A sharp reader reminds me Ambassador Ford has not yet been confirmed. So perhaps there will be some informed discussion and debate at his confirmation hearing. A senator or two might ask him, with all due respect, what he could possibly accomplish and whether it’s best to actually get something in return before he appears with hand outstretched before Assad.
Posts For: February 28, 2010
The U.S. administration has asked Syrian President Bashar Assad to immediately stop transferring arms to Hezbollah. American officials made the request during a meeting Friday with the Syrian ambassador to Washington. …
The move was described as an opportunity to discuss the next steps following the visit to Damascus by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns on February 17.
The administration also said the meeting was part of its efforts to achieve a direct dialogue with Syria on issues of interest to both sides.
Haaretz has learned that Burns’ visit to Damascus ended unsatisfactorily for the U.S. administration. During Burns’ meeting with Assad, the Syrian leader denied all American claims that his regime was providing military aid to terrorists in Iraq, or to Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups.
Assad essentially told Burns that he had no idea what the American was talking about.
Well, why would it be, do you think, that Assad is playing dumb? After all, we sent our ambassador back without asking for anything in return, and we have been so mute… er… respectful of the Syrian government on the subject of human rights. Oh, wait. Could it be that having given Assad pretty much all he wants up front, we have no leverage to extract anything further from him? Could be.
And it’s not like this should come as any surprise. Last August, Elliott Abrams wrote that the Obama policy of unilateral diplomatic gestures was bearing no fruit:
Syria continues to support Hezbollah’s blocking of the formation of a government in Lebanon, backing Hezbollah in its demand for a “blocking third” that would prevent any decisions Hezbollah opposes in any new Cabinet. The Palestinian terrorist groups remain headquartered in Damascus, and under no visible restraints. And on August 19, President Bashar Asad paid a visit to President Ahmadinejad in Tehran, to showcase his support of the latter during the current Iranian political crisis.
So we tossed in more goodies – the return of Ambassador Ford — and lo and behold, still no results. In fact, Assad seems emboldened to defy American requests, secure in the knowledge there will be no downside to his snubbing of the administration. (What — we’re going to pull Ford out the week after he was sent? Hardly.) This is the appeasement game in action, of course. Defenders of the Obama policy, as they would do for all such gambits, insist we simply aren’t trying hard enough and have to do even more to encourage the Assad regime.
If we had not already sent Ford back to Damascus, would we have been more successful? Hard to know. But at least we would not have looked foolish in the process and convinced Assad he has the upper hand. And in the meantime, had we not been ingratiating ourselves with Damascus, we might have given some moral and political support to those Syrians under the boot of the despotic regime. Now we have the worst of all worlds — a defiant Assad, no leverage, and further erosion of America’s moral standing. That’s a regrettably familiar pattern with Obama’s “smart” diplomacy.
In case you thought Michael Crowley may have gotten it wrong (really, could any two supposedly sophisticated people have willingly revealed themselves to be pawns of a brutal dictatorship?), or in case you thought the Leveretts really hadn’t gone down the rabbit hole of shillery for the butchers of Tehran, think again. They have their own blog, a CONTENTIONS reader informs me. This particular post should be read in full, not so much for the suck-uppery for the University of Tehran or for giddy flattery bestowed on its students, who put American students to shame, tell Flynt and Hillary Mann. No, that’s sort of par for the course for the pair who find Tehran the happiest place on earth. Rather, it is this bit of jaw-dropping propaganda, putting Jane Fonda circa 1972 to shame, which deserves a gander:
Shortly before we arrived in Tehran, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Islamic Republic is turning into a “military dictatorship”. As we drove around Tehran, we looked hard to see a soldier anywhere on the street but did not see a single one—except for a couple at the entrance to the Behest-e Zahra cemetery just south of Tehran, where many of the Iranian soldiers killed in the Iran-Iraq War are buried. Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in a lot of Middle Eastern capitals. We have never been in one—including in Egypt and Israel—that has fewer guys in uniform on the streets than in Tehran right now.
