Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 14, 2012

Now for a Public Service Announcement from the IDF

In response to months of sustained Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF kicked off its Gaza military operation this morning by dropping a missile onto Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari’s car. From the Israel Defense Forces Twitter feed, a fair warning to any of the late Jabari’s comrades who may have been thinking about taking a drive later today:

We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012

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In response to months of sustained Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF kicked off its Gaza military operation this morning by dropping a missile onto Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari’s car. From the Israel Defense Forces Twitter feed, a fair warning to any of the late Jabari’s comrades who may have been thinking about taking a drive later today:

We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.

— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012

One thing that sets this military campaign apart from similar ones in the past is what you see above — the IDF’s very active social media response. The Israeli government was clearly prepared for a media operation as well as a military one this morning, and immediately began putting out information on Twitter and YouTube, including this video footage of the ultra-precise Jabari strike. In fact, the IDF Twitter stream has been busy all day. Clearly it makes it difficult for Hamas and Hamas sympathizers to claim Israel is intentionally targeting civilians, and for the left to claim Israel is reckless about civilian casualties, if clips like this are made public.

The Israel Project has more on the campaign, which also appears aimed at depleting Hamas weapons stockpiles:

Washington, November 14 — Responding to months of rocket barrages by Hamas-led terror groups targeting more than a million Israeli civilians, the IDF today launched a widespread campaign targeting military infrastructure and operatives in the Gaza Strip. The campaign has been identified by Israeli military officials as “Operation Pillar Of Defense,” and began with a pin-point strike targeting Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas’s military wing and a terrorist linked to hundreds of terror operations over the span of decades. … 

Early reports indicate that in addition to targeting Hamas’s senior military leadership, Israel is specifically seeking to degrade Hamas’s stockpiles of these and other advanced weapons. Media outlets are reporting that the Israeli Air Force struck a suspected stockpile of advanced Fajr 5 missiles smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Iran. The weapon’s use in 2006 by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, had constituted a major escalation during that year’s Lebanon II war with Israel.

Israel is calling it “Operation Pillar of Defense” in English, and “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew. The Hebrew name is a reference to the “pillar of cloud” that led the Jewish people through the desert in Exodus.

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Why Does Clinton Still Have Her Job?

President Obama held a press conference this afternoon, and both the questions and the answers about the Benghazi consulate attack and the scandal surrounding David Petraeus were revelatory in their omission of one aspect of the story. Obama offered a tetchy response to a question about UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who was tasked with selling the administration’s line that it was an anti-Islam filmmaker who was responsible for the events that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others that night. The president’s defense of Rice was another salvo in the ongoing fight over whether she should even be nominated to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. (Obama’s defiant air seemed to suggest he does plan to submit that nomination.)

And the Petraeus affair is sordid and steamy–a combination we simply cannot expect the press corps to ignore. But the events of the last week have made clear that Clinton is off the hook for what may have been the most consequential mistake of anyone in this episode. Yes, the CIA seems to have made mistakes in Benghazi, and yes, Susan Rice misled the American people (on the administration’s orders, we can presume). But the State Department was responsible for handling the diplomatic mission’s request for more security–a request they denied. Yet no one is suggesting Clinton should tender her own resignation.

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President Obama held a press conference this afternoon, and both the questions and the answers about the Benghazi consulate attack and the scandal surrounding David Petraeus were revelatory in their omission of one aspect of the story. Obama offered a tetchy response to a question about UN Ambassador Susan Rice, who was tasked with selling the administration’s line that it was an anti-Islam filmmaker who was responsible for the events that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others that night. The president’s defense of Rice was another salvo in the ongoing fight over whether she should even be nominated to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. (Obama’s defiant air seemed to suggest he does plan to submit that nomination.)

And the Petraeus affair is sordid and steamy–a combination we simply cannot expect the press corps to ignore. But the events of the last week have made clear that Clinton is off the hook for what may have been the most consequential mistake of anyone in this episode. Yes, the CIA seems to have made mistakes in Benghazi, and yes, Susan Rice misled the American people (on the administration’s orders, we can presume). But the State Department was responsible for handling the diplomatic mission’s request for more security–a request they denied. Yet no one is suggesting Clinton should tender her own resignation.

It’s true that Clinton plans to leave her post soon, but that’s no reason for her to avoid continuing scrutiny over this debacle. What’s more, if Petraeus’s actions deserve his resignation, and Rice’s actions warrant insistence from John McCain and Lindsey Graham that they’ll block her nomination (thus costing Rice the job she expects and covets), it’s hard to imagine how Clinton, who owns the lion’s share of responsibility for this fiasco, can keep her job.

The State Department has responded to the revelation that they denied the security request by saying that no one knows for sure whether the requested security would have saved Stevens and the three others killed that night. But that doesn’t change the fact that, as Jake Tapper reported at the time, the whole episode smacked of unpreparedness and incompetence:

But the question – both for the State Department, which is conducting an internal investigation, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is holding hearings next week – is whether officials in Washington, D.C., specifically at the State Department, were as aware as they should have been about the deteriorating security situation in Libya, and whether officials were doing everything they could to protect Americans in that country.

Just so. Whatever the mistakes of the CIA personnel at the annex and their superiors, the State Department left its ambassador woefully underprotected in a war-torn country and ignored pleas for protection and warnings of danger. Because of the nature of the CIA mission in Benghazi, there is much we still don’t know about the annex. And Rice was almost surely just repeating talking points she was given. That doesn’t exonerate Rice or Petraeus, but it certainly doesn’t exonerate Clinton, who has slipped quietly–and irresponsibly–from the conversation over the ramifications of a tragedy that began with her failure.

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Israel’s Message to Hamas Should Resonate in Washington

For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.

The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.

But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.

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For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.

The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.

But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.

