Commentary Magazine


Topic: diplomat

Mullahs Outfox Obama — Again

The Iranian regime at every turn has befuddled and outwitted Obama. The mullahs stole an election and brutally suppressed and murdered protesters while convincing Obama to hush up or risk offending them. They made the most of “engagement.” They got the Americans to buy into a silly agreement in which an unverifiable amount of enriched uranium could be shipped out of the country. And then they nixed the deal, prolonged the pre-sanctions phase, made friends with other anti-Israeli and anti-American regimes, and turned the UN session into a forum for their own propaganda. Now they’ve topped themselves:

Iran said on Monday that it had reached an agreement, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, for a nuclear fuel swap that could undermine efforts in the United Nations to impose new sanctions on the Iranians. Iranian state media quoted senior officials as saying the deal provided for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms — about 2,600 pounds — of low-enriched uranium to neighboring Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. …

There was no immediate response from the United States or other nations in the international group dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. … If the latest agreement meant Iran was now prepared for an exchange outside its own territory, that could represent a potentially significant step, said a diplomat in Vienna who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. … It was unclear whether the Obama administration, which has insisted on the need for new sanctions, would take any new iteration of the original United Nations-based deal for a fuel exchange.

This is preposterous given the dispositions of Brazil and Turkey these days, the impossibility of verification, and the likelihood that these nations would return the nuclear material whenever the Iranians wanted it. But it is not significantly less preposterous than the original deal the Obama team gushed over, and the administration may now see this as an escape hatch. (Done! Problem solved!) As the report notes, “the blessing of Turkey and Brazil for such a swap agreement could put the Obama administration in the awkward position of appearing to take an unreasonably hard line.” Because, you see, we wouldn’t want to insist on a “hard line,” namely, that a brutal Islamic fundamentalist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel be forced to forgo a nuclear program or face dire consequences.

The Iranian regime at every turn has befuddled and outwitted Obama. The mullahs stole an election and brutally suppressed and murdered protesters while convincing Obama to hush up or risk offending them. They made the most of “engagement.” They got the Americans to buy into a silly agreement in which an unverifiable amount of enriched uranium could be shipped out of the country. And then they nixed the deal, prolonged the pre-sanctions phase, made friends with other anti-Israeli and anti-American regimes, and turned the UN session into a forum for their own propaganda. Now they’ve topped themselves:

Iran said on Monday that it had reached an agreement, brokered by Brazil and Turkey, for a nuclear fuel swap that could undermine efforts in the United Nations to impose new sanctions on the Iranians. Iranian state media quoted senior officials as saying the deal provided for Iran to ship 1,200 kilograms — about 2,600 pounds — of low-enriched uranium to neighboring Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium. …

There was no immediate response from the United States or other nations in the international group dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. … If the latest agreement meant Iran was now prepared for an exchange outside its own territory, that could represent a potentially significant step, said a diplomat in Vienna who spoke in return for anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters. … It was unclear whether the Obama administration, which has insisted on the need for new sanctions, would take any new iteration of the original United Nations-based deal for a fuel exchange.

This is preposterous given the dispositions of Brazil and Turkey these days, the impossibility of verification, and the likelihood that these nations would return the nuclear material whenever the Iranians wanted it. But it is not significantly less preposterous than the original deal the Obama team gushed over, and the administration may now see this as an escape hatch. (Done! Problem solved!) As the report notes, “the blessing of Turkey and Brazil for such a swap agreement could put the Obama administration in the awkward position of appearing to take an unreasonably hard line.” Because, you see, we wouldn’t want to insist on a “hard line,” namely, that a brutal Islamic fundamentalist state dedicated to the eradication of Israel be forced to forgo a nuclear program or face dire consequences.

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Can We Move Past Engagement?

By now the pattern is clear. The Obama team declares that the policy of George W. Bush toward [fill in the blank with the name of a despotic regime] was “shortsighted” and failed to appreciate that only by engagement and discussion can we discern what [name of despotic regime] really wants. Now we send a special envoy, offer talks, decline to discuss human rights with any vigor, and ease up on sanctions. And lo and behold, the regime gets worse. Curious, isn’t it, that unilateral gestures and reticence to assert American values doesn’t pay off?

This report details the latest example:

The United States is deeply disappointed by Myanmar’s preparations for rare elections and wants “immediate steps” to address fears they will lack legitimacy, a top US diplomat said Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell issued his strongly-worded statement after meeting government officials and opposition leaders including detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy,” Campbell said of the junta‘s plans to stage a vote later this year that would be the first in two decades.

“We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections,” he said.

US President Barack Obama‘s administration launched dialogue with Myanmar‘s military rulers last year after concluding that Western attempts to isolate the regime had produced little success.

Campbell says the U.S. is “profoundly disappointed” — which might be more than “deeply concerned” but certainly less than the condemnation issued to Israel on building in its own capital. What do the human-rights advocates have to say?

Suu Kyi did not speak to reporters but Win Tin, a former political prisoner and senior NLD member, said other top opposition figures had called on Washington to put more pressure on the junta in separate talks with Campbell.

“We think the approach of the US is very soft in relation to this military government,” Win Tin said.

“We asked for tougher political or economic action. There is no position to begin credible elections as the world asks,” he told reporters. “We reiterated (our request) not to acknowledge the coming result of the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for tough sanctions. That seems to be a wise course, and not only for Burma. Obama has had his “experiment” in engagement. It has proved a failure everywhere it has been tried. Can we move on?

By now the pattern is clear. The Obama team declares that the policy of George W. Bush toward [fill in the blank with the name of a despotic regime] was “shortsighted” and failed to appreciate that only by engagement and discussion can we discern what [name of despotic regime] really wants. Now we send a special envoy, offer talks, decline to discuss human rights with any vigor, and ease up on sanctions. And lo and behold, the regime gets worse. Curious, isn’t it, that unilateral gestures and reticence to assert American values doesn’t pay off?

This report details the latest example:

The United States is deeply disappointed by Myanmar’s preparations for rare elections and wants “immediate steps” to address fears they will lack legitimacy, a top US diplomat said Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell issued his strongly-worded statement after meeting government officials and opposition leaders including detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

“What we have seen to date leads us to believe that these elections will lack international legitimacy,” Campbell said of the junta‘s plans to stage a vote later this year that would be the first in two decades.

“We urge the regime to take immediate steps to open the process in the time remaining before the elections,” he said.

