Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 14, 2013

Uncovering Armenia’s Jewish Past

Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post published this fascinating account (full disclosure: authored by my wife) of an Armenian Bishop’s efforts to preserve a medieval Jewish cemetery recently found in Armenia:

Bishop Mkrtchyan discovered the cemetery when he and his brother Mayis Mkrtchyan opened the Siranush children’s camp in Yeghegis to provide shelter, food, recreation and education for children orphaned by the war with Azerbaijan. The bishop heard there was a mineral-water spring in the area. He wanted to find it for the children and, as he searched, he came across three tombstones, where he saw writing he didn’t understand… He also sent photos of the tombstones to Professor Michael Stone of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who confirmed the bishop’s suspicion that what he had found was indeed a medieval Jewish cemetery… The bishop’s dream is to build museum, or a culture center about Jews in Armenia, that would focus on education. “Because these two peoples had very ancient connections… and until now it is one of the few peoples with whom we had no problems,” he said with a laugh. The bishop wants people to know what connections existed between Armenians and Jews, stories of how they helped each other during the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, for instance. “These peoples in this region, I think have to support each other… They ended up having a similar destiny.”

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Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post published this fascinating account (full disclosure: authored by my wife) of an Armenian Bishop’s efforts to preserve a medieval Jewish cemetery recently found in Armenia:

Bishop Mkrtchyan discovered the cemetery when he and his brother Mayis Mkrtchyan opened the Siranush children’s camp in Yeghegis to provide shelter, food, recreation and education for children orphaned by the war with Azerbaijan. The bishop heard there was a mineral-water spring in the area. He wanted to find it for the children and, as he searched, he came across three tombstones, where he saw writing he didn’t understand… He also sent photos of the tombstones to Professor Michael Stone of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who confirmed the bishop’s suspicion that what he had found was indeed a medieval Jewish cemetery… The bishop’s dream is to build museum, or a culture center about Jews in Armenia, that would focus on education. “Because these two peoples had very ancient connections… and until now it is one of the few peoples with whom we had no problems,” he said with a laugh. The bishop wants people to know what connections existed between Armenians and Jews, stories of how they helped each other during the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust, for instance. “These peoples in this region, I think have to support each other… They ended up having a similar destiny.”

The whole thing is worth reading. Much is known about the Jewish community in Russia and also in neighboring Iran. While works are plentiful about the Jewish community in Russia and the Soviet Union, there are also good books about the Jewish community in Iran, for example: Habib Levy’s excellent Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran and, for more modern times, Daniel Tsadik’s important Between Foreigners and Shi‘is: Nineteenth Century Iran and its Jewish Minority. Both are useful correctives to the idea put forward by some that anti-Semitism and, indeed, devastating pogroms did not occur in Iran although, at least until recent decades, Jews in Iran did relatively better than some of their co-religionists in other regional countries.

The Jewish community in Armenia–wedged between Persia and Russia–has long been forgotten. Let us hope that Bishop Mkrtchyan is successful in his quest to bring history to light and improve remembrance.

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The Palestinians Never Wanted Fayyadism

There was one point on which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations as well as the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu all agreed upon. All four thought Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was someone who wanted to be a partner for peace with Israel and ought to be encouraged. Fayyad earned almost universal praise from both peace process cheerleaders and skeptics who saw the American-educated technocrat as someone who was devoted to reforming the corrupt and incompetent PA and giving his people something they were denied under the rule of both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas: good government and economic development.

That Fayyad failed in his efforts is not a matter that most people think is worth debating. The only question is why he didn’t succeed. To that query, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provides the answer that is his catch-all excuse for anything that goes wrong in the Middle East: Israel. That this onetime apologist for an anti-Semitic Iranian regime prefers to focus on the supposed evils of the Netanyahu government is hardly surprising. But his inability to understand just how isolated Fayyad was in Palestinian society speaks volumes about why most Israel-bashers are clueless about Arab rejectionism.

The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support.

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There was one point on which both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations as well as the Israeli governments of Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu all agreed upon. All four thought Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was someone who wanted to be a partner for peace with Israel and ought to be encouraged. Fayyad earned almost universal praise from both peace process cheerleaders and skeptics who saw the American-educated technocrat as someone who was devoted to reforming the corrupt and incompetent PA and giving his people something they were denied under the rule of both Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas: good government and economic development.