The idea that Hamas is a responsible player that ought not to be treated as the despicable terror group that it actually is has been increasingly heard in the last year, as the Brotherhood took over in Egypt. With the support of its Egyptian and Turkish Islamist allies, Hamas has been seeking to break down the isolation that has been imposed on Gaza since the bloody 2006 coup in which the group ousted the PA from power in the Strip. Indeed, the idea that Hamas had become housebroken even took root among Palestinians, causing the group’s popularity to decline, as it was no longer seen as Israel’s implacable enemy.

But the conviction that Hamas had abandoned its primary purpose was always unfounded. The Islamist group’s ongoing war with Israel never ended. Though analysts will debate the motivation for the decision to launch a missile offensive on southern Israel, the result was unambiguous. The violence should derail any thought of the United Nations voting to upgrade the status of the increasingly irrelevant Palestinian Authority. It will also rally Israel’s critics — who can always be counted on to ignore attacks on the Jewish state and to treat any attempt to defend its people as a war crime — behind the terrorist group.

Though some of Israel’s critics in the United States will hope that the violence in Gaza will serve to motivate President Obama to re-launch the dead-in-the-water peace process with the PA and to add Hamas to the mix, what Washington ought to be doing now is reassessing its decision to embrace Egypt’s new government. Unless Egyptian President Morsi steps up now and uses his considerable influence over Gaza to force Hamas to cease firing on Israel, a re-evaluation of aid to Cairo must begin immediately.

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Why Isn’t Sandy Obama’s Katrina?

The pictures from New Orleans after Katrina were iconic. Stories breathlessly filed from the Superdome warned of rampant crimes, inadequate access to basic sanitation, even babies getting raped (which was later proven to be a rumor). CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Senator Mary Landrieu on air about the government’s response to the storm. Spike Lee made an entire documentary about the impact the hurricane had on the city and its residents. Famously, during a telethon for Katrina’s victims, rapper Kanye West told viewers, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The week before the election, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, bringing unprecedented destruction to the seaside communities in the tri-state area. Parts of New York City went dark, as sections of the city were completely submerged in flood waters for the first time in modern history. Seaside towns across the Jersey Shore lost their famous boardwalks in an instant, and in Seaside Heights, parts of a roller coaster ended up sucked into the ocean. 

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The pictures from New Orleans after Katrina were iconic. Stories breathlessly filed from the Superdome warned of rampant crimes, inadequate access to basic sanitation, even babies getting raped (which was later proven to be a rumor). CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Senator Mary Landrieu on air about the government’s response to the storm. Spike Lee made an entire documentary about the impact the hurricane had on the city and its residents. Famously, during a telethon for Katrina’s victims, rapper Kanye West told viewers, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The week before the election, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, bringing unprecedented destruction to the seaside communities in the tri-state area. Parts of New York City went dark, as sections of the city were completely submerged in flood waters for the first time in modern history. Seaside towns across the Jersey Shore lost their famous boardwalks in an instant, and in Seaside Heights, parts of a roller coaster ended up sucked into the ocean. 

After several days of dominating the news cycle, the nation moved on to the election, and now, to the unfolding scandal involving CIA Director David Petraeus. For those left in the worst of Sandy’s wake, no matter what CNN may be covering, few have had the ability to move on. The local New York City-centric blog Gothamist describes the situation in The Rockaways area of Queens:

“The city hasn’t reached out to us at all,” said Matt Calender, a Rockaway resident who helps direct a bustling relief effort from a house on Beach 96th Street. “The Red Cross gave us 500 blankets the other day. FEMA talked to us. But that’s it. We station volunteers here, but we also send people downtown, where there is immense need. If people come here we can actually give them something to do.”

After Katrina, President George W. Bush was lambasted for FEMA’s response to the storm. Those aware of the situation in Far Rockaway and other hard-hit areas of New York know that the situation isn’t much different than New Orleans post-Katrina. New York City Councilman James Sanders, who represents the Rockaways, gave a chilling interview to a Boston NPR affiliate, stating:

“FEMA did not arrive in a timely fashion, nor did the Red Cross,” Richards said. “If it wasn’t for everyday citizens coming out and giving us a hand, the Rockaways would be in a shape that is unfathomable.”

Richards said that FEMA didn’t arrive until last Thursday, and he says the agency initially set up in an area that was inaccessible to poorer residents.

“Every 24 hours that goes by, we get into a more desperate situation so FEMA has to respond quicker. I know we have a billion things to do but in a low-income area with 30 percent of the people on some sort of income subsidy we need them to move fast and move now,” Richards said.

FEMA was unavailable for comment.

Electricity is starting to return to the Rockaways, but many homes still lack heat and hot water. Gasoline is still in short supply.

“We’re running into a desperate situation, especially as winter starts to greet us,” Richards said. “[Our residents] are still sleeping in the cold – many of our children, our elderly! And not only is it cold, but they’re sleeping in wet apartments.”

Richards says the situation in public housing has also been dire. He said a 77-year-old man died on Saturday, because he fell down an unlit staircase. He is also concerned that many crimes may have gone unreported, because communication has been spotty with the New York City Housing Authority.

“No one will know how many rapes have happened in the Rockaways, how many burglaries, how many murders. No one will have accurate information on these things until months pass by after this post-Sandy era disappears,” Richards said.

Rabbi Shay Schachter, assistant rabbi at the Rockaways’ “White Shul” told me about the dire straits his community was in in the first nine days after the storm struck. FEMA only arrived the following Tuesday after the storm and initially had to rely on local relief groups like the Long Island JCC for information. Rabbi Schachter had been running groups of local students and volunteers into three 17-story buildings in his community, filled largely with poor and elderly residents. He told me that when they first arrived five days after the storm bringing food and water to residents “[they] looked at us like they haven’t seen food in five years.” Schachter was asked by many residents about how they could receive medical attention, medication and access to dialysis machines while trapped in their highrise apartments without working elevators. Before FEMA took over the building’s care a full ten days after the storm hit, one FEMA official told Schachter that he was certain they would find dead bodies inside, as elderly residents inside had no heat, food, or medical care. 