US President Barack Obama‘s administration launched dialogue with Myanmar‘s military rulers last year after concluding that Western attempts to isolate the regime had produced little success.

Campbell says the U.S. is “profoundly disappointed” — which might be more than “deeply concerned” but certainly less than the condemnation issued to Israel on building in its own capital. What do the human-rights advocates have to say?

Suu Kyi did not speak to reporters but Win Tin, a former political prisoner and senior NLD member, said other top opposition figures had called on Washington to put more pressure on the junta in separate talks with Campbell.

“We think the approach of the US is very soft in relation to this military government,” Win Tin said.

“We asked for tougher political or economic action. There is no position to begin credible elections as the world asks,” he told reporters. “We reiterated (our request) not to acknowledge the coming result of the election.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for tough sanctions. That seems to be a wise course, and not only for Burma. Obama has had his “experiment” in engagement. It has proved a failure everywhere it has been tried. Can we move on?

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Iran Engagement Lives

The Washington Post reports:

In a highly unusual move, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner Thursday for the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including a senior U.S. diplomat, at the Iranian mission’s sumptuous Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York, according to Security Council diplomats. … The United States was represented at the dinner, but not by its top diplomat, Susan E. Rice. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-ranking ambassador at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, attended instead.

The administration hastens to add that this doesn’t signal that we are backing away from sanctions (albeit the itty-bitty ones we are negotiating), and we should, I suppose, be thankful that Rice herself didn’t attend. But the administration can’t help but reveal its muddled approach: “The United States maintained that its presence at the dinner should not be interpreted as a sign that it is backing away from sanctions. ‘This is a dual-track strategy of engagement on one hand and pressure on the other,’ the U.S. official said.” The result is, of course, a mixed message — and an ineffective policy. We can’t commit to regime change — for that might anger the mullahs or smear the Green Movement. We can’t pass crippling sanctions, because that would cause too much pain and impair our ability to resume engagement.

So we seek halfhearted sanctions that have no hope of success, as we signal — plead, in fact — for the Iranians to return to the bargaining table, where they can resume the stalling tactics that have bought them months and months of time to pursue their nuclear program. The notion that we should isolate Iran, engage in a full-court press to make it a pariah state, and push for, at the very least, petroleum sanctions is alien to this administration. We shouldn’t then worry about a dinner party. We should worry that the administration has given up on preventing the mullahs from getting the bomb.

The Washington Post reports:

In a highly unusual move, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki hosted a dinner Thursday for the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, including a senior U.S. diplomat, at the Iranian mission’s sumptuous Fifth Avenue townhouse in New York, according to Security Council diplomats. … The United States was represented at the dinner, but not by its top diplomat, Susan E. Rice. Alejandro D. Wolff, the second-ranking ambassador at the U.S. mission to the United Nations, attended instead.

The administration hastens to add that this doesn’t signal that we are backing away from sanctions (albeit the itty-bitty ones we are negotiating), and we should, I suppose, be thankful that Rice herself didn’t attend. But the administration can’t help but reveal its muddled approach: “The United States maintained that its presence at the dinner should not be interpreted as a sign that it is backing away from sanctions. ‘This is a dual-track strategy of engagement on one hand and pressure on the other,’ the U.S. official said.” The result is, of course, a mixed message — and an ineffective policy. We can’t commit to regime change — for that might anger the mullahs or smear the Green Movement. We can’t pass crippling sanctions, because that would cause too much pain and impair our ability to resume engagement.

So we seek halfhearted sanctions that have no hope of success, as we signal — plead, in fact — for the Iranians to return to the bargaining table, where they can resume the stalling tactics that have bought them months and months of time to pursue their nuclear program. The notion that we should isolate Iran, engage in a full-court press to make it a pariah state, and push for, at the very least, petroleum sanctions is alien to this administration. We shouldn’t then worry about a dinner party. We should worry that the administration has given up on preventing the mullahs from getting the bomb.

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Speaking Truth to the “Life Lie”

Former Norwegian diplomat Sven Olaf Eid e-mailed a response to my April 20 post about Israel’s Independence Day (“There Could Have Been Two Independence Days”). The post quoted Abba Eban’s 1958 speech to the UN laying responsibility for the Arab refugees on the Arab leaders who had rejected the UN two-state solution in 1947 — and the five Arab countries that sent their armies to destroy the sliver of a Jewish state on the day it declared its independence in 1948.

Mr. Eid wrote that he agreed with the post but wanted to add an important point made in his August 17, 2006, Wall Street Journal letter, which read as follows:

Based on my experience from service with the United Nations in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon in the 1950s and ’60s, along with several later visits to the region and lifelong studies of its history, I present the following comments regarding [Lebanon’s] suffering.

The U.N.’s partition of Palestine in 1947 was the only possible, realistic situation. The partition would have come about anyhow due to the situation on the ground. But especially since the U.N. Relief and Works Agency took responsibility for the Arab refugee problem in 1949, the U.N. has represented a hindrance to the peaceful settlement of the partition conflict by taking the responsibility for the refugees from the responsible Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many in the region, but it has since served as the bouc emissaire for all the religious and political problems in the Islamic world.

Much-greater human problems concerning territories and refugees were solved (without the U.N. of course) after World War II. The Arab states, helped by the U.N., are responsible for keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive and have used it cleverly to overshadow their lack of religious and political will and/or capacity to civilize their societies. The Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was an outstanding exception, and we know what happened to him. Another was King Hussein of Jordan. But apart from that, the absence of statesmen, intellectuals and journalists is remarkable.

The great dramatist Henrik Ibsen described a human phenomenon: livslognen or, here in Spain, la mentira vital. “The life lie”: this bigoted belief that all one’s problems are the fault of others. In my opinion, that very clearly characterizes the Arab world’s general politics since World War II.

Since the 1948 war they started, the Arab states have kept the resulting refugees (and generation after generation of their children) in squalid camps, lest their resettlement be deemed an acceptance of Israel. The refugees in Lebanon have not been given rights to hold property, obtain higher education, or work in numerous professions, much less the right of citizenship in the country in which they have lived all or most of their lives over six decades. Instead, they are kept in a culture of dependency served by UNRWA — a “temporary” UN agency formed in 1949, now a bloated bureaucracy in its seventh decade and funded primarily by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The refugee problem will not be solved by “negotiations” between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas. The solution will require a fundamental change in perspective — one that might begin if a U.S. president were ever to travel to Cairo and call for an end to UNRWA, in a speech that would term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights, and that would end by challenging the leaders of the Arab countries to “tear down those camps.”