That Fayyad failed in his efforts is not a matter that most people think is worth debating. The only question is why he didn’t succeed. To that query, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provides the answer that is his catch-all excuse for anything that goes wrong in the Middle East: Israel. That this onetime apologist for an anti-Semitic Iranian regime prefers to focus on the supposed evils of the Netanyahu government is hardly surprising. But his inability to understand just how isolated Fayyad was in Palestinian society speaks volumes about why most Israel-bashers are clueless about Arab rejectionism.

The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party. In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent. In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation with Israel and peace lacked support.

That Fayyad would blame the Israelis rather than his own people for his failure is understandable since to do otherwise would be a death sentence. But his complaints about Israeli settlements or security measures in the West Bank lack credibility. The fact that Israelis have continued to build in Jerusalem and the suburban settlement blocs that everyone understands would remain within Israel in the event of a peace deal renders the charge that they will prevent the creation of a Palestinian state elsewhere absurd. As for Israeli incursions into the West Bank, were Abbas’ security forces interested in foiling terror or stamping out Hamas cells as they are obligated to do under their Oslo commitments, they wouldn’t be necessary. If Israel has sought to exert pressure on the PA it is because Abbas remains determined to avoid peace talks and his governments remains a font of anti-Semitic incitement that lays the foundation for endless conflict.

Cohen’s claim that Netanyahu really doesn’t want peace despite his repeated embrace of a two-state solution to the conflict is merely an attempt to cover up the fact that has always been the Palestinians who have turned down peace and continue to refuse to negotiate with him.

Fayyad claims with Cohen’s approval that the movement to reconcile Fatah and Hams is a sign that the Palestinians are giving up their war on Israel’s existence. But Cohen omits one very relevant fact from his column that undermines the notion that it is Israel that has been Fayyad’s undoing. Fatah and Hamas may never consummate the unity deals they have signed. But the one point on which Abbas has always been ready to concede to Hamas has been firing Fayyad. If Hamas ever does become part of the PA government it will mean the American favorite is toast. The fact is the rise of Hamas, backed as it is by the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, marks the death knell of any slim hope that Fayyadism has a future.

The Palestinians are choosing, as they have always chosen, to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Having come into existence solely in order to oppose the return of the Jews to the country, Palestinian nationalism appears incapable of redefining itself in such a way as to give Fayyad a chance. The example of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza — which has become a platform for terrorism — makes it impossible for Israel to consider further withdrawals that would duplicate that situation in the West Bank.

Were it in the power of either the United States or Israel to make Fayyad the leader of the Palestinians they would do so. But his constituency has always been in Washington, Jerusalem and the international media not among Palestinians. Someday they may be ready for a Fayyad, but that day is not in the foreseeable future.

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Jewish Groups Must End Silence on Hagel

To the shock of many Democrats who just days ago thought Chuck Hagel’s confirmation was a cinch, the effort to force a cloture vote on his nomination failed this afternoon in the Senate. That puts the Hagel nomination on ice for at least another 10 days until after the President’s Day Congressional recess. Had the White House been forthcoming with more information about the president’s actions during the terror attack in Benghazi, this might have been avoided. Several Republicans said the delay of the vote on Hagel would be lifted as soon as the administration relented on that point but it refused to do so and Majority Leader Harry Reid forced a vote that he knew he would lose.

It is possible that during the intervening week, the president will surrender the data that the Republicans want and that the vote on Hagel will take place later this month and, following the party line vote in the committee, he will be confirmed. But the delay will also allow senators more time to ruminate on the nominee’s hapless performance at his confirmation hearing as well as to digest other information that is coming out about even more disturbing comments that Hagel has made about Israel. As I wrote earlier today, our former colleague Alana Goodman’s reporting at the Washington Free Beacon uncovered an account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University during which he claimed the U.S. State Department was being run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

This hateful statement is actually worse than Hagel’s infamous complaint about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating Congress. It is not only absurd since the State Department has always been a stronghold of Arabists but a rehash of the old anti-Semitic myths about foreign Jews manipulating American policy. The only question now is whether the same Jewish groups that have been conspicuous by their silence about Hagel’s nomination will find their voices and help kill this unfortunate nomination once and for all.

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To the shock of many Democrats who just days ago thought Chuck Hagel’s confirmation was a cinch, the effort to force a cloture vote on his nomination failed this afternoon in the Senate. That puts the Hagel nomination on ice for at least another 10 days until after the President’s Day Congressional recess. Had the White House been forthcoming with more information about the president’s actions during the terror attack in Benghazi, this might have been avoided. Several Republicans said the delay of the vote on Hagel would be lifted as soon as the administration relented on that point but it refused to do so and Majority Leader Harry Reid forced a vote that he knew he would lose.