After the storm, before the election, the only public discussion regarding FEMA centered around Mitt Romney’s statements during a GOP primary debate, which were misinterpreted and misrepresented to suggest he wanted to abolish FEMA. Romney came under fire for the remarks and unfortunately, as Jonathan pointed out the day before the election, little political attention has been paid to FEMA’s undeniably slow response to Sandy. The logic of Romney’s suggestion that FEMA cannot (and has not in the past) promptly offer relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. has yet to be discussed in the media or by government officials. More than two weeks after the storm, the situation is growing increasingly dire for residents of the Rockaways as temperatures plummet.

With the media’s silence and the public’s amnesia over the impact of the hurricane, President Obama has once again received a free pass on yet another issue of national importance. The media’s outcry over the devastation after Katrina led to a massive influx of aid in the form of governmental agency involvement, subsidies, and private charitable organizations’ assistance. Without that outcry, the victims of Sandy should be wondering what kind of attention they would be receiving if the president’s party began with an R, not a D. 

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Proud and Pleased to Join Venezuela

On Monday, Hillary Clinton issued a press release stating that the U.S. is “pleased” at its election to a second term on the notorious UN Human Rights Council. Like the winner of an academy award, she said she wanted to “thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race” among “several qualified Western candidates.” Susan Rice held her own briefing the same day to say how “pleased and proud” the U.S. is, and to “thank all four of our highly qualified competitor countries for what was a very spirited campaign.” 

All 192 members of the UN vote on each UNHRC candidate, but membership is limited by region. The U.S., Germany, and Ireland beat out Greece and Sweden for the three available Western spots. Fifteen states from other regions were also elected on Monday, including seven countries that (according to Freedom House) “clearly fail to meet the Council’s criteria for membership” (since they do not “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”): Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. All seven got substantially more votes than the U.S. did.

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On Monday, Hillary Clinton issued a press release stating that the U.S. is “pleased” at its election to a second term on the notorious UN Human Rights Council. Like the winner of an academy award, she said she wanted to “thank the countries that voted for us in what was a highly competitive race” among “several qualified Western candidates.” Susan Rice held her own briefing the same day to say how “pleased and proud” the U.S. is, and to “thank all four of our highly qualified competitor countries for what was a very spirited campaign.” 

All 192 members of the UN vote on each UNHRC candidate, but membership is limited by region. The U.S., Germany, and Ireland beat out Greece and Sweden for the three available Western spots. Fifteen states from other regions were also elected on Monday, including seven countries that (according to Freedom House) “clearly fail to meet the Council’s criteria for membership” (since they do not “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”): Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. All seven got substantially more votes than the U.S. did.

At yesterday’s State Department press conference, spokesperson Mark Toner was asked if the U.S. had a reaction to Venezuela’s election. He gave this response:

MR. TONER: Well, you buried the lead, because we’re very pleased to have been elected by the UN General Assembly to a second term on the Human Rights Council. And I believe Ambassador Rice spoke to this yesterday from New York. We certainly thank the countries that have voted for us in what was a very highly competitive race among several well-qualified Western European and Others Group [WEOG] candidates.

QUESTION: What was it, three out of five got elected?

MR. TONER: We received 131 votes, first-place in the WEOG group.

QUESTION: Ooh, first place.

In other words, the big story (in the view of the State Department) in an election packing the UNHRC with still more human-rights violators is: the election of the U.S. to another term. It shows that the world likes us. It really, really likes us (although not as much as Venezuela, Kazakhstan, et al.). On the other hand:

QUESTION: Don’t you think there is like a contradiction because Venezuela has been pointed out at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for not accomplish [sic] with human rights? So how do you put this in context, or –

MR. TONER: Well, in creating the Council, member states pledge to take into account the contribution of candidates, the promotion and protection of human rights. We think some countries elected to the Human Rights Council on clean slates have failed to show their commitment.

QUESTION: Aha. That’s what I want to get at. Because quite apart from Venezuela, you’ve got such paragons of human rights protection as Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan –

MR. TONER: I didn’t single out Venezuela.

QUESTION: – Pakistan, Gabon. Are you comfortable sitting on a body that’s supposed to make judgments about other countries’ human rights records when there are serial offenders on it?

MR. TONER: Again, Ambassador Rice in New York spoke to this very effectively yesterday. … We decided four years ago that we could best improve the Council by working within it rather than criticizing from outside.

The State Department also released Monday a fact sheet on U.S. “accomplishments” during “our first term,” including eight resolutions on Syria since 2011 (count ’em!); “suspending” Libya in 2011 from its seat on the Council (for massacring its own citizens); and a special rapporteur “speaking out” on human rights violations in Iran (which does not seem to have had any effect).

Missing from the list is any reduction in what the department diplomatically calls the UNHRC’s “excessive and unbalanced focus” on Israel. As Elliott Abrams more forthrightly notes, that focus is “ludicrous”: the “only country listed on the Council’s permanent agenda” is Israel — “Not North Korea, not Sudan, not Cuba — only Israel.” After four years, smart power has been unable to address that problem, but the U.S. is pleased and proud to have been re-elected.

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What on Earth Is the FBI Doing?

It is hard to know what to make of FBI agents hauling a computer and crates of documents out of Paula Broadwell’s house as if she were a mafia don or a terrorist kingpin. That the bureau is devoting these kinds of resources to this case suggests that there must not be a lot of crime or terrorism to deal with anymore. What’s going on? My theory: The FBI is on a fishing expedition to justify what looks to be its increasingly untenable decision to treat a few annoying emails, sent by Paula Broadwell to Jill Kelley, as quite literally a federal case.

As the Washington Post notes: “The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach — a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry.”