Former Norwegian diplomat Sven Olaf Eid e-mailed a response to my April 20 post about Israel’s Independence Day (“There Could Have Been Two Independence Days”). The post quoted Abba Eban’s 1958 speech to the UN laying responsibility for the Arab refugees on the Arab leaders who had rejected the UN two-state solution in 1947 — and the five Arab countries that sent their armies to destroy the sliver of a Jewish state on the day it declared its independence in 1948.

Mr. Eid wrote that he agreed with the post but wanted to add an important point made in his August 17, 2006, Wall Street Journal letter, which read as follows:

Based on my experience from service with the United Nations in Egypt, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon in the 1950s and ’60s, along with several later visits to the region and lifelong studies of its history, I present the following comments regarding [Lebanon’s] suffering.

The U.N.’s partition of Palestine in 1947 was the only possible, realistic situation. The partition would have come about anyhow due to the situation on the ground. But especially since the U.N. Relief and Works Agency took responsibility for the Arab refugee problem in 1949, the U.N. has represented a hindrance to the peaceful settlement of the partition conflict by taking the responsibility for the refugees from the responsible Arab countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one of many in the region, but it has since served as the bouc emissaire for all the religious and political problems in the Islamic world.

Much-greater human problems concerning territories and refugees were solved (without the U.N. of course) after World War II. The Arab states, helped by the U.N., are responsible for keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict alive and have used it cleverly to overshadow their lack of religious and political will and/or capacity to civilize their societies. The Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was an outstanding exception, and we know what happened to him. Another was King Hussein of Jordan. But apart from that, the absence of statesmen, intellectuals and journalists is remarkable.

The great dramatist Henrik Ibsen described a human phenomenon: livslognen or, here in Spain, la mentira vital. “The life lie”: this bigoted belief that all one’s problems are the fault of others. In my opinion, that very clearly characterizes the Arab world’s general politics since World War II.

Since the 1948 war they started, the Arab states have kept the resulting refugees (and generation after generation of their children) in squalid camps, lest their resettlement be deemed an acceptance of Israel. The refugees in Lebanon have not been given rights to hold property, obtain higher education, or work in numerous professions, much less the right of citizenship in the country in which they have lived all or most of their lives over six decades. Instead, they are kept in a culture of dependency served by UNRWA — a “temporary” UN agency formed in 1949, now a bloated bureaucracy in its seventh decade and funded primarily by the U.S. and other Western countries.

The refugee problem will not be solved by “negotiations” between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas. The solution will require a fundamental change in perspective — one that might begin if a U.S. president were ever to travel to Cairo and call for an end to UNRWA, in a speech that would term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights, and that would end by challenging the leaders of the Arab countries to “tear down those camps.”

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RE: What the U.S. Should Do About the SCUDs

The U.S. government has confirmed the delivery of SCUD missiles by Syria to Hezbollah. Its response? A remarkably tough press release from a State Department spokesman, which reads as follows:

The most senior Syrian diplomat present in Washington today, Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour, was summoned to the Department of State to review Syria’s provocative behavior concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hezbollah.  This was the fourth occasion on which these concerns have been raised to the Syrian Embassy in recent months, intended to further amplify our messages communicated to the Syrian government. Our dialogue with Syria on this issue has been frank and sustained. We expect the same in return.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah. The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon. The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hezbollah. Additionally, the heightened tension and increased potential for conflict this policy produces is an impediment to on-going efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. All states have an obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to prevent the importation of any weapons into Lebanon except as authorized by the Lebanese Government.

We call for an immediate cessation of any arms transfers to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations in the region. Syria’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is directly related to its support for terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah.

This is certainly a step above what we usually hear from the Obami when it comes to aggression by their friends in the “Muslim World” – silence. It doesn’t exactly say what consequences there will be for violation of the UN Resolution 1701. But after all, there has already been such a violation. And who knows what we and Israel have agreed on. It would be nice if we’ve changed our mind about sending our ambassador to Damascus (should he ever be confirmed). And it would be even better if we actually mentioned Israel and its right of self-defense. But this is the first sign that reality has crept into Foggy Bottom and that some re-evaluation of our Syrian engagement policy is underway. Perhaps next we could go to the UN to get a declaration that Syria is in violation of 1701 and that states in the region are entitled to act in self-defense. Well, we can always hope.

The U.S. government has confirmed the delivery of SCUD missiles by Syria to Hezbollah. Its response? A remarkably tough press release from a State Department spokesman, which reads as follows:

The most senior Syrian diplomat present in Washington today, Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour, was summoned to the Department of State to review Syria’s provocative behavior concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hezbollah.  This was the fourth occasion on which these concerns have been raised to the Syrian Embassy in recent months, intended to further amplify our messages communicated to the Syrian government. Our dialogue with Syria on this issue has been frank and sustained. We expect the same in return.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah. The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon. The risk of miscalculation that could result from this type of escalation should make Syria reverse the ill-conceived policy it has pursued in providing arms to Hezbollah. Additionally, the heightened tension and increased potential for conflict this policy produces is an impediment to on-going efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. All states have an obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to prevent the importation of any weapons into Lebanon except as authorized by the Lebanese Government.

We call for an immediate cessation of any arms transfers to Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations in the region. Syria’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is directly related to its support for terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah.

This is certainly a step above what we usually hear from the Obami when it comes to aggression by their friends in the “Muslim World” – silence. It doesn’t exactly say what consequences there will be for violation of the UN Resolution 1701. But after all, there has already been such a violation. And who knows what we and Israel have agreed on. It would be nice if we’ve changed our mind about sending our ambassador to Damascus (should he ever be confirmed). And it would be even better if we actually mentioned Israel and its right of self-defense. But this is the first sign that reality has crept into Foggy Bottom and that some re-evaluation of our Syrian engagement policy is underway. Perhaps next we could go to the UN to get a declaration that Syria is in violation of 1701 and that states in the region are entitled to act in self-defense. Well, we can always hope.

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Bashar Assad Takes the Measure of Barack Obama

There is an important story in today’s Wall Street Journal that says a lot about how the Middle East is changing in the era of smart diplomacy:

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has transferred long-range Scud missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in a move that threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance, Israeli and U.S. officials alleged. …

Officials briefed on the intelligence said Israeli and American officials believe Lebanon transferred Scud D missiles to Hezbollah that were built with either North Korean or Russian technology.