It is possible that during the intervening week, the president will surrender the data that the Republicans want and that the vote on Hagel will take place later this month and, following the party line vote in the committee, he will be confirmed. But the delay will also allow senators more time to ruminate on the nominee’s hapless performance at his confirmation hearing as well as to digest other information that is coming out about even more disturbing comments that Hagel has made about Israel. As I wrote earlier today, our former colleague Alana Goodman’s reporting at the Washington Free Beacon uncovered an account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University during which he claimed the U.S. State Department was being run by the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

This hateful statement is actually worse than Hagel’s infamous complaint about the “Jewish lobby” intimidating Congress. It is not only absurd since the State Department has always been a stronghold of Arabists but a rehash of the old anti-Semitic myths about foreign Jews manipulating American policy. The only question now is whether the same Jewish groups that have been conspicuous by their silence about Hagel’s nomination will find their voices and help kill this unfortunate nomination once and for all.

As I noted earlier this month, the reluctance of most major Jewish organizations, including the influential Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and AIPAC to take a stand on Hagel was rooted in their unwillingness to step into what had become a partisan fight. Though all had misgivings about the elevation of a man who had been an open antagonist of the pro-Israel community, opposing him meant picking a fight with the administration and the groups were not happy about risking their access to the White House on behalf of a fight that few thought Hagel would lose.

But with this latest proof of Hagel’s hateful mindset about Israel and the fact that the nomination no longer seems quite so inevitable ought to cause the organized Jewish world to reassess their silence. This is especially true since some pro-Israel Democrats have used this failure of the Jewish groups to speak out as cover for their own decision to go along with the president’s poor choice.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that had a Republican president nominated a man to lead the Pentagon who had been quoted saying the things that Hagel has said and who had such a poor record on Israel and Iran, the Democratic donors to major Jewish groups would be screaming for the organizations to pull out the stops to prevent that person from taking office. But Hagel’s crack about the Israeli foreign ministry should convince even the most partisan liberal Democrats that they can’t give their party a pass on this issue.

If Jewish groups speak out now in the aftermath of the cloture vote the Hagel nomination will collapse.  The president may not like it but the longer this goes on the less defensible his choice for the Pentagon has proved to be. The time is now for Jewish Democrats to end this farce and send Hagel back into retirement where he can say as many hateful things about Jews and Israel either on or off the record as he likes.

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Interest in Hagel Speeches Isn’t Racist

One of the lingering questions about Chuck Hagel’s nomination to the Defense Department has been his failure to produce the texts of speeches he gave to various advocacy groups that had been requested by members of the Senate. One of them was a 2008 address given to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League. When reporters from the Washington Free Beacon came calling to ask the ADC for a transcript or a tape, they were thrown out and accused of harassment by the group. Meanwhile they refused to make the material public. That caused some raised eyebrows especially after the Free Beacon unearthed evidence that Hagel had told an audience at Rutgers University that the U.S. State Department was taking its orders from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

But today the ADC says it will make the tape of the speech public and assures Politico that there is nothing controversial in it. Hagel had better hope so since barring a last minute compromise in the Senate, it appears his nomination will be successfully filibustered raising the chances that Democrats will finally give up on this unsuitable candidacy.

But ADC isn’t satisfied with doing its part to help clear the name of a politician with a record of hostility to friends of Israel and opposition to being tough on Iran and Islamist terrorists. Abed Ayoub has gone further and claimed the hunt for the Hagel tape was “racist” and part of a campaign to “demonize” the Arab community. This is familiar territory for a group that has done its best to promote the myth of a post-9-11 backlash against American Muslims. But the attempt to divert both journalists and the Senate from the truth about Hagel’s troubling record shouldn’t succeed. Far from seeking to attack Arabs, those trying to unearth Hagel’s statements have revealed that it is President Obama’s nominee who is the one engaging in prejudicial stereotypes.

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One of the lingering questions about Chuck Hagel’s nomination to the Defense Department has been his failure to produce the texts of speeches he gave to various advocacy groups that had been requested by members of the Senate. One of them was a 2008 address given to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League. When reporters from the Washington Free Beacon came calling to ask the ADC for a transcript or a tape, they were thrown out and accused of harassment by the group. Meanwhile they refused to make the material public. That caused some raised eyebrows especially after the Free Beacon unearthed evidence that Hagel had told an audience at Rutgers University that the U.S. State Department was taking its orders from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

But today the ADC says it will make the tape of the speech public and assures Politico that there is nothing controversial in it. Hagel had better hope so since barring a last minute compromise in the Senate, it appears his nomination will be successfully filibustered raising the chances that Democrats will finally give up on this unsuitable candidacy.