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It is hard to know what to make of FBI agents hauling a computer and crates of documents out of Paula Broadwell’s house as if she were a mafia don or a terrorist kingpin. That the bureau is devoting these kinds of resources to this case suggests that there must not be a lot of crime or terrorism to deal with anymore. What’s going on? My theory: The FBI is on a fishing expedition to justify what looks to be its increasingly untenable decision to treat a few annoying emails, sent by Paula Broadwell to Jill Kelley, as quite literally a federal case.

As the Washington Post notes: “The surprise move by the FBI follows assertions by U.S. officials that the investigation had turned up no evidence of a security breach — a factor that was cited as a reason the Justice Department did not notify the White House before last week that the CIA director had been ensnared in an e-mail inquiry.”

If, in fact, there was no national security breach, then the FBI looks pretty suspect for outing the Petraeus-Broadwell affair, bringing down the CIA director, and causing great personal suffering to both families. So now, it seems, the FBI is intent on proving that there really was some national security justification for this whole investigation—that it wasn’t simply the work, as it appears to be, of one shirtless agent who was overly friendly with Kelley and happy to do her a favor by looking into emails that annoyed her. If press reports are accurate, the new focus of the FBI investigation is whether Broadwell has in her possession classified documents, and if so, whether they came from Petraeus.

Let us stipulate that it is quite possible that Broadwell (whom I don’t know) does have some classified information. If so, there is nothing particularly surprising or threatening about this. There are many different levels of classification and much of the routine paperwork that gets stamped “confidential” or “secret” or “nofor” (no foreign) should not be classified at all. The really sensitive stuff is protected by top secret and code-word clearances. But there is a vast amount of overclassification. To take one obvious example: the CIA has never publicly admitted that its training facility, known as The Farm, is located near Williamsburg, Virginia. If Petraeus were to casually mention its location to Broadwell, he would technically be in breach of the law—even though anyone who wants to know where The Farm is located can look on Wikipedia and find out.

I suspect that Broadwell may have access to such classified but non-sensitive information. So do countless other people who have any connection to the government or military. If the FBI is intent on nailing someone, it can do so by focusing on such trivial breaches. I hope that is not what is happening here.

For all of the investigation going on of Petraeus, Broadwell, Kelley and John Allen, I cannot help but conclude that what we desperately need is an investigation of the investigators. What on earth is the FBI up to? That is a question that Congress should address urgently.

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Will French Recognition of Syrian Rebels Convince U.S. to Act?

It is easy to lose sight of it amid the breathless, National Enquirer-style reporting on David Petraeus, John Allen, and their communications with various women, but there are other important things happening in the world. Among those events is France’s decision to recognize the new Syrian opposition council, National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as the country’s rightful government. This is an important step marking the first time that another state has extended official recognition to the Syrian rebels who have just organized, under much external prodding, this new coalition led by Sheik Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the widely respected former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. France has also said it would consider providing arms to the rebel forces.

Once again, as in Libya last year, this places France—this time under President Francois Hollande, rather than Nicolas Sarkozy—at the forefront of important events in the Middle East. President Obama and the U.S. continue to lag behind in trying to influence events in another important country, in spite of the major role played by American diplomats in helping to organize the Syrian National Coalition. That is a major problem, because there is only so much France—or other states such as Qatar and Turkey, which are eager to topple Bashar Assad—can do.

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It is easy to lose sight of it amid the breathless, National Enquirer-style reporting on David Petraeus, John Allen, and their communications with various women, but there are other important things happening in the world. Among those events is France’s decision to recognize the new Syrian opposition council, National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, as the country’s rightful government. This is an important step marking the first time that another state has extended official recognition to the Syrian rebels who have just organized, under much external prodding, this new coalition led by Sheik Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the widely respected former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. France has also said it would consider providing arms to the rebel forces.

Once again, as in Libya last year, this places France—this time under President Francois Hollande, rather than Nicolas Sarkozy—at the forefront of important events in the Middle East. President Obama and the U.S. continue to lag behind in trying to influence events in another important country, in spite of the major role played by American diplomats in helping to organize the Syrian National Coalition. That is a major problem, because there is only so much France—or other states such as Qatar and Turkey, which are eager to topple Bashar Assad—can do.

Only the U.S. can organize a coalition to impose a no-fly zone and thus hasten the end of the barbarous Assad regime. If we fail to act, the humanitarian and strategic costs of the war will continue to grow—as witness recent incidents of Syrian forces directing fire near to, and sometimes over, the borders with Israel and Turkey.

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Iranian Report Shows U.S. Needs Credible Military Threat

If Washington is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program, the report it really ought to pay attention to isn’t the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest, important though its information on Iran’s progress is. Rather, it’s the one issued last week by Iran’s own Intelligence Ministry, which advocates diplomatic negotiations to avert the threat of a “Zionist” attack.

As Haaretz Arab affairs analyst Zvi Bar’el wrote, this report is noteworthy for several reasons. One is that Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi is close to Iran’s supreme leader and decision-maker, Ali Khamenei, who even forced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to retain Moslehi when the president wanted to fire him last year. Another is that Khamenei posted the report on his own website and has shown it to Western leaders. In other words, there’s good reason to think this report reflects Khamenei’s own thinking.

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If Washington is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program, the report it really ought to pay attention to isn’t the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest, important though its information on Iran’s progress is. Rather, it’s the one issued last week by Iran’s own Intelligence Ministry, which advocates diplomatic negotiations to avert the threat of a “Zionist” attack.

As Haaretz Arab affairs analyst Zvi Bar’el wrote, this report is noteworthy for several reasons. One is that Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi is close to Iran’s supreme leader and decision-maker, Ali Khamenei, who even forced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to retain Moslehi when the president wanted to fire him last year. Another is that Khamenei posted the report on his own website and has shown it to Western leaders. In other words, there’s good reason to think this report reflects Khamenei’s own thinking.