The Scuds are believed to have a range of over 430 miles, placing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear installations at Dimona all within range of Hezbollah’s military forces. …

Israeli officials said this week that Scud D missiles were “game-changing” armaments that marked a new escalation in the Mideast conflict. They charged Mr. Assad with further fusing Syria’s military command with Hezbollah’s and Iran’s and breaking clearly defined red-lines established by Israel’s defense forces.

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

There is an important story in today’s Wall Street Journal that says a lot about how the Middle East is changing in the era of smart diplomacy:

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government has transferred long-range Scud missiles to the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah in a move that threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance, Israeli and U.S. officials alleged. …

Officials briefed on the intelligence said Israeli and American officials believe Lebanon transferred Scud D missiles to Hezbollah that were built with either North Korean or Russian technology.

The Scuds are believed to have a range of over 430 miles, placing Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s nuclear installations at Dimona all within range of Hezbollah’s military forces. …

Israeli officials said this week that Scud D missiles were “game-changing” armaments that marked a new escalation in the Mideast conflict. They charged Mr. Assad with further fusing Syria’s military command with Hezbollah’s and Iran’s and breaking clearly defined red-lines established by Israel’s defense forces.

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

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Oren Responds to the Obami’s Temper Tantrum

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

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Sorry about my anti-Semitic remarks, now let me tell you about Zionist baby-killing

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

Great Britain is awash in anti-Semitism and Israel-hysteria, ho-hum. But this particular story has more entertainment value than most. A Labor Party MP and chairman of the “Labor Friends of Palestine,” Martin Linton, has been pounding away at Israel, declaring after the UK expelled an Israeli diplomat:

May I urge my right honorable friend [Foreign Secretary David Miliband] to take similar action every time Israel disregards the law, whether it is by building settlements, building the wall in occupied territory, the annexation of east Jerusalem, targeting civilians in Gaza or the use of human shields?

A couple of days ago, he said that “There are long tentacles of Israel in this country who are funding election campaigns and putting money into the British political system for their own ends.” In Great Britain circa 2010, accusing Israel of intentionally killing civilians is a matter of routine and acceptable political discourse, but accusing Israel of trying to influence the British political system is over the line.

So Linton set a new record for weaselly non-apology apologies by saying he was “sorry if a word I used caused unintended offence because of connotations of which I was unaware.” I mean, don’t get carried away in contrition or anything. Remember the scene in Family Guy where Mel Gibson apologizes to the Jews? That’s exactly what’s going on here.

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Spinning Obama’s Foreign-Policy Flops

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

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Do We Ever Leave the Human Rights Council?

It is apparent that the U.S. is not playing any constructive role in holding back the tide of international efforts to delegitimize Israel. This report explains:

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel over its policies related to what it called Palestinian and Syrian territories, but the United States voted against them all.

A further resolution, calling for a fund to compensate Palestinians who suffered losses during Israel’s offensive in Gaza 14 months ago, is expected to be passed on Thursday. …

The United States, which itself is in a diplomatic row with Israel over settlements which the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to pursue, told the Council that the three resolutions would do nothing to help peace.

It said the body was too often being used as a platform to single out Israel for condemnation while rights violations by other countries were ignored.

Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday in a row over forged U.K. passports, voted for the settlements resolution, against on Palestinian rights, and abstained on the Syrian vote.

The Council is effectively dominated by a developing country bloc in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a strong influence and which is routinely supported by China, Russia and Cuba.

A couple of lessons can be drawn from this. First, the decision by the Obami to rejoin the Human Rights Council was disastrous. It has given the group new legitimacy and visibility, and no resolution is too heinous and no hypocrisy too great to impress upon the Obami the importance of leaving this body of thugs. The notion that we are improving the council’s behavior or improving our own standing by sitting by as vote after vote is taken against Israel is farcical.

Second, the U.S.’s “row” with Israel seems to be encouraging not only the thugocracies but also our allies to get into the Israel-bashing act. As Jackson Diehl aptly put it: “Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu? Maybe not.”

Once again, we see the results that flow from the Obami’s fetish with multilateral institutions and from their efforts to prove our bona fides, not to Western democracies, but to the despotic regimes that populate those institutions. Israel’s security and our own credibility are undermined as the world learns there is little downside from taking continual pot shots at the Jewish state.

It is apparent that the U.S. is not playing any constructive role in holding back the tide of international efforts to delegitimize Israel. This report explains:

The United Nations Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel over its policies related to what it called Palestinian and Syrian territories, but the United States voted against them all.

A further resolution, calling for a fund to compensate Palestinians who suffered losses during Israel’s offensive in Gaza 14 months ago, is expected to be passed on Thursday. …

The United States, which itself is in a diplomatic row with Israel over settlements which the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to pursue, told the Council that the three resolutions would do nothing to help peace.

It said the body was too often being used as a platform to single out Israel for condemnation while rights violations by other countries were ignored.

Britain, which expelled an Israeli diplomat on Tuesday in a row over forged U.K. passports, voted for the settlements resolution, against on Palestinian rights, and abstained on the Syrian vote.

The Council is effectively dominated by a developing country bloc in which the Organization of the Islamic Conference has a strong influence and which is routinely supported by China, Russia and Cuba.

A couple of lessons can be drawn from this. First, the decision by the Obami to rejoin the Human Rights Council was disastrous. It has given the group new legitimacy and visibility, and no resolution is too heinous and no hypocrisy too great to impress upon the Obami the importance of leaving this body of thugs. The notion that we are improving the council’s behavior or improving our own standing by sitting by as vote after vote is taken against Israel is farcical.

Second, the U.S.’s “row” with Israel seems to be encouraging not only the thugocracies but also our allies to get into the Israel-bashing act. As Jackson Diehl aptly put it: “Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu? Maybe not.”

Once again, we see the results that flow from the Obami’s fetish with multilateral institutions and from their efforts to prove our bona fides, not to Western democracies, but to the despotic regimes that populate those institutions. Israel’s security and our own credibility are undermined as the world learns there is little downside from taking continual pot shots at the Jewish state.