But ADC isn’t satisfied with doing its part to help clear the name of a politician with a record of hostility to friends of Israel and opposition to being tough on Iran and Islamist terrorists. Abed Ayoub has gone further and claimed the hunt for the Hagel tape was “racist” and part of a campaign to “demonize” the Arab community. This is familiar territory for a group that has done its best to promote the myth of a post-9-11 backlash against American Muslims. But the attempt to divert both journalists and the Senate from the truth about Hagel’s troubling record shouldn’t succeed. Far from seeking to attack Arabs, those trying to unearth Hagel’s statements have revealed that it is President Obama’s nominee who is the one engaging in prejudicial stereotypes.

No one is saying that Hagel can’t speak to the ADC or any Arab or Muslim group. The issue is what they say there or elsewhere.

In the case of Hagel, by speaking of the State Department being run by the Israelis, he expanded on the defamatory Walt-Mearsheimer thesis that claimed American Jews had bought Congress and put forward a new conspiracy theory that is even more false and absurd. After all, if there is any U.S. government agency that has long been a bastion of hostility to the Jewish state, it is those sections of the State Department that were long run by Arabists who viewed the U.S.-Israel alliance with distaste.

The report about Hagel’s speech had resonance because he was already on record as having claimed that the “Jewish lobby” had intimidated Congress. It is those comments and not journalists asking questions about the ADC that is prejudicial. Though he disavowed those remarks at his confirmation hearing, the grudging and non-apologetic manner in which he spoke of it as well as his claim that this was the only time he had such a thing “on the record” made it clear that his only problem was that his appointment to the Pentagon had made it difficult for him to openly speak his mind.

It is only natural and logical to wonder whether Hagel said something similar to the ADC and the group — which is supportive of the Walt-Mearsheimer attack on pro-Israel Americans — should stop trying to play the victim. The ADC poses as an Arab version of the Anti-Defamation League but has a long record of support for radical positions. Those who pay attention to this record aren’t racist. They’re just interested in finding out the truth about both Hagel and his cheerleaders.

No matter what the ADC tape shows there is already more than enough evidence available to show that Hagel’s views on Israel and Iran are way out of the mainstream as well as being inconsistent with the public stands of the Obama administration. Democrats need to abandon him and move on with the business of the country by putting forward a suitable and competent Pentagon chief that won’t carry the sort of troubling baggage that Hagel carries with him.

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Is the U.S. Ready to Fight Syrian Rebels?

There’s an unfortunate tendency among foreign policy decision makers in Washington to believe that all options remain on the table indefinitely. Hence, President Obama may believe that the same debates and policy options that occurred two years ago, at the start of the Syrian uprising, still exist today.

The fact of the matter, be it in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, or anywhere else is that realistic policy options and opportunities to achieve the most favorable outcome for the United States diminish over time. Two years ago, it made sense to support the Syrian opposition. President Bashar al-Assad, far from being the Western-educated reformer in which the Clinton administration and State Department officials placed so much hope, was a brute who supported Hezbollah, transformed Syria into an underground railroad for Al Qaeda terrorists infiltrating Iraq, and sought to build a covert nuclear program.

The United States is never the only player in the sandbox, however. By standing on the sidelines, the United States took a pass as supposed allies like Qatar and Turkey aided not the more liberal or nationalist Syrian opposition, but rather the most extreme elements. Qatar did so for ideological reasons, and Turkey did so both because of its leadership’s ideology and because it would rather support religious radicals than allow more secular Kurds to establish a canton across the border in Syria.

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There’s an unfortunate tendency among foreign policy decision makers in Washington to believe that all options remain on the table indefinitely. Hence, President Obama may believe that the same debates and policy options that occurred two years ago, at the start of the Syrian uprising, still exist today.

The fact of the matter, be it in Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, or anywhere else is that realistic policy options and opportunities to achieve the most favorable outcome for the United States diminish over time. Two years ago, it made sense to support the Syrian opposition. President Bashar al-Assad, far from being the Western-educated reformer in which the Clinton administration and State Department officials placed so much hope, was a brute who supported Hezbollah, transformed Syria into an underground railroad for Al Qaeda terrorists infiltrating Iraq, and sought to build a covert nuclear program.

