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Posts For: October 2, 2011

Why is Obama Rewarding Turkey with Attack Helicopters?

If Obama were a poker player holding a full house, he’d fold to let the guy across the table with a pair of twos feel like a winner. Not even Jimmy Carter was so adverse to squandering leverage when dealing with friends and foes.

Turkey has changed. During the last few months, Turkey has acted far more as an adversary than as an ally. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threw a diplomatic temper tantrum when the UN’s Palmer Commission found largely in Israel’s favor with regard to Israel’s enforcement of a blockade against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In its wake:

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If Obama were a poker player holding a full house, he’d fold to let the guy across the table with a pair of twos feel like a winner. Not even Jimmy Carter was so adverse to squandering leverage when dealing with friends and foes.

Turkey has changed. During the last few months, Turkey has acted far more as an adversary than as an ally. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threw a diplomatic temper tantrum when the UN’s Palmer Commission found largely in Israel’s favor with regard to Israel’s enforcement of a blockade against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. In its wake:

  • Erdoğan has promised the (U.S.-supplied) Turkish Navy would escort Turkish ships carrying supplies to Gaza in contravention of the lawful blockade.
  • Egemen Bağış, a close Erdoğan aide who now serves as Turkey’s Minister for European Union Affairs, threatened to use the (U.S.-supplied) Turkish Navy against Cyprus, an EU member state.
  • Turkish warplanes have bombed Iraqi territory, killing seven civilians, a strike for which Turkey neither made the apology nor paid the compensation it demands from others.
  • Turkey has demanded an apology from Armenia, somewhat akin to Saddam Hussein demanding an apology from Kuwait, Russia from Georgia, or China from Tibet.
  • Erdoğan has used his UN address to bash Israel in the crudest possible terms.

So what’s Obama to do? A strategically-minded president wouldn’t hesitate to use his leverage to assert American interests and coerce countries acting against them to change their behavior or face consequences. Obama, however, isn’t strategically-minded. He doesn’t understand diplomacy and would rather play a losing hand than the hand he was dealt.

In response to Erdoğan’s recent provocations, here is what the Obama administration has done or is doing:

  • It continues its drive to supply Turkey with the next generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter without so much as reporting to Congress the vulnerabilities of technology transfer should the fighters be supplied.
  • It has agreed to provide Turkey with Predators, even as Turks suggest they want to develop their own version, again suggesting the Turks mean to reverse engineer the product we supply them.
  • Now, Francis “Frank” Ricciardone, Obama’s recess appointee to be ambassador to Turkey, has announced the United States would provide Turkey with three Super Cobra helicopters, a platform that Turkey could easily turn against Cyprus or Israel.

The United States and Turkey will share military relations so long as Turkey remains a NATO member. However, maintenance of military relations does not mean the United States should supply Turkey with weaponry it might share with Iran or use against American allies. Turkey’s change is ideological; it is not a country the United States can co-opt. It’s time for Congress to tell the White House: enough is enough. No more cutting edge weaponry for Turkey.

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Israel Wants to Talk; The Palestinians Don’t

Today, the Israeli government formally accepted the Diplomatic Quartet’s proposal for restarting negotiations with the Palestinians. In doing so, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again made it crystal clear that the main, indeed, the only real obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to go back to the table. The PA has refused this offer; it says it won’t talk unless Israel agrees in advance to concede everything on territory even before the negotiations begin.

This contradicts the conventional wisdom put forward by most talking heads on television and liberal pundits who continue to insist it is Netanyahu’s fault peace has not broken out. But when did any of those commentators (like the New York Times’  Tom Friedman who demanded last week Israel once again freeze building in the West Bank in order to entice the PA back to the table) let the facts get in the way of their pat stories about Israeli stubbornness?

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Today, the Israeli government formally accepted the Diplomatic Quartet’s proposal for restarting negotiations with the Palestinians. In doing so, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again made it crystal clear that the main, indeed, the only real obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to go back to the table. The PA has refused this offer; it says it won’t talk unless Israel agrees in advance to concede everything on territory even before the negotiations begin.