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Re: Gartenstein-Ross Defends Rashad Hussain

Hussain’s comment was not an isolated one. Josh Gerstein reports on the recording of the event that Hussain has tried to conceal from view:

Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proved valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

Hussain’s position seems to be in direct conflict with the current administration, but quite in tune with the grievance-mongering lobby of CAIR and other groups. But that is not all. In his speech, Hussain cited chapter and verse on the supposed persecution of Muslims:

— The court martial of Capt. James Yee, a Guantanamo chaplain initially suspected of treason and later charged with adultery. All charges were eventually dropped.

— The case of Jose Padilla, who was held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant on suspicions of trying to detonate a radiation-laced “dirty bomb” in the U.S. In 2006, more than a year after Hussain spoke, Padilla was charged in a terrorist plot unrelated to the dirty bomb allegations. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of Yaser Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan, held as an enemy combatant and released to Saudi Arabia weeks after Hussain spoke.

— The prosecution of an imam and a pizzeria owner in Albany, N.Y., for conspiring with an informant in a fictitious plot to use a missile launcher to attack a Pakistani diplomat. The men were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, though their lawyers claimed the pair were entrapped.

— The prosecution of a Somali man, Nuradin Abdi, in 2004 for plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He pled guilty in 2007 to conspiring to support terrorism and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for more than two weeks in 2004 as a material witness on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings that year. He was never charged with a crime, received an apology from the FBI, which said it misidentified his fingerprints, and brought a lawsuit that led to a reported $2 million settlement from the government in 2006.

— The prosecution of four men as alleged members of a Detroit-based Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” plotting an attack. Two of the men were convicted on terror charges in 2003 but the convictions were thrown out at the government’s request after evidence emerged of prosecutorial misconduct and an unreliable informant. The prosecutor was charged criminally with concealing exculpatory evidence but later acquitted.

Hussain went on to tell the audience at the event, held roughly two months before the 2004 election, that electing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as president could stem the tide of such cases.

This kind of rhetoric may get cheers from the Left and from CAIR but is not, even for this administration, remotely acceptable. The Obami have pointedly refused to stick up for Hussain since Friday’s revelation. At this point, I suspect they would rather have someone else in that role – someone who does not see behind every legitimate effort to defend America from Islamic fascist the specter of anti-Muslim discrimination.

Hussain’s comment was not an isolated one. Josh Gerstein reports on the recording of the event that Hussain has tried to conceal from view:

Hussain refers to some provisions of the Patriot Act as “horrible” and called “dangerous” an aspect of that law that allows intelligence-related surveillance to be used in criminal cases. Most lawmakers, including many Democrats critical of the Patriot Act, have said the provision has proved valuable, because it removed a wall that made it difficult for those pursuing investigations of international terror or spying operations to share information with criminal investigators. Hussain did express support for other aspects of the law, including a provision permitting so-called roving wiretaps.

Hussain’s position seems to be in direct conflict with the current administration, but quite in tune with the grievance-mongering lobby of CAIR and other groups. But that is not all. In his speech, Hussain cited chapter and verse on the supposed persecution of Muslims:

— The court martial of Capt. James Yee, a Guantanamo chaplain initially suspected of treason and later charged with adultery. All charges were eventually dropped.

— The case of Jose Padilla, who was held without charge for more than three years as an enemy combatant on suspicions of trying to detonate a radiation-laced “dirty bomb” in the U.S. In 2006, more than a year after Hussain spoke, Padilla was charged in a terrorist plot unrelated to the dirty bomb allegations. He was convicted by a jury in 2007 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of Yaser Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan, held as an enemy combatant and released to Saudi Arabia weeks after Hussain spoke.

— The prosecution of an imam and a pizzeria owner in Albany, N.Y., for conspiring with an informant in a fictitious plot to use a missile launcher to attack a Pakistani diplomat. The men were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 15 years in prison, though their lawyers claimed the pair were entrapped.

— The prosecution of a Somali man, Nuradin Abdi, in 2004 for plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Columbus, Ohio. He pled guilty in 2007 to conspiring to support terrorism and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

— The imprisonment of an Oregon lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed for more than two weeks in 2004 as a material witness on suspicion of involvement in the Madrid train bombings that year. He was never charged with a crime, received an apology from the FBI, which said it misidentified his fingerprints, and brought a lawsuit that led to a reported $2 million settlement from the government in 2006.

— The prosecution of four men as alleged members of a Detroit-based Al Qaeda “sleeper cell” plotting an attack. Two of the men were convicted on terror charges in 2003 but the convictions were thrown out at the government’s request after evidence emerged of prosecutorial misconduct and an unreliable informant. The prosecutor was charged criminally with concealing exculpatory evidence but later acquitted.

Hussain went on to tell the audience at the event, held roughly two months before the 2004 election, that electing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as president could stem the tide of such cases.

This kind of rhetoric may get cheers from the Left and from CAIR but is not, even for this administration, remotely acceptable. The Obami have pointedly refused to stick up for Hussain since Friday’s revelation. At this point, I suspect they would rather have someone else in that role – someone who does not see behind every legitimate effort to defend America from Islamic fascist the specter of anti-Muslim discrimination.

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A Good Choice for a Bad Job

I am not sure that the U.S. should be sending an ambassador back to Syria, which continues to play the old game of saying it wants better relations with the West while simultaneously meddling in Lebanese affairs, trying to acquire nuclear arms, stockpiling chemical weapons, repressing all internal opposition, working with Iran to arm Hezbollah and Hamas, facilitating Sunni terrorist operations in Iraq, and generally harming the overall prospects of peace and stability in the Middle East. Damascus is likely to see the appointment of a top American diplomat as a reward for its disruptive behavior — especially when, as Michael Young notes, the U.N. investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which could have put serious pressure on Syria to reform, is going nowhere fast. The Bush administration withdrew our ambassador from Damascus in 2005 to protest the Hariri assassination, which was undoubtedly engineered from Syria. No one in Syria has been held accountable, and yet here comes our ambassador calling.

That said, if we are going to send an ambassador to Damascus, it is hard to think of a better choice than Robert Ford. He is currently deputy chief of mission in Iraq, and it was in that capacity that I met with him on my visit to Baghdad last fall. I came away extremely impressed by this career diplomat, who speaks fluent Arabic and has previously served as the U.S. ambassador in Algeria. I realize that State Department Arabists have a checkered reputation — see Robert Kaplan’s fine book on that subject, which makes it clear that too often the Arabists have adopted a “see-no-evil attitude” toward the Arabs while displaying unremitting hostility to the Israelis. Bob Ford isn’t like that at all. I found him to be a singularly shrewd, insightful, and clear-eyed analyst of Iraqi politics. In fact, I left his office wondering why he wasn’t appointed ambassador in place of Chris Hill, who has no background in the Middle East.