The United States is never the only player in the sandbox, however. By standing on the sidelines, the United States took a pass as supposed allies like Qatar and Turkey aided not the more liberal or nationalist Syrian opposition, but rather the most extreme elements. Qatar did so for ideological reasons, and Turkey did so both because of its leadership’s ideology and because it would rather support religious radicals than allow more secular Kurds to establish a canton across the border in Syria.

John McCain is right to be frustrated by President Obama’s refusal to head the advice of his national security and diplomatic advisers and aid the Syrian camp at a time when U.S. intervention—via a no-fly zone or a safe-haven—might have averted 70,000+ Syrian deaths (and just as many disappeared) and also could have hastened an end to the brutal war before Assad succeeded in his campaign of ethnic and sectarian cleansing, and before Al Qaeda-affiliates like the Nusra Front took root.

Now it appears that al-Nusra has established itself on the Iraqi border, where it can wage sectarian terrorism not only in Syria but in Iraq as well. Al-Nusra today has released footage of yet another suicide bombing it perpetrated in Idlib. Its statements read like Al Qaeda-themed Mad-Libs.

Make no mistake: Seeing what the Syrian opposition is now does not make Bashar al-Assad a better option. The simple fact is that both Assad and the opposition are now both equally detrimental to U.S. national security interests. Washington has no good options. The idea that some moderate force might emerge in Syria committed to rebuilding their shattered state rather than perpetrating terror against Syria’s own population and that of its neighbors is now an unrealistic dream.

In his State of the Union address, Syria was an afterthought. “We’ll keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian,” Obama declared in his last minutes on the podium. That’s too little, and two years too late. The simple fact of the matter is this: Because of Obama’s Syria bungling, we will face a potent threat from that regime for years to come regardless of whether Assad is overthrown. Against the backdrop of sequestration, it would behoove the United States to start planning not simply for next month, but for how it handles the threat from the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean in 2016, 2017, and 2018, for the Syrian opposition–not the five-star hotel exiles who carry little weight on the front line of battle, but rather the Nusra front and the radicals on the ground–is quickly becoming as potent a threat as the Assad regime itself.

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GOP Must Hang Tough on Hagel

Only days ago, it looked like Chuck Hagel was sailing to a quick confirmation as the nation’s new Secretary of Defense by the end of the week. Despite a shockingly poor performance at his Senate hearing, Senate Democrats closed ranks around him. With a couple of Republican supporters and most of the GOP caucus — especially the influential Senator John McCain — declaring they would not support a filibuster of his nomination, Hagel seemed certain of victory. But Hagel’s failure to produce information about income from speeches he had given and the White House’s continuing stonewall of Republican efforts to find about more about the Benghazi disaster have combined to stymie administration efforts to confirm him before Congress breaks for the President’s Day holiday.

Senior Democratic aides told Politico today that Senator Harry Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes he needs to stop a Republican filibuster when the Senate votes tomorrow on whether Hagel’s nomination can receive an up or down vote. That places him on hold at a crucial moment. Some Republicans are backing the roadblock to a vote only as leverage to get the administration to surrender material about the president’s involvement in the Benghazi decision-making process. But the delay may allow more damaging information to come to light about Hagel that could fundamentally alter the dynamic of the debate about his suitability for high office.

As our former colleague Alana Goodman reports at the Washington Free Beacon, a contemporaneous account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University claimed the U.S. State Department had become an “adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s Office. These words were recorded in a blog written at that time by Hagel supporter George Ajjan who confirmed the veracity of the post to Goodman.

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Only days ago, it looked like Chuck Hagel was sailing to a quick confirmation as the nation’s new Secretary of Defense by the end of the week. Despite a shockingly poor performance at his Senate hearing, Senate Democrats closed ranks around him. With a couple of Republican supporters and most of the GOP caucus — especially the influential Senator John McCain — declaring they would not support a filibuster of his nomination, Hagel seemed certain of victory. But Hagel’s failure to produce information about income from speeches he had given and the White House’s continuing stonewall of Republican efforts to find about more about the Benghazi disaster have combined to stymie administration efforts to confirm him before Congress breaks for the President’s Day holiday.

Senior Democratic aides told Politico today that Senator Harry Reid doesn’t have the 60 votes he needs to stop a Republican filibuster when the Senate votes tomorrow on whether Hagel’s nomination can receive an up or down vote. That places him on hold at a crucial moment. Some Republicans are backing the roadblock to a vote only as leverage to get the administration to surrender material about the president’s involvement in the Benghazi decision-making process. But the delay may allow more damaging information to come to light about Hagel that could fundamentally alter the dynamic of the debate about his suitability for high office.