That makes it worth paying attention to what it says–which is equally noteworthy. First, as Bar’el pointed out, the report advocates negotiations, not in response to economic sanctions, but due to the threat of military action. Second, this threat doesn’t come from America: The report doesn’t even mention the prospect of American military action, and in fact concludes that Washington doesn’t consider Iran’s nuclear program a threat. What concerns the ministry is the threat of Israeli military action.

Several conclusions follow from these points. First, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed all along, the only way it might be possible to get Iran to give up its nuclear program is via a credible military threat.

Second, despite President Barack Obama’s lip service about keeping the military option on the table and his cheerleaders’ insistence that he isn’t bluffing and really will take military action against Iran if necessary, the Iranians themselves don’t believe it–and they’re the ones who matter.

Third, despite the enormous effort the administration has invested in trying to deter Israeli military action against Iran, the Iranians still think Israel might defy Washington and attack, and they also believe Israel is capable of inflicting enough damage that they’ve decided adopting “a political-diplomatic policy” and exploiting “the potential of international organizations” is a “necessary course of action” to avoid it. That’s an enormous achievement for Netanyahu: He has kept the Israeli military option credible in Iranian eyes despite the administration’s best efforts to undermine it.

Finally, however, there’s no indication that Iran is willing to actually make concessions on its nuclear program, as opposed to merely engaging in empty negotiations for the sake of forestalling a military attack. And that fact (which should be a warning to anyone who embarks on negotiations with it) may well be related to the fact that the regime considers an Israeli attack damaging but survivable.

Thus, while I’m all in favor of tougher sanctions, like those Congress is now considering, what the Iranian report shows is that if Washington really wants to end Iran’s nuclear program, the thing it needs most is a credible military option. For only if Tehran felt threatened by America’s far superior military might it actually consider abandoning this program.

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Broadwell Under Scrutiny for Possible Security Breach

According to ABC News, the FBI is currently investigating Paula Broadwell for possessing classified information in her home and on her computer: 

A source familiar with the case also told ABC News that Broadwell admitted to the FBI she took documents from secure government buildings. The government demanded that they all be given back, and when federal agents descended on her North Carolina home on Monday night it was a pre-arranged meeting.

Prosecutors are now determining whether to charge Broadwell with a crime, and this morning the FBI and military are pouring over the material. The 40-year-old author, who wrote the biography on Gen. Petraeus “All In,” is cooperating and the case, which is complicated by the fact that as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Military Reserve she had security clearance to review the documents.

The FBI found classified material on a computer voluntarily handed over by Broadwell earlier in the investigation. Prosecutors will now have to determine how important the classified material is before making a final decision. Authorities could decide to seek disciplinary action against her rather than pursue charges.

I agree with Max about the government’s tendency to overclassify. For all we know, the information Broadwell had could have been completely mundane. There are conflicting stories about whether she had a security clearance, but given her military and intelligence background, it’s seems likely she did. In that case, she would have been allowed access to classified information on her own, regardless of her relationship with Petraeus.

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According to ABC News, the FBI is currently investigating Paula Broadwell for possessing classified information in her home and on her computer: 

A source familiar with the case also told ABC News that Broadwell admitted to the FBI she took documents from secure government buildings. The government demanded that they all be given back, and when federal agents descended on her North Carolina home on Monday night it was a pre-arranged meeting.

Prosecutors are now determining whether to charge Broadwell with a crime, and this morning the FBI and military are pouring over the material. The 40-year-old author, who wrote the biography on Gen. Petraeus “All In,” is cooperating and the case, which is complicated by the fact that as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Military Reserve she had security clearance to review the documents.

The FBI found classified material on a computer voluntarily handed over by Broadwell earlier in the investigation. Prosecutors will now have to determine how important the classified material is before making a final decision. Authorities could decide to seek disciplinary action against her rather than pursue charges.

I agree with Max about the government’s tendency to overclassify. For all we know, the information Broadwell had could have been completely mundane. There are conflicting stories about whether she had a security clearance, but given her military and intelligence background, it’s seems likely she did. In that case, she would have been allowed access to classified information on her own, regardless of her relationship with Petraeus.

Without knowing more details, it’s impossible to say if the FBI investigation is proper and necessary. But it is interesting that it’s being taken up again now, especially if the AP’s timeline is accurate:

Late Summer 2012— Attorney General Eric Holder is notified. By this time, the FBI has long since concluded there was no national security breach, but continues investigating whether Petraeus had any role in the harassing emails sent to Kelley.

If the FBI already determined there was no security breach over the summer, why rehash this again now? Were they initially mistaken, and has something new been discovered? It’s one thing if there is truly a national security concern, but I’m curious as to why a reportedly “concluded” issue has been reopened.

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Republicans Must Be Smart, Not Craven

As Congress reconvenes, Democrats are insisting that President Obama’s re-election means that House Republicans are going to have to give in to his demands for tax increases on the wealthy. While this will do very little to actually solve the impending budget crisis, the president’s supporters have a point when they claim that his victory means a majority of Americans supported his rhetoric about backing a balanced approach that would involve spending cuts in equal proportion to revenue increases. But as James Pethokoukis writes at AEI Ideas, a close look at what the president is asking for throws any notion of balance out the window.

It may be, as Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox News the other day, that it makes no sense for the GOP to “fall on its sword for a bunch of millionaires.” Speaker John Boehner’s initial offer to raise revenue by eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy was an indication that Republicans are prepared to start bargaining. And as Kristol said, there is an argument to be made that if the House leadership bargains the tax increase cutoff up, it may be good politics. But there should be no illusions that what the president is offering is a balanced plan in any sense of the word.