Brutal military repression? What military repression? Amir Taheri, writing recently and not under the thrall of the Tehran regime, reminded us:
The pro-democracy movement had promised that last Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, would be a turning point for the cause of freedom. But Mr. Khamenei’s regime contained the mounting opposition.The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controlled Tehran with the help of tens of thousands of club-wielding street fighters shipped in from all over the country. Opposition marchers, confined to the northern part of the city, were locked into hit-and-run battles with the regime’s professional goons. An opposition attempt at storming the Evin Prison, where more than 3,000 dissidents are being tortured, did not materialize. The would-be liberators failed to break a ring of steel the IRGC threw around the sprawling compound…
For the first time the regime had to transform Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry. The IRGC was in total control. Code-named “Simorgh,” after a bird in Persian mythology, its operation created an atmosphere of war in the divided city. Warned that his life may be in danger, Mr. Khamenei was forced to watch the events on TV rather than take his usual personal tour.
Foggy Bottom isn’t exactly home base for aggressive Iran analysis. But really, it’s well accepted at this point that the IRCG has infiltrated and is now controlling government ministries. But the Leveretts, surrounded by evil, see and hear and speak of none.
The comments below the Leveretts’ inanity are worth a read. One of the Leveretts’ readers remarks: “As far as your jab on Iran being a militarized state — only a fool would have derived at the Clinton’s comments and more importantly the actions of Sepah in the past years that what was meant was that if one drives around Tehran with a government guide s/he will see tanks and soldiers! … Are you two really analysts or politicians?” Hmm. Propagandists, I think.
UPDATE: Clifford May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank on terrorism and Islamism, reacts to the Leverett’s observations: “It is astonishing that people who consider themselves political scientists have concluded that the Revolutionary Guards are not in control because ‘as they drove around Tehran’ they didn’t see in many soldiers in the streets. One wonders: If they had visited the Soviet Union in the 1960s and not seen members of the KGB in the streets, would they have included the USSR was not a police state?”
There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.
For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:
The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.
The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.
The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary. According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’ In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”
At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that ”Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.
But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .
“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.
Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.
While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas. … I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.
Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.
Maybe it was the health-care summit: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 22% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (43%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for President Obama. … Overall, 43% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. That is the lowest level of total approval yet measured for this President.”
In RealClearPolitics.com, Obama’s average disapproval reaches an all-time high of 47.2 percent.
Put it this way: “Obama turned out to be quite an effective community organizer. But the community he organized was a majority of the American people in opposition to his agenda of big-government liberalism.”
David Wasserman of Cook Political Report, as quoted by the New York Times: “The concern among Democrats right now is that there are more yes votes reconsidering than no votes. … My sense is that for Democrats to pass this bill, they would have to convince several members who are already in serious jeopardy, even after voting no on the first health care bill, to put passage of the bill ahead of their own chances of being competitive in the fall.”
On the money: “In a GOP that the mainstream media loves to portray as ‘intensely divided’, we would do well to follow the [Bob] McDonnell model when approaching upcoming elections. For the first time in a long while, Republicans of all stripes appear united in their dislike for President Obama’s fiscal, regulatory, health care proposals and environmental policies. Focusing on the issues, and not on religious or social warfare, as Gov. McDonnell did, is the most likely pathway to success for Republicans in 2010.”
“Under the Obami Bus” would be a shorter headline. But this one does the job: “President Barack Obama abandons Rep. Charles Rangel against ethics charges.”
The good thing about being a former president is that you can tell off Jimmy Carter. George W. Bush: “I have no desire to see myself on television. I don’t want to be a panel of formers instructing the currents on what to do… I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity. I didn’t like it when a certain former president — and it wasn’t 41 or 42 — made my life miserable.” Actually, the current ones should do the same.
Republicans are probably wise to harp on reconciliation because so many Americans oppose it, and it does seem to reinforce their point that Democrats are trying to steamroll an unpopular bill. Sen. Tom Coburn used the GOP weekly radio address to bash Democrats for “procedural tricks and backroom deals to ram through a new bill that combines the worst aspects of the bills the Senate and House passed last year. … If the president and the leaders in Congress are serious about finding common ground they should continue this debate, not cut it off by rushing through a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”