As our former colleague Alana Goodman reports at the Washington Free Beacon, a contemporaneous account of a 2007 speech given by Hagel at Rutgers University claimed the U.S. State Department had become an “adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s Office. These words were recorded in a blog written at that time by Hagel supporter George Ajjan who confirmed the veracity of the post to Goodman.

This statement is consistent with Hagel’s 2006 claim that the “Jewish lobby” was intimidating Congress and shows a mindset of hostility to the U.S.-Israel alliance. Ajjan’s post about Hagel’s speech makes interesting reading today as it demonstrates the former senator’s views opposing isolation of Iran, a key point in the context of President Obama’s declared policies about Tehran.

Senators should demand that Hagel explain this remark as well as provide the information they’ve asked for about his speeches to various Arab groups to whom he may have made similar remarks about Jews and Israel. So, too, should the Jewish organizations that have been silent about Hagel’s nomination out of fear of offending President Obama.

More to the point, pro-Israel Democrats like Chuck Schumer should use these latest revelations as justification for reversing their lukewarm endorsement of Hagel. All it will take is one wavering Democrat to abandon the Nebraskan for his nomination to unravel. And the longer the process drags on the more likely it will be that this might happen. The accumulation of damaging information about Hagel combined with the incompetence he demonstrated at his confirmation hearing, should lead Republicans to hang tough on his nomination.

The GOP should ignore the huffing and puffing about the unprecedented nature of their attempts to stop the Hagel nomination. It may be that a filibuster of a Cabinet appointee is a rare event and should not be undertaken lightly or at the expense of a qualified candidate. But Chuck Hagel is not such a person.

As he demonstrated at his hearing, Hagel is not prepared to deal with the issues facing the Pentagon or the nation and doesn’t even consider this important post to be one in which policy is decided. His offensive remarks about American Jews and Israel are in of themselves a reason to ask the president to drop him and bring forward another, better person to lead the Pentagon. But the effect of his nomination on Iran’s opinion of the administration is an even better reason to drop him. They clearly regard Hagel’s appointment as a sign that the United States isn’t serious about stopping their nuclear plans and would never use force even after diplomacy had failed.

If there was ever a nomination that deserved to be filibustered, it is Hagel’s. The Senate Republican caucus has good reason to hold up any vote on him. The latest revelations about his views should also encourage Democrats to dump him.

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Lessons from Turkey’s Al Qaeda Magazine

İslam Dünyası or “Islamic World” is the Turkish language edition of Al Qaeda’s magazine. I had previously referenced it here when, late last year, the magazine called for attacks on the United States. The latest edition is now available, at least in Jihadi chat rooms. What is most interesting is that it provides biographies for three slain Turkish fighters, two of whom were killed fighting against NATO in Afghanistan, and the third of whom was killed fighting for radicals in Syria.

According to SITE monitoring, which translated the biographies, one of the three grew up in Istanbul, and two grew up in Ankara. All were from poor families and began taking Islam classes in Turkey.

The reason why this is important is simple: The Turkish government has long acknowledged that Turks were active in Al Qaeda and its affiliates (under the group Taifetul Mansura), but always claimed that Turkish Jihadists were Diaspora Turks radicalized in Germany. Now it looks like this isn’t the case, and the real problem is in Turkey itself.

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İslam Dünyası or “Islamic World” is the Turkish language edition of Al Qaeda’s magazine. I had previously referenced it here when, late last year, the magazine called for attacks on the United States. The latest edition is now available, at least in Jihadi chat rooms. What is most interesting is that it provides biographies for three slain Turkish fighters, two of whom were killed fighting against NATO in Afghanistan, and the third of whom was killed fighting for radicals in Syria.

According to SITE monitoring, which translated the biographies, one of the three grew up in Istanbul, and two grew up in Ankara. All were from poor families and began taking Islam classes in Turkey.

The reason why this is important is simple: The Turkish government has long acknowledged that Turks were active in Al Qaeda and its affiliates (under the group Taifetul Mansura), but always claimed that Turkish Jihadists were Diaspora Turks radicalized in Germany. Now it looks like this isn’t the case, and the real problem is in Turkey itself.

Here, the Turkish government is culpable: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has revised his predecessors’ regulations that had regulated Koran schools to prevent radical cleric from leading them and had also placed minimum age and maximum time limitations on the supplemental schools. Back in 2005 and 2006, Erdoğan’s hostility toward any regulation checking the promulgation of religious incitement or radicalism had grown so great that illegal Koran schools advertised openly in Turkey’s Islamist newspapers.