This contradicts the conventional wisdom put forward by most talking heads on television and liberal pundits who continue to insist it is Netanyahu’s fault peace has not broken out. But when did any of those commentators (like the New York Times’  Tom Friedman who demanded last week Israel once again freeze building in the West Bank in order to entice the PA back to the table) let the facts get in the way of their pat stories about Israeli stubbornness?

Israel has clear misgivings about the idea put forward by the Quartet (which consists of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations) of separating the issues of territory and security from those concerning refugees and the status of Jerusalem. In the unlikely event of an agreement being reached on territory, there would now be no incentive for the Palestinians to compromise on their intransigent stands on dividing Jerusalem and upholding the so-called “right of return” for the descendants of the 1948 refugees. But Netanyahu wisely accepted the invitation to the talks, because he understands Israel must not refuse any opportunity to negotiate.

In any event, there is little danger the Palestinians will take him up on the offer. The PA has spent all of Barack Obama’s term in the White House disappointing a president who is eager to pressure Israel to accommodate the Palestinian cause. But Obama’s desire to pick fights with Netanyahu and to bring a Palestinian state into being has been frustrated by the simple fact PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of signing any peace deal that would force him to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. Abbas has gone to the UN to demand recognition for a Palestinian state without making peace with Israel in order to evade the U.S.-sponsored peace process, not to enhance its negotiating position.

Netanyahu has moved as far as he should go toward accommodating America’s desire for more talks. If the Palestinians want peace and a state, they can have it, provided they are willing to negotiate. But the only thing they seem interested in is a deal in which they get everything without being required to end the conflict.

Those who expect Netanyahu to ante up further concessions in advance of talks are wrong. Israel has already enacted a building freeze at Obama’s behest, and Abbas still refused to talk. The idea Israel has nothing to lose from yet another such concession is mistaken. Whatever the final outcome of any possible talks, further compromises on the right of Jews to live in parts of the West Bank as well as in Jerusalem cannot take place in a vacuum. The Palestinians no longer want land for peace. Now they are demanding land for nothing. That is not an equation that any Israeli or American who cares about the Jewish state should be willing to accept.

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Who Will Question Iranian Terror Financier in Canada?

The Canadian-Iranian blogger “Winston,” who writes at The Spirit of Man website, draws my attention to this important story. About three weeks ago, the news broke in the Iranian press of an embezzlement scandal. Three billion dollars went missing from an Iranian bank, the largest single instance of embezzlement in a regime where graft is commonplace. Now, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the managing director of Bank Melli, has reportedly fled to Canada. The Washington Post provides further context regarding the scope of the embezzlement, those involved, and how they link into other Iranian political scandals.

What the Washington Post does not mention is that Bank Melli has been involved in the transfer of funds to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah through the Qods Force, as well as Iran’s nuclear program. Bank Melli was among the Iranian financial institutions which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in 2007.

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The Canadian-Iranian blogger “Winston,” who writes at The Spirit of Man website, draws my attention to this important story. About three weeks ago, the news broke in the Iranian press of an embezzlement scandal. Three billion dollars went missing from an Iranian bank, the largest single instance of embezzlement in a regime where graft is commonplace. Now, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the managing director of Bank Melli, has reportedly fled to Canada. The Washington Post provides further context regarding the scope of the embezzlement, those involved, and how they link into other Iranian political scandals.

What the Washington Post does not mention is that Bank Melli has been involved in the transfer of funds to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah through the Qods Force, as well as Iran’s nuclear program. Bank Melli was among the Iranian financial institutions which the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in 2007.

President Obama’s counter-terrorism record has been mixed. Certainly, the president deserves credit for killing Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. However, Obama’s moral equivalency, his refusal to recognize the theological basis of terrorism and his willingness to accommodate terror-sponsoring regimes threaten to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

In contrast, the stories out of Canada have been almost uniformly positive: Canada has demonstrated moral clarity. It has proven its willingness to lead from the front on foreign policy issues such as the UN’s periodic anti-Semitism orgy in Durban, and Ottawa refuses to tolerate Iranian and Palestinian incitement.