Ford will be the best possible American representative in Damascus. I just hope he will not be forced to front for an Obama-esque policy of appeasement. It is possible that after the failure of engagement in Iran, the administration will now redouble its efforts to reach some kind of accommodation with Syria that will enhance rather than diminish the troublemaking capacity of the Alawite clique at the center of Syrian politics.

I am not sure that the U.S. should be sending an ambassador back to Syria, which continues to play the old game of saying it wants better relations with the West while simultaneously meddling in Lebanese affairs, trying to acquire nuclear arms, stockpiling chemical weapons, repressing all internal opposition, working with Iran to arm Hezbollah and Hamas, facilitating Sunni terrorist operations in Iraq, and generally harming the overall prospects of peace and stability in the Middle East. Damascus is likely to see the appointment of a top American diplomat as a reward for its disruptive behavior — especially when, as Michael Young notes, the U.N. investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which could have put serious pressure on Syria to reform, is going nowhere fast. The Bush administration withdrew our ambassador from Damascus in 2005 to protest the Hariri assassination, which was undoubtedly engineered from Syria. No one in Syria has been held accountable, and yet here comes our ambassador calling.

That said, if we are going to send an ambassador to Damascus, it is hard to think of a better choice than Robert Ford. He is currently deputy chief of mission in Iraq, and it was in that capacity that I met with him on my visit to Baghdad last fall. I came away extremely impressed by this career diplomat, who speaks fluent Arabic and has previously served as the U.S. ambassador in Algeria. I realize that State Department Arabists have a checkered reputation — see Robert Kaplan’s fine book on that subject, which makes it clear that too often the Arabists have adopted a “see-no-evil attitude” toward the Arabs while displaying unremitting hostility to the Israelis. Bob Ford isn’t like that at all. I found him to be a singularly shrewd, insightful, and clear-eyed analyst of Iraqi politics. In fact, I left his office wondering why he wasn’t appointed ambassador in place of Chris Hill, who has no background in the Middle East.

Ford will be the best possible American representative in Damascus. I just hope he will not be forced to front for an Obama-esque policy of appeasement. It is possible that after the failure of engagement in Iran, the administration will now redouble its efforts to reach some kind of accommodation with Syria that will enhance rather than diminish the troublemaking capacity of the Alawite clique at the center of Syrian politics.

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What Happened to “Defensible Borders”?

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will return to the Middle East in early January and quotes an Arab diplomat saying that Mitchell will present “two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority” as a basis for renewing negotiations. The Post reports that a senior Israeli diplomatic source said “the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble [Hillary Clinton’s] statement” last month, which read as follows:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.

The absence of any reference to “defensible borders” in Secretary Clinton’s statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused this year to answer whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter. Even the reference to “secure and recognized” borders is expressed in Clinton’s statement simply as an Israeli “goal” rather than as a U.S. commitment.

There is a significant difference between the prior letters given to Israel and the new “letter of guarantees” that may be given to the Palestinians. The letters to Israel were provided in exchange for tangible concessions: withdrawals from significant territories in Hebron and Gaza. They were parts of negotiated deals; they were not mere statements of policy subject to change. The possible “letter of guarantee” for the Palestinians, on the other hand, is simply for an agreement to resume negotiations, with no Palestinian concession on any issue – and on a basis that omits any reference to defensible borders.

Some have argued that (a) borders are secure only if they are recognized; (b) the Palestinians will recognize only the 1967 lines with minor adjustments; and (c) Israel can thus only have secure and recognized borders if it acquiesces in the Palestinian demand for indefensible ones — and relies for peace on the resulting peace agreement (perhaps with a “binding” UN resolution and blue helmets on the borders). The Palestinians have already rejected offers of a state (after land swaps) on 92 percent of the West Bank (at Camp David), 97 percent (in the Clinton Parameters), and 100 percent (in Olmert’s Annapolis Process offer). The borders they have in mind are not defensible ones, and the Obama administration appears to have deleted “defensible borders” as one of the guarantees of the process — unless there is some other explanation for the obvious reluctance of the administration to use the term, much less commit itself to the concept.

The Jerusalem Post reports that George Mitchell will return to the Middle East in early January and quotes an Arab diplomat saying that Mitchell will present “two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority” as a basis for renewing negotiations. The Post reports that a senior Israeli diplomatic source said “the terms of reference Mitchell is reportedly bringing would probably closely resemble [Hillary Clinton’s] statement” last month, which read as follows:

We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.

Letters of assurance have previously played an important part in the peace process. In 1997, Secretary of State Christopher wrote to Israel to assure it that the U.S. supported “defensible borders” for Israel as the conclusion of the peace process. In 2004, President Bush reassured Israel of the “steadfast commitment” of the U.S. to defensible borders. In his “Let Me Be Clear” address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that “any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders,” reflecting the longstanding U.S. commitment.

The absence of any reference to “defensible borders” in Secretary Clinton’s statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused this year to answer whether it considers itself bound by the Bush letter. Even the reference to “secure and recognized” borders is expressed in Clinton’s statement simply as an Israeli “goal” rather than as a U.S. commitment.

There is a significant difference between the prior letters given to Israel and the new “letter of guarantees” that may be given to the Palestinians. The letters to Israel were provided in exchange for tangible concessions: withdrawals from significant territories in Hebron and Gaza. They were parts of negotiated deals; they were not mere statements of policy subject to change. The possible “letter of guarantee” for the Palestinians, on the other hand, is simply for an agreement to resume negotiations, with no Palestinian concession on any issue – and on a basis that omits any reference to defensible borders.

Some have argued that (a) borders are secure only if they are recognized; (b) the Palestinians will recognize only the 1967 lines with minor adjustments; and (c) Israel can thus only have secure and recognized borders if it acquiesces in the Palestinian demand for indefensible ones — and relies for peace on the resulting peace agreement (perhaps with a “binding” UN resolution and blue helmets on the borders). The Palestinians have already rejected offers of a state (after land swaps) on 92 percent of the West Bank (at Camp David), 97 percent (in the Clinton Parameters), and 100 percent (in Olmert’s Annapolis Process offer). The borders they have in mind are not defensible ones, and the Obama administration appears to have deleted “defensible borders” as one of the guarantees of the process — unless there is some other explanation for the obvious reluctance of the administration to use the term, much less commit itself to the concept.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Finally, a Valid Vietnam Analogy for Afghanistan

We’ve spent most of the past several years listening to liberals nattering away about how first Iraq and now Afghanistan is the new Vietnam. But finally, those making such arguments in the hope of undermining our efforts to resist the Taliban have a leg to stand on, even if a proper understanding of this episode leads to conclusions they don’t like.