The question for Turkish policymakers—and a question members of the Congressional Turkish Caucus should put forward to Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States is this: Regardless of past blame, now that Al Qaeda is openly acknowledging that terrorists are being indoctrinated and recruited inside Turkey and not abroad, what steps is Turkey taking to rectify the situation?

Alas, I suspect the answer is hiçbiri, none.

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Inspections? Iran May Already Have a Bomb

It didn’t take long for the optimistic story about Iran’s nuclear program in yesterday’s New York Times to turn sour. The paper reported on Wednesday that talks were resuming between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran about resuming inspections of the Islamist regime’s nuclear facilities had resumed. It also noted the report in an Iranian news agency about Tehran diverting its efforts from a bomb to research, a development that might cause the West to treat the issue with less urgency. But, less than 24 hours later, the IAEA announced the talks with Iran had failed and that the United Nations watchdog was still unable to inspect the Parchin site where it suspects military applications of the project including nuclear triggers are being constructed. That means the Iranians are free to go on pushing toward their goal without any annoying inspectors forcing them to hide their work.

This is the sort of development that should cause the Obama administration to drop the air of complacency about the other nuclear talks being held with Iran by the P5+1 group whose goal is to talk the regime out of its nuclear weapons dream. The Iranians have already used those talks to stall the West for over a year and there is nothing to indicate that they view the next round of discussions as anything but another opportunity to buy more time until their bomb is ready.

If that isn’t scary enough, as Lee Smith writes today in Tablet, there is yet another reason to believe that the belated sanctions imposed by the West won’t be enough to stop Iran: North Korea.

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It didn’t take long for the optimistic story about Iran’s nuclear program in yesterday’s New York Times to turn sour. The paper reported on Wednesday that talks were resuming between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran about resuming inspections of the Islamist regime’s nuclear facilities had resumed. It also noted the report in an Iranian news agency about Tehran diverting its efforts from a bomb to research, a development that might cause the West to treat the issue with less urgency. But, less than 24 hours later, the IAEA announced the talks with Iran had failed and that the United Nations watchdog was still unable to inspect the Parchin site where it suspects military applications of the project including nuclear triggers are being constructed. That means the Iranians are free to go on pushing toward their goal without any annoying inspectors forcing them to hide their work.

This is the sort of development that should cause the Obama administration to drop the air of complacency about the other nuclear talks being held with Iran by the P5+1 group whose goal is to talk the regime out of its nuclear weapons dream. The Iranians have already used those talks to stall the West for over a year and there is nothing to indicate that they view the next round of discussions as anything but another opportunity to buy more time until their bomb is ready.

If that isn’t scary enough, as Lee Smith writes today in Tablet, there is yet another reason to believe that the belated sanctions imposed by the West won’t be enough to stop Iran: North Korea.

As Smith notes, the nuclear test conducted by the North Koreans is more than a threat to South Korea, Japan and the rest of the Far East. Given the close ties between Pyongyang and Tehran, it could be, as one U.S. government told the Times earlier this week that “the North Koreans are testing for two countries.”

Smith makes a strong case for belief that Iran already has access to the North Korean nuclear program and that if they were able to pay for that, there’s no reason why they won’t be able to buy a bomb. Despite the problems the sanctions have imposed on Iran, they still have more than enough cash, oil and other commodities to pay a poverty-stricken and isolated North Korean regime anything they want in exchange for what they need. The fact that this is the third such North Korean test has conducted also raises suspicions that what they are doing is at Iran’s behest rather than for their own nuclear ambitions.

Given the secretive nature of both North Korean and Iranian society, there is much that we don’t know about what either country is up to. But informed speculation about the history of cooperation between the two regimes is pointing toward the North Koreans assisting the Iranian effort to match their success in creating a bomb despite the determination of the international community to prevent them from doing so.

The North Korean precedent by which a rogue regime gulled the United States into thinking they would abide by agreements to stop their nuclear program already was a strong argument against the sort of compromise that the European Union has been pushing for in the P5+1 talks.  But if the North Koreans are actively aiding the Iranian effort, the mindset in Washington that there is plenty of time to wait and negotiate before a red line is crossed by Tehran may turn out to be terribly wrong.

The notion that President Obama’s implied threat of the use of force against Iran would be enough to convince the ayatollahs to give up was always something of a fantasy. But when you combine Iran’s progress with the help the North Koreans may be providing them, the scenario starts looking very grim. If, as Smith rightly notes, the president owes the Israelis an apology for working so hard to restrain them from forestalling the Iranian threat, that will be cold comfort for a world that has become a lot more dangerous on his watch.