Khavari’s flight provides a potential windfall for Western intelligence analysts. Given his position, Khavari likely knows the ins-and-outs of Iranian terror finance. His testimony can provide smoking guns with regard to Qods Force head Qasem Suleimani and other senior Iranian officials. Canadian authorities should take their war on terrorism to the next level, and recognize that diplomatic posturing is not enough.  They should use any pretext possible to detain Khavari, and offer him a stark choice: Reveal what he knows or be returned to an Islamic Republic which will be sure to kill him.  Canada should not allow itself to become a safe haven for terror financiers.

Obama, for his part, should not repeat the mistakes of Clinton after Khobar: Obama should not let his hope for diplomacy translate into a willingness to turn a blind eye toward damning evidence of Iranian culpability in the murder of Iranians.

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Perry’s Continuing Misadventures North and South of the Border

This was supposed to be the start of a comeback week for Rick Perry as he began to hit back hard at Mitt Romney and prepared for a better performance at the next Republican presidential debate. Instead, it has begun with him still playing defense on immigration, a questionable new policy initiative on border security and a potentially devastating revelation about the racially charged name of the hunting camp that he and his family used to lease.

It is the latter charge upon which most commentary about Perry will center this week and not without cause. But even if we accept his campaign’s claims of innocence about the “Niggerhead” hunting camp, the continued criticism from conservatives about his very defensible position on education benefits for the children of illegal immigrants would be a problem. So, too, would the feedback about his suggestion the United States military get involved in the drug war raging in Northern Mexico. All in all, it’s hard to escape the impression that unless he can do something to reverse the trend, Perry’s presidential hopes are sinking fast into the Texas twilight.

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This was supposed to be the start of a comeback week for Rick Perry as he began to hit back hard at Mitt Romney and prepared for a better performance at the next Republican presidential debate. Instead, it has begun with him still playing defense on immigration, a questionable new policy initiative on border security and a potentially devastating revelation about the racially charged name of the hunting camp that he and his family used to lease.

It is the latter charge upon which most commentary about Perry will center this week and not without cause. But even if we accept his campaign’s claims of innocence about the “Niggerhead” hunting camp, the continued criticism from conservatives about his very defensible position on education benefits for the children of illegal immigrants would be a problem. So, too, would the feedback about his suggestion the United States military get involved in the drug war raging in Northern Mexico. All in all, it’s hard to escape the impression that unless he can do something to reverse the trend, Perry’s presidential hopes are sinking fast into the Texas twilight.

To be fair to Perry, the Washington Post feature on the hunting camp is vague about the details about how long a rock with the disgusting name “Niggerhead” was allowed to stand at one of the entrances to the place before it was painted over. Neither Perry nor his father, who leased part of the site for years, are responsible for the original name of the site which is rooted in Texas’ racist past. But it can’t be denied that they tolerated it for a while before deciding to efface the tangible evidence of the name. It is true, as the article says, what Perry did about the name is “unclear.” But it is also true the governor’s claim his family did away with the name when they took over the place cannot be contradicted with certainty.

Yet no matter which side of this dispute you choose to believe, it looks bad. Even if one takes Perry at his word about his actions, his family’s association with a relic of his state’s history of racism ought to leave everyone with a bad taste even in their mouths. Considering that he is running for the chance to unseat the country’s first African-American president, the story is an appalling distraction from the issues that can only serve to aid an otherwise faltering Obama re-election campaign.

Yet though it is going to be overshadowed by the “Niggerhead” story, Perry’s suggestion in a campaign speech in New Hampshire that he might send America’s armed forces to aid the Mexican authorities stamp out drug cartels operating south of the Rio Grande is as problematic as anything else he has said since he declared for the presidency.