Today’s front-page story in the New York Times about the efforts of American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith to depose the president of Afghanistan last year ought to set our collective Vietnam-analogy alarm bells ringing.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

We’ve spent most of the past several years listening to liberals nattering away about how first Iraq and now Afghanistan is the new Vietnam. But finally, those making such arguments in the hope of undermining our efforts to resist the Taliban have a leg to stand on, even if a proper understanding of this episode leads to conclusions they don’t like.

Today’s front-page story in the New York Times about the efforts of American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith to depose the president of Afghanistan last year ought to set our collective Vietnam-analogy alarm bells ringing.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Not So Fast on Sanctions

The House voted overwhelmingly, 412-12, in favor of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act authorizing the president to impose penalties on foreign companies that sell oil to Iran or that help the country with its oil-producing capacity. AIPAC applauded the move. (“The United States and our allies must do everything we can to use crippling diplomatic and economic pressure to peaceably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and avoid confronting more distressing alternatives.”) The J Street crowd was quiet because the administration isn’t thrilled with the move. (Whatever the most dovish position in the administration might conceivably be, we have learned, will bear an uncanny resemblance to the line of the day from J Street.) Wait — didn’t we turn a corner? Isn’t the administration hinting at sanctions? For now, at least, the administration is pulling back on the reins. This report explains:

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, said the Obama administration was “entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran.” Sanctions legislation “might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts,” Steinberg’s letter said.

This is a crowd that’s allergic to leverage. Because the Foggy Bottom team is pleading or getting ready to plead with Russia, China, and the rest, the administration doesn’t even want the authority to act on its own should the “international community” wimp out. Such authority, never mind action, might rattle or annoy our sanctions “partners.” Rep. Howard Berman, who sponsored the measure, doesn’t buy that. (“The House passage of this legislation empowers the administration to point out that, ‘Here is a way a lot of people in Congress want to go, and we think there is a better way, but this issue will not go away.’ “) Berman diplomatically said that the administration neither encouraged or discouraged him, leaving unsaid that the administration is doing what it can to halt any Senate action.

Meanwhile, one gets the sense that the Obami haven’t quite turned that corner yet. We learn:

One European diplomat said a senior White House official had recently told him that the Obama White House seeks to use what it calls the pressure track to try to get Iran back on the engagement track over the next several months. The senior White House official also said that U.S. and international credibility would be hurt if they didn’t demonstrate that they were serious after weeks of telegraphing the end of the year deadline for Iran to show progress on the engagement track, or face consequences.

Yes, if we can only get the mullahs back to the bargaining table, then we can certainly solve this! There’s a pathetic and deeply unserious quality to all this, an afraid-of-our-own-shadow feel to the administration’s efforts. Don’t want to make the Europeans mad. Don’t want to look like we mean business. It doesn’t bode well for vigorous action that would convey to the Iranian regime the negative consequences of proceeding with its nuclear program. But after a year of dithering, engagement, and playing dumb at the bargaining table, we’ve already left an impression of irresolution and weakness with the mullahs. It’s not one the administration seems eager to undo.

The House voted overwhelmingly, 412-12, in favor of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act authorizing the president to impose penalties on foreign companies that sell oil to Iran or that help the country with its oil-producing capacity. AIPAC applauded the move. (“The United States and our allies must do everything we can to use crippling diplomatic and economic pressure to peaceably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and avoid confronting more distressing alternatives.”) The J Street crowd was quiet because the administration isn’t thrilled with the move. (Whatever the most dovish position in the administration might conceivably be, we have learned, will bear an uncanny resemblance to the line of the day from J Street.) Wait — didn’t we turn a corner? Isn’t the administration hinting at sanctions? For now, at least, the administration is pulling back on the reins. This report explains:

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, said the Obama administration was “entering a critical period of intense diplomacy to impose significant international pressure on Iran.” Sanctions legislation “might weaken rather than strengthen international unity and support for our efforts,” Steinberg’s letter said.

This is a crowd that’s allergic to leverage. Because the Foggy Bottom team is pleading or getting ready to plead with Russia, China, and the rest, the administration doesn’t even want the authority to act on its own should the “international community” wimp out. Such authority, never mind action, might rattle or annoy our sanctions “partners.” Rep. Howard Berman, who sponsored the measure, doesn’t buy that. (“The House passage of this legislation empowers the administration to point out that, ‘Here is a way a lot of people in Congress want to go, and we think there is a better way, but this issue will not go away.’ “) Berman diplomatically said that the administration neither encouraged or discouraged him, leaving unsaid that the administration is doing what it can to halt any Senate action.

Meanwhile, one gets the sense that the Obami haven’t quite turned that corner yet. We learn:

One European diplomat said a senior White House official had recently told him that the Obama White House seeks to use what it calls the pressure track to try to get Iran back on the engagement track over the next several months. The senior White House official also said that U.S. and international credibility would be hurt if they didn’t demonstrate that they were serious after weeks of telegraphing the end of the year deadline for Iran to show progress on the engagement track, or face consequences.

Yes, if we can only get the mullahs back to the bargaining table, then we can certainly solve this! There’s a pathetic and deeply unserious quality to all this, an afraid-of-our-own-shadow feel to the administration’s efforts. Don’t want to make the Europeans mad. Don’t want to look like we mean business. It doesn’t bode well for vigorous action that would convey to the Iranian regime the negative consequences of proceeding with its nuclear program. But after a year of dithering, engagement, and playing dumb at the bargaining table, we’ve already left an impression of irresolution and weakness with the mullahs. It’s not one the administration seems eager to undo.

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Andrew Roberts: On Iran, Israel Must Emulate Nelson and Churchill

Over at Melanie Phillips’s Spectator blog, she reprints in its entirety the speech delivered by the great British historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to the Anglo-Israel Association earlier this week.