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Obama’s Middle East Listening Tour

During a press appearance yesterday with the Jordanian foreign minister, a reporter told Secretary of State Kerry that “many people in the Arab world were disappointed” that President Obama made no mention of the “peace process” in his State of the Union address. The reporter asked if Kerry could “assure us that this Administration have this peace process as a priority.” Kerry responded that he’s an optimist, believes “there are possibilities,” but noted that:

“[T]he President is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties, which is why he has announced he’s going to go to Israel. It affords him an opportunity to listen. And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices.”

It’s a better approach than the one Obama adopted in his first term, when he ignored experts who urged him to study the failures of President Clinton and President Bush before rushing right back into the process (as if all that was necessary was a new president). But even a “listening tour” ignores the lesson of the preceding peace processes, which was that the absence of peace was not the result of Israel’s failure to offer the Palestinians a state, or accept an American bridging proposal, or withdraw from territory, or dismantle settlements, or agree to a year-long final status negotiation with intensive American involvement, which resulted in yet another offer of a state. Israel did all those things and got no peace. The reason for the repeated failures of the “peace process” was something else.

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During a press appearance yesterday with the Jordanian foreign minister, a reporter told Secretary of State Kerry that “many people in the Arab world were disappointed” that President Obama made no mention of the “peace process” in his State of the Union address. The reporter asked if Kerry could “assure us that this Administration have this peace process as a priority.” Kerry responded that he’s an optimist, believes “there are possibilities,” but noted that:

“[T]he President is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties, which is why he has announced he’s going to go to Israel. It affords him an opportunity to listen. And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices.”

It’s a better approach than the one Obama adopted in his first term, when he ignored experts who urged him to study the failures of President Clinton and President Bush before rushing right back into the process (as if all that was necessary was a new president). But even a “listening tour” ignores the lesson of the preceding peace processes, which was that the absence of peace was not the result of Israel’s failure to offer the Palestinians a state, or accept an American bridging proposal, or withdraw from territory, or dismantle settlements, or agree to a year-long final status negotiation with intensive American involvement, which resulted in yet another offer of a state. Israel did all those things and got no peace. The reason for the repeated failures of the “peace process” was something else.

In The Missing Peace, Dennis Ross concluded that one of the main reasons for the Clinton failure was the devotion to the “process.” It was so important to keep the “process” going that the underlying realities of the situation were ignored, lest they disrupt it. Palestinian rhetoric was treated as “merely” for domestic consumption and was thus disregarded; Palestinian terror incidents were treated as reasons to redouble negotiating efforts, rather than to stop the “process.” The process took on a life of its own, detached from reality.

In Tested By Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, his extremely valuable account of the Bush peace process, Elliott Abrams concludes that one of the reasons for the failure of the “Annapolis process” was the concentration on negotiations, rather than on progress on the ground. He quotes Tony Blair’s observation that the “reality on the ground will shape an agreement, not vice versa.” In Abrams’ view:

The “peace process” can in this sense become the enemy of progress or even of peace. I tried to eliminate the term from every White House document …. To me it meant the endless series of sessions that overlooked or even obscured realities on the ground: the inability of the PA to defeat terror, its financial crises, the growing popularity of Hamas, the endemic corruption of Fatah, and the party’s inability to win public support. We needed a process that overcame those obstacles to statehood, and the “peace process” often led us to discuss instead where the next conference would be held.

Here is the current reality on the ground: half the putative Palestinian state is held by a terrorist organization allied with Iran and dedicated to Israel’s destruction; the other half is held by a “president” who is nearly 78 years old, in uncertain health, with no known successor, about to begin the 100th month of his 48-month term, presiding over an entity with no functioning legislature, no independent judiciary, no free press, and a society steeped in anti-Semitism. He is not a real president; he just plays one at the UN. Both halves lack the institutions necessary for peace: one half is stockpiling rockets for the next war; the other half refuses even to endorse “two states for two peoples” as a goal, and simply wants to “end the occupation” without an end-of-claims agreement.

At yesterday’s press conference, the Jordanian foreign minister noted that some people say the definition of a pessimist is a well-informed optimist, but he said he remains optimistic: “I have to be optimistic, because we live in the region.” But peace does not depend on whether one is an optimist or a pessimist, or on what the people in the region may say to an American president on a listening tour. It depends on the realities on the ground. The last thing the region needs is another failed “peace process.”

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