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As Congress reconvenes, Democrats are insisting that President Obama’s re-election means that House Republicans are going to have to give in to his demands for tax increases on the wealthy. While this will do very little to actually solve the impending budget crisis, the president’s supporters have a point when they claim that his victory means a majority of Americans supported his rhetoric about backing a balanced approach that would involve spending cuts in equal proportion to revenue increases. But as James Pethokoukis writes at AEI Ideas, a close look at what the president is asking for throws any notion of balance out the window.

It may be, as Bill Kristol pointed out on Fox News the other day, that it makes no sense for the GOP to “fall on its sword for a bunch of millionaires.” Speaker John Boehner’s initial offer to raise revenue by eliminating tax deductions for the wealthy was an indication that Republicans are prepared to start bargaining. And as Kristol said, there is an argument to be made that if the House leadership bargains the tax increase cutoff up, it may be good politics. But there should be no illusions that what the president is offering is a balanced plan in any sense of the word.

As Pethokoukis writes,

According to Obama’s math, his “balanced” plan cuts the projected cumulative debt by $4.4 trillion over ten years with 36% of the reduction coming from a $1.6 trillion tax increases — 80% from wealthier Americans, 20% from business. So, basically, $2 in spending cuts for each $1 in tax hikes. “Balanced.”

But once you begin to dig into the numbers, the plan doesn’t look balanced at all.

Talk of mandates is empty rhetoric whether it is meant to undercut the president or bolster his standing. His Electoral College majority is his mandate to govern and certain deference to his re-election is customary. But that doesn’t mean Republicans need to abandon their principles or acquiesce to a plan that does nothing to address the deficit or entitlement reform.

Pethokoukis also illustrates that what the president is calling for bears a greater resemblance to the fiscal follies of Europe than American notions of fiscal austerity such as the Simpson-Bowles plan:

Even if you include interest savings, 60% of the debt reduction comes from tax hikes. Obama is making the exact mistake Europe is making by employing a tax-hike heavy version of fiscal austerity. Indeed, a 2010 analysis by AEI scholars found that successful fiscal consolidations are heavy on spending cuts, light on tax hikes. Even Bill Clinton’s debt reduction plan was 2-1 in favor of spending cuts. The Obama plan is dangerously unbalanced, especially given the weak economic recovery.

The point here is that for all of the Democratic bravado about Obama’s mandate to tax the rich and do as he likes, there is still plenty of room for Republicans to both bargain constructively to avoid the fiscal cliff and to defend their principles. The president has as much if not far more to lose from a standoff that would wreck an already weak economy. Now is the time for Republicans to be smart but not craven.

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“Toxic” Pelosi Clings to Power

Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley lost a close election for Senate last week. Although it was a Senate campaign, Berkley was coming from the House, which meant her opponent, Dean Heller, had had an easy weapon to deploy against her: Nancy Pelosi. Tying candidates like this to Pelosi has been a favorite tactic of congressional Republicans and their supporters. When Fred Barnes profiled Harry Reid in September, he asked GOP operatives why Pelosi was constantly invoked but Reid wasn’t.

Pelosi is “toxic” with voters, he found; Republican strategists described her as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Barnes continued: “In focus groups conducted by Republicans, swing voters respond negatively to any mention of Pelosi. It’s clear she’s a drag on Democrats. But when Reid is raised, the reaction is weak.” And so it is that Pelosi compounds the Democrats’ “Obama problem,” so to speak: the punishment voters have meted out to Democrats, especially in the House and in gubernatorial elections, for the array of unpopular big-government excesses of the Obama administration. House candidates are particularly susceptible to the mood swings of the electorate, so you would think Pelosi would step down as House minority leader and give the Democrats a fighting chance as they head into the often-difficult second-term midterm elections. But you would be wrong.

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Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkley lost a close election for Senate last week. Although it was a Senate campaign, Berkley was coming from the House, which meant her opponent, Dean Heller, had had an easy weapon to deploy against her: Nancy Pelosi. Tying candidates like this to Pelosi has been a favorite tactic of congressional Republicans and their supporters. When Fred Barnes profiled Harry Reid in September, he asked GOP operatives why Pelosi was constantly invoked but Reid wasn’t.

Pelosi is “toxic” with voters, he found; Republican strategists described her as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Barnes continued: “In focus groups conducted by Republicans, swing voters respond negatively to any mention of Pelosi. It’s clear she’s a drag on Democrats. But when Reid is raised, the reaction is weak.” And so it is that Pelosi compounds the Democrats’ “Obama problem,” so to speak: the punishment voters have meted out to Democrats, especially in the House and in gubernatorial elections, for the array of unpopular big-government excesses of the Obama administration. House candidates are particularly susceptible to the mood swings of the electorate, so you would think Pelosi would step down as House minority leader and give the Democrats a fighting chance as they head into the often-difficult second-term midterm elections. But you would be wrong.

Today, Pelosi announced that she intends to stay on as Democratic leader. It’s true that substantively this may not make too much of a difference, since the Democrats have just about eliminated any moderate wing of their party and moved their entire caucus much closer to Pelosi’s liberal extremism and patent unwillingness to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans. So it isn’t clear the Democrats had anyone much less extreme to replace her with.

At the same time, she is broadly, if unsurprisingly, disliked by the national electorate, and the Democrats may have had an opportunity to at least try some of the rebranding efforts that Republicans are now undertaking in the wake of their own shellacking last week.

In a sense, Pelosi’s party needs all the help it can get. With messy, costly legislation and high unemployment, Pelosi has presided over a difficult term as party leader. That probably won’t improve much if the president’s stated budget negotiation aims are any clue: Obama would like to raise taxes a bit more than he previously indicated, it seems. Obama doesn’t have another reelection campaign coming up, but the House Democrats do.

Not only does Obama share in the blame for what keeps happening to Pelosi’s caucus, but so does Reid. Under his leadership, Senate Democrats have chosen to grind the legislative process to a halt, shutting Republicans out and refusing to pass a budget for going on three years. Until the Democratic Party leadership takes their foot off the neck of the economy, it’s Pelosi’s House Democrats that that can expect to keep paying the price at the ballot box.

