Today is the 45th Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem, Israel – the annual commemoration on the 28th of Iyar, the anniversary of the Six-Day War on the Hebrew calendar, when Israel liberated the eastern part of the city from Jordanian occupation. It is also worth recalling a little history on this day.
After the defeat of Turkey in World War I, President Wilson received a 1919 report from two American commissioners to the Inter-Allied Commission on Mandates in Turkey. The commissioners wrote that they “doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or Moslems proper guardians of the holy places”:
The places which are most sacred to Christians — those having to do with Jesus — and which are also sacred to Moslems, are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them … [T]he Moslems, just because the sacred places of all three religions are sacred to them have made very naturally much more satisfactory custodians of the holy places than the Jews could be.
Throughout President Bush’s second term, the chief foreign policy mantra of the Democratic Party was to claim the United States was wrong not to concentrate its energy on winning the war in Afghanistan. That was the “good war” as opposed to the war supposedly entered on the basis of lies and which couldn’t be won. The surge President Bush ordered in 2007 undermined the talking point about Iraq being unwinnable, but the idea that Afghanistan was being shorted was heard a great deal in 2008 as Barack Obama was elected president. Once in the White House, the new president was forced to come to a decision about what to do in Afghanistan, and by the summer, he made good on his promise to fight the good war there. But along with his pledge to start a surge that could defeat the Taliban was a provision that critics at the time warned could undo all the good that could come of the new plan.
With the president set to announce at the G8 meetings in Chicago the complete end of American combat operations in 2013 whether or not Afghan forces are prepared to step into the breach, a front-page feature in today’s New York Times provides a helpful explanation of the decision. The piece, adapted from a new book by Times reporter David E. Sanger, makes it clear the administration never had fully backed the surge. Indeed, despite his “good war” rhetoric, Obama clearly never believed in the mission there to rid the country of the Taliban and was looking to back out of his commitment from the moment he made it. Having failed to go “all in” for the surge by not providing as many troops in the beginning as the military asked, the president then did not give the generals the opportunity to persuade him to slow down a planned withdrawal that only served to signal the enemy all they had to do was to hold on until the Americans left.
Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while still mayor of Istanbul, famously quipped, “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” Alas, as Martin Kramer has so often warned, it appears that Egypt Islamists are taking the same tact. On May 19, Islamic Jihad Organization member Shaykh Usamah Qasim took to the pages of Al-Misri al-Yawm to warn that Islamists would not tolerate a victory by any of the non-Islamist candidates. According to a translation provided by the Open Source Center:
…The victory of former prime minister Ahmad Shafiq or former Arab League chief Amr Musa in the coming presidential elections would lead some Islamic and non-Islamic groups to respond with “armed action.” “Thus, the fate of any of them who reaches the presidency will be like that of former President Anwar al-Sadat, who was assassinated,” Qasim said.
As Western diplomats prepare to sit down with their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad, wishful thinking and a desire to reach a deal regardless of its contents appears increasingly to shape American strategic thinking. It is fair, however, to ask what shapes Iranian strategic thinking. Here, Iran’s Supreme Leader, his inner circle, and former Iranian negotiators provide important clues.
Take Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Iranian government says their goal is energy generation, while Western officials believe the regime wants nuclear weapons capability. (The Obama administration’s argument parsing the difference between nuclear weapons capability and nuclear weapons possession misses the point, as only about a week of hard labor separates the two, and the U.S. does not have the intelligence assets to determine whether Iranian authorities have taken the final leap until it will be too late).
Last week, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research held a remarkable conference on “Jews and the Left,” convening an international group of scholars — largely from the left — to deliver formal papers on the subject. The conference has been covered by Tablet Magazine (Adam Kirsch), The Forward (Eitan Kensky), Newsday (Cathy Young) and American Thinker (me).
As Eitan Kensky wrote, “one of the most intriguing aspects of the conference was the extent to which the participants who self-identify with the left agreed with the view that it had indeed betrayed the Jewish state.” Adam Kirsch noted that “speaker after speaker agreed that the embrace of Communism by many Jews was a moral disaster” from a historical standpoint.
While Western diplomats persist in calling Turkey a “model,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) continues to tweak relatively minor rules to change Turkish society fundamentally. He makes no secret of this. “Do you expect the conservative democrat AK Party to raise atheist generations? This may be your business and objective but not ours,” he declared last February.
Previously, the Turkish parliament tightened licensing on alcohol sales, and has increased taxes more than 700 percent on beer. The ban on alcohol advertisements forced Efes Pilsen, one of Turkey’s most popular basketball teams, to change its name.
In just the latest of what has been a series of featured articles on U.S. policy on Iran all generated by leaks from “senior administration officials,” the New York Times led its front page yesterday with a piece outlining Washington’s nearly unbridled optimism about securing a nuclear deal on Iran. Using the Times as its mouthpiece, the Obama administration again sent a very loud signal about its naïveté about Iran’s determination to realize its nuclear ambitions, and its willingness to start making concessions to the ayatollahs in order to keep negotiations going throughout the rest of the year so as to avoid the necessity of taking action on the issue during the president’s re-election.
The outline of the president’s plans to make the Iran nuclear threat go away is pretty clear. The West’s negotiators at the P5+1 talks in Baghdad later this month will start the process of backing away from the serious sanctions that were belatedly applied to the regime in the hope that the Iranians will consent to a deal that would, at least in principle, halt their refining of uranium that could make a bomb. If the Iranians agree, then that would lead to more frequent meetings during the summer that could culminate in an agreement. But rather than the harbinger of a successful diplomatic offensive, the administration’s decision to present the Iranians with a present in advance of the meeting will only confirm Tehran’s belief in the president’s weakness and give it even more confidence that the talks are the perfect venue to achieve all of their nuclear goals.
How difficult it must be to be a liberal who has double standards to explain and hypocrisies to defend. Take Bill Keller of the New York Times. Last August the former executive editor of the Times wrote a piece in which he prodded his colleagues in journalism to ask candidates “tougher questions about faith.” If the Republican candidates didn’t answer Keller’s questions, “let’s keep on asking,” Keller said. “Because these are matters too important to take on faith.”
Of course, there was the inconvenient fact that the Times showed a notable lack of interest when it came to Barack Obama’s 20-year relationship with Jeremiah Wright, a minister whose views are racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-American. And for those Times readers who might have forgotten – and given the paucity of coverage by the Times, who could blame them? — the Reverend Wright was referred to by Obama as his “spiritual mentor,” Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama, baptized their children, inspired the title of Obama’s first autobiography.
Yet in 2008, the Times found all of this singularly uninteresting. It looked the other way. Read More