It is true American intervention in Colombia has been an important part of the war on drugs, and few would argue it was a mistake. But the decision of a friendly government in Colombia to accept U.S. aid in a war against narco-terrorists who are aided and abetted by the leftist regime in neighboring Venezuela is a very different thing from Perry’s idea. The history of American military intervention in Mexico is an unfortunate obstacle to close relations between the two countries. Perry’s decision to channel his inner Woodrow Wilson (who sent an expedition of U.S. cavalry on an extended wild goose chase after Pancho Villa in 1916) can only make an already messy situation worse. The U.S. ought to help the Mexicans fight the drug gangs in any way possible, but Perry knows enough about the situation to understand that having our armed forces cross the border is a non-starter.

Perhaps this idea was an effort to compensate for being unfairly branded as “weak” on border defense and immigration. But rather than change the conversation on that issue, it will only remind many conservatives that they disagree with him.

Both the camp story and the border proposal indicate insufficient preparation for a presidential campaign and poor judgment on the part of the candidate and his staff. It remains to be seen whether even a dazzling comeback by Perry at the next debate on Oct. 11 will be enough to wipe the smile off the face of an increasingly confident Mitt Romney.

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What Happened Before Nothing Happened?

In an interview Friday with Al-Hayat TV, Hillary Clinton said she and Barack Obama “very much want to see a Palestinian state” – noting she first endorsed one in 1998 – but said she knows “it’s hard for [the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table] because they feel like they’ve been at this for a while and nothing has happened.” Actually quite a lot happened in the decade after Hillary first endorsed a Palestinian state:

(1) In 2000, the Palestinians were offered a state by Israel, and turned it down; (2) in 2001, the Palestinians rejected the Clinton Parameters; (3) in 2002, the U.S. endorsed a Palestinian state if the Palestinians built a practicing democracy (today the putative state is ruled half by a terrorist group and half by a party that hasn’t held an election in nearly six years); (4) in 2003, the Palestinians accepted the Roadmap but have yet to complete any of its three phases; (5) in 2004, Israel adopted a plan to hand over Gaza to the Palestinians; (6) in 2005, Israel removed every settler and soldier from Gaza, which the Palestinians turned into Hamastan in one week; (7) in 2006, the Palestinians elected a terrorist group to control their legislature; (8) in 2007, the U.S. convened the Annapolis conference to “accelerate” the Roadmap; (9) in 2008, after a year of final status negotiations, the Palestinians rejected still another Israeli offer of a state; and (10) in 2009, Israel offered the Palestinians negotiations again, which they refused, and initiated an unprecedented construction moratorium, which they ignored.

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In an interview Friday with Al-Hayat TV, Hillary Clinton said she and Barack Obama “very much want to see a Palestinian state” – noting she first endorsed one in 1998 – but said she knows “it’s hard for [the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table] because they feel like they’ve been at this for a while and nothing has happened.” Actually quite a lot happened in the decade after Hillary first endorsed a Palestinian state:

(1) In 2000, the Palestinians were offered a state by Israel, and turned it down; (2) in 2001, the Palestinians rejected the Clinton Parameters; (3) in 2002, the U.S. endorsed a Palestinian state if the Palestinians built a practicing democracy (today the putative state is ruled half by a terrorist group and half by a party that hasn’t held an election in nearly six years); (4) in 2003, the Palestinians accepted the Roadmap but have yet to complete any of its three phases; (5) in 2004, Israel adopted a plan to hand over Gaza to the Palestinians; (6) in 2005, Israel removed every settler and soldier from Gaza, which the Palestinians turned into Hamastan in one week; (7) in 2006, the Palestinians elected a terrorist group to control their legislature; (8) in 2007, the U.S. convened the Annapolis conference to “accelerate” the Roadmap; (9) in 2008, after a year of final status negotiations, the Palestinians rejected still another Israeli offer of a state; and (10) in 2009, Israel offered the Palestinians negotiations again, which they refused, and initiated an unprecedented construction moratorium, which they ignored.

But Hillary is correct: nothing has happened since then.

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Re: Herman Cain?