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Report: Petraeus to Testify on Benghazi Friday

The theory that David Petraeus was pushed out at the CIA because someone didn’t want him testifying at this week’s Senate hearing never made much sense. He was going to have to testify eventually anyway, whether voluntarily or dragged there by a subpoena. And as we saw from his resignation last week, Petraeus seems like someone who prefers taking preemptive action rather than waiting for the hatchet to fall

Former CIA Director David Petraeus has agreed to testify about the Libya terror attack before the House and Senate intelligence committees, Fox News has learned. …

The logistics of Petraeus’ appearance are still being worked out. But a source close to Petraeus said the former four-star general has contacted the CIA, as well as committees in both the House and Senate, to offer his testimony as the former CIA director. 

Fox News has learned he is expected to speak off-site to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday about his Libya report.

The House side is still being worked out. 

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The theory that David Petraeus was pushed out at the CIA because someone didn’t want him testifying at this week’s Senate hearing never made much sense. He was going to have to testify eventually anyway, whether voluntarily or dragged there by a subpoena. And as we saw from his resignation last week, Petraeus seems like someone who prefers taking preemptive action rather than waiting for the hatchet to fall

Former CIA Director David Petraeus has agreed to testify about the Libya terror attack before the House and Senate intelligence committees, Fox News has learned. …

The logistics of Petraeus’ appearance are still being worked out. But a source close to Petraeus said the former four-star general has contacted the CIA, as well as committees in both the House and Senate, to offer his testimony as the former CIA director. 

Fox News has learned he is expected to speak off-site to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Friday about his Libya report.

The House side is still being worked out. 

The White House and the State Department may come to regret that month and a half they spent shifting blame for the Benghazi attack to Langley. Petraeus could easily become the administration’s biggest nightmare. He has two of the most dangerous things you can have in Washington: information and nothing to lose. 

According to Bill Kristol, Petraeus privately told a member of Congress after a closed hearing in September, “This is what happened in Benghazi. Do you want the official line or do you want the real truth?” The Senate Intelligence Committee may finally hear the real truth in their closed hearing on Friday. The rest of us will have to wait for it to leak out, but, for once, the media will have no excuse but to cover it.

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Enough Already About Military Groupies

I, for one, am beginning to long for the days when people, including generals and other public officials, were allowed to conduct their indiscretions discreetly. 

I just don’t think I can stand to hear another word about David Petraeus’s embarrassing mid-life crisis. Or about a hot mama (Jill Kelley) getting harassing notes from a not-quite-as-hot mama (Paula Broadwell) about a man neither of them had any business being proprietary about.

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I, for one, am beginning to long for the days when people, including generals and other public officials, were allowed to conduct their indiscretions discreetly. 

I just don’t think I can stand to hear another word about David Petraeus’s embarrassing mid-life crisis. Or about a hot mama (Jill Kelley) getting harassing notes from a not-quite-as-hot mama (Paula Broadwell) about a man neither of them had any business being proprietary about.

Half-baked insinuations about how many thousand pages of emails John Allen sent to Jill Kelley, and whether he called her “sweetheart” and/or “dear”? No, thanks.

Please, don’t fill me in about the custody case–or the Newport, Rhode Island cavortings–of Jill Kelley’s twin sister (yet another hot mama). I couldn’t care less that Paula Broadwell’s driver’s license was found in Rock Creek Park. And imagining those “topless” photos from an FBI agent to Jill Kelley is putting me right off my breakfast.

If the president decided that the CIA should be led by someone whose judgment is perhaps a bit more sound, so be it. And if Congress wants to wax indignant about who informed whom, and when, fine. That’s their prerogative. 

But leave me out of it. So . . .

Note to FBI: Stop leaking stuff! Note to anonymous sources: Shut up! Note to self: Stop reading about it!

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Will Obama Block New Iran Sanctions?

The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program is due out on Friday, but the contents are already being discussed in the international press. One source has already told Agence France Presse that it will detail the fact that the installation of 2,700 centrifuges at the mountain bunker facility at Fordow is now complete. The expectation is that enrichment of uranium that can be used to produce a nuclear weapon at this site will increase in the coming months, bringing Tehran much closer to being capable of producing a weapon. That leaves the Obama administration with a dilemma.

Though the economic sanctions that President Obama belatedly embraced last year have inflicted pain on the Iranian economy, as the IAEA report makes clear, they have done nothing to halt their nuclear progress. While the president has reportedly assigned Valerie Jarrett, a close personal confidante, the task of carrying out secret talks with representatives of the ayatollah, there is little reason to believe they are interested in accepting the terms of a possible deal that Obama laid out during the third presidential debate, in which he said they would not be permitted to retain a nuclear program. If that is the president’s goal, he ought to embrace a plan for new and tougher economic sanctions that might actually have a chance to force the Iranians to reconsider their defiance. Yet a report published yesterday in Congressional Quarterly indicates that the administration plans to oppose the scheme.

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The latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s nuclear program is due out on Friday, but the contents are already being discussed in the international press. One source has already told Agence France Presse that it will detail the fact that the installation of 2,700 centrifuges at the mountain bunker facility at Fordow is now complete. The expectation is that enrichment of uranium that can be used to produce a nuclear weapon at this site will increase in the coming months, bringing Tehran much closer to being capable of producing a weapon. That leaves the Obama administration with a dilemma.

Though the economic sanctions that President Obama belatedly embraced last year have inflicted pain on the Iranian economy, as the IAEA report makes clear, they have done nothing to halt their nuclear progress. While the president has reportedly assigned Valerie Jarrett, a close personal confidante, the task of carrying out secret talks with representatives of the ayatollah, there is little reason to believe they are interested in accepting the terms of a possible deal that Obama laid out during the third presidential debate, in which he said they would not be permitted to retain a nuclear program. If that is the president’s goal, he ought to embrace a plan for new and tougher economic sanctions that might actually have a chance to force the Iranians to reconsider their defiance. Yet a report published yesterday in Congressional Quarterly indicates that the administration plans to oppose the scheme.

