Korea said it asked the United Nations for ammo, and the United Nations just happened to pass along Japanese-owned bullets. Japan put out the story that the Koreans had asked them directly for the ammo. South Korea took this as an insult, apparently believing that Tokyo was attempting to spin the story to make Japan look strong and South Korea look weak. It has devolved rapidly from there, with national media in both countries playing up the grievances and offense-taking.

Meanwhile, in Syria:

At least 25 people were killed in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday, antigovernment activists reported, in the eighth straight day of intense government bombardment of rebel-held areas there, while a suicide car bombing that the state news media blamed on insurgents killed at least 10 people in the central province of Homs. . . .

Violence in Syria appears, if anything, to have escalated in recent weeks. Rebel and government groups have each been accused of massacring civilians, and the government has stepped up air attacks on Aleppo with barrages of improvised “barrel bombs” packed with high explosives that activists say have killed more than 200 people.

The war has killed more than 120,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and the United Nations said that nearly nine million people, more than a third of the country’s population, had been driven from their homes.

He didn’t even include what happened in Egypt

A powerful explosion believed to be caused by a car bomb rocked a police headquarters in a Nile Delta city north of Cairo early on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding dozens, according to the state news agency and a security official.

The interim government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, branding it a “terrorist organization.”

The Middle East News Agency quoted Cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood showed its “ugly face as a terrorist organization, shedding blood and messing with Egypt’s security.”

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Mansoura, 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Cairo. The attack came a day after an al-Qaida-inspired group called on police and army personnel to desert or face death at the hands of its fighters.

The painting of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization set our secretary of state to clucking

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday expressed widespread concern over the military-backed Egyptian government’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, days after the once ruling group was designated a terrorist organization.

During a phone conversation with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Thursday, Kerry condemned Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Mansoura that killed 16 people and the Thursday bombing that wounded five, but “expressed concern about the interim Egyptian government’s December 25 terrorist designation of the Muslim Brotherhood, and recent detentions and arrests,” according to a statement by State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Kerry and Fahmy “agreed that there can be no place for violence in Egypt and that the Egyptian people deserve peace and calm,” Psaki said.

But the secretary of state also “underscored the need for an inclusive political process across the political spectrum that respects the fundamental human rights of all Egyptians in order to achieve political stability and democratic change.”

A US official told Reuters that Egypt was going “way too far” in the crackdown, adding that the Obama administration had no intention of taking any action against Cairo in response, or following suit in labeling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

This is what happens when American leadership is vacant from that region, and it’s also what happens when we don’t defend our friends or harass our enemies.

The Obama administration has done the opposite, and has largely ceded its dominant position of influence in the Middle East to Russia and China.

The only foreseeable outcome of such a policy is blood. Which was quite obvious yesterday, if it wasn’t long before.

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