Conservatives have spent the last several months chewing up and spitting out a number of Republican presidential hopefuls as well as some who haven’t run. If you eliminate those who haven’t done well when exposed to scrutiny, like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, that means Republicans must either make their peace with Mitt Romney or re-examine their misgivings about the other candidates. Given the choices, that’s not much fun. So, it’s no surprise this has led to a second look at some who have very little chance of winning the nomination.

Thus, Herman Cain’s moment has arrived. His straw poll triumph in Florida over Rick Perry has led some thoughtful writers such as the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger and our own John Steele Gordon to ask why Cain shouldn’t be given serious consideration. Both buy into the notion electing a businessman without any government experience is a good idea given our economic problems. They rightly point out he has some good ideas about finances. But both also ignore or rationalize Cain’s ignorance about foreign policy while being seduced by the possibility the Godfather Pizza exec could split the African-American vote. While Cain has established he’s good at delivering cliché-laden one-liners in debates, there are still good reasons for conservatives not to waste time on him.

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Conservatives have spent the last several months chewing up and spitting out a number of Republican presidential hopefuls as well as some who haven’t run. If you eliminate those who haven’t done well when exposed to scrutiny, like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, that means Republicans must either make their peace with Mitt Romney or re-examine their misgivings about the other candidates. Given the choices, that’s not much fun. So, it’s no surprise this has led to a second look at some who have very little chance of winning the nomination.

Thus, Herman Cain’s moment has arrived. His straw poll triumph in Florida over Rick Perry has led some thoughtful writers such as the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger and our own John Steele Gordon to ask why Cain shouldn’t be given serious consideration. Both buy into the notion electing a businessman without any government experience is a good idea given our economic problems. They rightly point out he has some good ideas about finances. But both also ignore or rationalize Cain’s ignorance about foreign policy while being seduced by the possibility the Godfather Pizza exec could split the African-American vote. While Cain has established he’s good at delivering cliché-laden one-liners in debates, there are still good reasons for conservatives not to waste time on him.

First of all, the idea a person with no background in government ought to be entrusted with the White House doesn’t make much sense. Granted, there is no reason why only career politicians should get consideration. It’s a valid criticism of most of our governing class that many, like Barack Obama, have never held an honest job where they might get some idea of how businesses work. It’s also true Obama didn’t bring any executive experience with him when he was elected in 2008.

But that is exactly why Republicans ought not to duplicate that experiment. We’ve just seen what it’s like when you have a president who hasn’t much idea of what he’s doing, so why would a similar fault in a candidate be considered a recommendation? For all of the popularity of rhetoric about our disgust with veteran political hacks, successful presidents have to know how Washington works. Maybe governments ought to be run more like businesses but, like it or not, governments are not the same thing as fast food franchises.

It also bears repeating that despite the obvious emphasis on economic issues this year, a president’s first and most important responsibility concerns defense and war and peace issues. That’s something that even those, like George W. Bush, who entered the office with no thought of devoting much attention to foreign policy, have learned. When he began running for president, Cain’s ignorance of the world beyond our borders was almost complete. He’s uttered some memorable clunkers in which he said we could stop Iran from getting nukes with energy independence, had no idea what the Palestinian “right of return” was, and admitted he hadn’t a clue about what to do about Afghanistan. Since then, he’s cleaned up his act a bit and learned a few one-liners about supporting Israel that he will repeat whenever given the chance. But it’s still fairly obvious he doesn’t have a grasp of these topics. While we may have elected a number of presidents with no direct foreign policy experience, even most of that number knew more than Cain.

Last, there is the idea that Cain could split the African-American vote. But there is no reason, other than Cain’s own assertion to believe that this could happen. Enthusiasm for Obama among his base is probably diminished, but there is no sign whatsoever African-Americans are likely to jump ship even for a black Republican.

Herman Cain may be an entertaining diversion from the more obvious choices, but there is a reason why few have given any serious thought to the possibility of him winning the GOP nomination. It’s because he isn’t a plausible candidate.

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