According to CQ, the same bipartisan Senate team that dragged the administration into the tough sanctions last year is at it again. Illinois Republican Mark Kirk and New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez are proposing ratcheting up the economic pressure on Iran. Their goal is to expand the loosely enforced measures now in place into something that would approximate an economic embargo. The new legislation would build on the existing law they helped draft to ban virtually all international trade and transactions with Iran except for food, medicine and humanitarian aid. Though it would not override the waivers given China and other Iranian oil customers allowed by the administration in the last year, the bill has the potential to bring the country to its knees and perhaps force its leaders to abandon their nuclear ambition.

Yet, as was the case with Kirk and Menendez’s previous efforts, the president may adamantly oppose the bill. Last year, the senators watered down their bill in an attempt to address administration concerns, but were disappointed to discover that the White House was still trying to spike it. They prevailed nonetheless and, in a stroke of irony, the president and his surrogates spent the presidential campaign bragging about the same Iran sanctions he had actually opposed before their passage.

If the president tries to stop Kirk and Menendez again this year, it will raise serious questions about his motives. The new sanctions plan provides what may be the only possible path to stopping the Iranians short of the use of force. Opposition to it could mean that the current negotiations being undertaken by Jarrett are aimed at a compromise that will fall far short of the president’s repeated campaign pledges not to allow the Iranians to retain a nuclear program. The president may think such “flexibility” will allow him to avoid a conflict with Tehran, but it will also leave open the very real possibility that the centrifuges in Fordow will not be stopped from producing the weapon that the world fears.

While the White House remains mum about Jarrett’s secret talks, the president’s stance on the Kirk-Menendez sanctions will give us a clue as to whether he will make good on his pledges to stop Iran during a second term.

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Petraeus’s Downfall and U.S. Iran Policy

At Tablet, Lee Smith explains what the Petraeus affair could mean for U.S. Iran policy:

According to former Petraeus aides, leading military officials, policymakers, and analysts close to the four-star general that I spoke to this week, Petraeus understood, more than anyone else in our national-security apparatus, that the Islamic Republic is at war with the United States. By Petraeus’ reckoning, they said, it’s not possible to strike a grand bargain with Iran over its nuclear weapons program because the larger problem is the regime itself, whose endgame is to drive the United States from the region. And no arm of the regime is more dangerous than its external operations unit, the Qods Force, whose mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, is considered by Petraeus to be a personal enemy.

In seeing Iran as a threat to vital U.S. interests, Petraeus bucked the mainstream of more than 30 years of U.S. foreign policy. Presidents and legislators from both parties, as well as military and civilian officials, have tended to downplay the Iranian threat, seeking engagement with Tehran in the vague hopes of reaching a deal that might lead the regime to finally call off its dogs and leave us in peace. Petraeus, on the other hand, fought the Iranians.

As Smith goes on to explain, that fight was literal; while leading U.S. Central Command, Petraeus battled Iranian proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. “During the course of almost a decade, Petraeus became Washington’s institutional memory of all of Iran’s activities directed against the United States and its allies,” writes Smith.

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At Tablet, Lee Smith explains what the Petraeus affair could mean for U.S. Iran policy:

According to former Petraeus aides, leading military officials, policymakers, and analysts close to the four-star general that I spoke to this week, Petraeus understood, more than anyone else in our national-security apparatus, that the Islamic Republic is at war with the United States. By Petraeus’ reckoning, they said, it’s not possible to strike a grand bargain with Iran over its nuclear weapons program because the larger problem is the regime itself, whose endgame is to drive the United States from the region. And no arm of the regime is more dangerous than its external operations unit, the Qods Force, whose mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, is considered by Petraeus to be a personal enemy.

In seeing Iran as a threat to vital U.S. interests, Petraeus bucked the mainstream of more than 30 years of U.S. foreign policy. Presidents and legislators from both parties, as well as military and civilian officials, have tended to downplay the Iranian threat, seeking engagement with Tehran in the vague hopes of reaching a deal that might lead the regime to finally call off its dogs and leave us in peace. Petraeus, on the other hand, fought the Iranians.

As Smith goes on to explain, that fight was literal; while leading U.S. Central Command, Petraeus battled Iranian proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. “During the course of almost a decade, Petraeus became Washington’s institutional memory of all of Iran’s activities directed against the United States and its allies,” writes Smith.

What does that mean for the U.S.’s Iran policy? Not much directly. But Smith argues that Petraeus was one of the few people at the top of the administration who truly understood the Iranian threat. He understood that the regime was the problem, and that negotiations weren’t going to solve it. Losing someone like that means losing an advocate at the top levels of government who could bring that perspective to the table. That’s a loss that won’t be easy to make up for.

On a lighter note, in case you were wondering what Iranian hardliners have to say about this whole mess, Max Fisher flags this bizarre article from Iran’s Serat News:

When the Terrible Organization kneels before a woman! 

The forces that the CIA can bring to accompany it, the most elite of which can be seen with the existence of individuals like Petraeus, who even though the head of an important organization kneeled [when] confronted with an infiltrator and a woman whose spirit of militarism had distanced her from her family for years.

Paula Broadwell for close to ten years cooperated with the American military forces. Even though she has a husband and two children, but she enthralled herself to militarism and was present in countries like Afghanistan following Petraeus who was at the time the American commander in Afghanistan. … If we look at the course of the lives of the past leaders and managers of the CIA it can be seen to be full of these type of people in positions of power with a brutal soul. 

I guess that’s what America gets for allowing women to leave the home without a male relative supervising.

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