Roberts’s brilliant speech makes for important reading and not just for students of the often difficult relationship between Britain and Israel, which he reviews in some detail, from the hopeful beginning of the Balfour Declaration to the infamy of Britain’s 1939 White Paper, which locked the gates of Palestine just as Hitler’s death machine was warming up in Europe. Add to this Britain’s futile effort to prevent the Jewish state from being born after World War II and the consistent record of bias against Israel on the part of London’s Foreign Office since 1948. While Roberts notes that Margaret Thatcher was the most philo-Semitic prime minister since Winston Churchill, he acknowledges that even the Iron Lady was stymied by the Foreign Office in her efforts to promote a better relationship with Israel.

What is his explanation for this record? He puts it down, in part, to:

The FO assumption that Britain’s relations with Israel ought constantly to be subordinated to her relations with other Middle Eastern states, especially the oil-rich ones, however badly those states behave in terms of human rights abuses, the persecution of Christians, the oppression of women, medieval practices of punishment, and so on. It seems to me that there is an implicit racism going on here. Jews are expected to behave better, goes the FO thinking, because they are like us. Arabs must not be chastised because they are not. So in warfare, we constantly expect Israel to behave far better than her neighbours, and chastise her quite hypocritically when occasionally under the exigencies of national struggle, she cannot. The problem crosses political parties today, just as it always has. [Conservative Party foreign policy spokesman] William Hague called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2007, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists. In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans—twelve times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?

Roberts also notes that a prominent former British diplomat criticized the composition of the panel analyzing Britain’s entry into the Iraq war because two of its members, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, are both Jewish and known supporters of Zionism. As Roberts put it, “If that’s the way that FO Arabists are prepared to express themselves in public, can you imagine the way that they refer to such people as Professors Gilbert and Freedman in private?”

Speaking of the Jewish state’s dilemma in facing a nuclear Iran and expressing no confidence in America’s ability or desire to prevent Ahmadinejad from obtaining a Bomb, Roberts concludes by exhorting the Israelis to follow the example of two famous Britons who boldly acted to stop a threat to their country:

None of us can pretend to know what lies ahead for Israel, but if she decides pre-emptively to strike against such a threat—in the same way that Nelson pre-emptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill pre-emptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran—then she can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office. She should ignore such criticism, because for all the fine work done by this Association over the past six decades – work that’s clearly needed as much now as ever before – Britain has only ever really been at best a fairweather friend to Israel. Although History does not repeat itself, its cadences do occasionally rhyme, and if the witness of History is testament to anything it is testament to this: That in her hopes of averting the threat of a Second Holocaust, only Israel can be relied upon to act decisively in the best interests of the Jews.

Over at Melanie Phillips’s Spectator blog, she reprints in its entirety the speech delivered by the great British historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to the Anglo-Israel Association earlier this week.

Roberts’s brilliant speech makes for important reading and not just for students of the often difficult relationship between Britain and Israel, which he reviews in some detail, from the hopeful beginning of the Balfour Declaration to the infamy of Britain’s 1939 White Paper, which locked the gates of Palestine just as Hitler’s death machine was warming up in Europe. Add to this Britain’s futile effort to prevent the Jewish state from being born after World War II and the consistent record of bias against Israel on the part of London’s Foreign Office since 1948. While Roberts notes that Margaret Thatcher was the most philo-Semitic prime minister since Winston Churchill, he acknowledges that even the Iron Lady was stymied by the Foreign Office in her efforts to promote a better relationship with Israel.

What is his explanation for this record? He puts it down, in part, to:

The FO assumption that Britain’s relations with Israel ought constantly to be subordinated to her relations with other Middle Eastern states, especially the oil-rich ones, however badly those states behave in terms of human rights abuses, the persecution of Christians, the oppression of women, medieval practices of punishment, and so on. It seems to me that there is an implicit racism going on here. Jews are expected to behave better, goes the FO thinking, because they are like us. Arabs must not be chastised because they are not. So in warfare, we constantly expect Israel to behave far better than her neighbours, and chastise her quite hypocritically when occasionally under the exigencies of national struggle, she cannot. The problem crosses political parties today, just as it always has. [Conservative Party foreign policy spokesman] William Hague called for Israel to adopt a proportionate response in its struggle with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2007, as though proportionate responses ever won any victories against fascists. In the Second World War, the Luftwaffe killed 50,000 Britons in the Blitz, and the Allied response was to kill 600,000 Germans—twelve times the number and hardly a proportionate response, but one that contributed mightily to victory. Who are we therefore to lecture the Israelis on how proportionate their responses should be?

Roberts also notes that a prominent former British diplomat criticized the composition of the panel analyzing Britain’s entry into the Iraq war because two of its members, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman, are both Jewish and known supporters of Zionism. As Roberts put it, “If that’s the way that FO Arabists are prepared to express themselves in public, can you imagine the way that they refer to such people as Professors Gilbert and Freedman in private?”

Speaking of the Jewish state’s dilemma in facing a nuclear Iran and expressing no confidence in America’s ability or desire to prevent Ahmadinejad from obtaining a Bomb, Roberts concludes by exhorting the Israelis to follow the example of two famous Britons who boldly acted to stop a threat to their country:

None of us can pretend to know what lies ahead for Israel, but if she decides pre-emptively to strike against such a threat—in the same way that Nelson pre-emptively sank the Danish Fleet at Copenhagen and Churchill pre-emptively sank the Vichy Fleet at Oran—then she can expect nothing but condemnation from the British Foreign Office. She should ignore such criticism, because for all the fine work done by this Association over the past six decades – work that’s clearly needed as much now as ever before – Britain has only ever really been at best a fairweather friend to Israel. Although History does not repeat itself, its cadences do occasionally rhyme, and if the witness of History is testament to anything it is testament to this: That in her hopes of averting the threat of a Second Holocaust, only Israel can be relied upon to act decisively in the best interests of the Jews.

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Time to Invade Burma?

Today, the United Nations World Food Program suspended the shipment of relief supplies to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The country had been ravaged by Cyclone Nargis on Saturday.

The suspension was prompted by the Burmese junta’s seizure of supplies that the agency had already sent. “All of the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated,” said the UN’s Paul Risley. “For the time being, we have no choice but to end further efforts to bring critical needed food aid into Myanmar at this time.”

Previously, the government blocked almost all disaster assistance offered by the international community, including the United States. According to official statistics, almost 23,000 have died. Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Rangoon, says the toll may have already exceeded 100,000.

The UN says the flights will resume tomorrow, but we do not know whether they will in fact be allowed to land. Yet at this moment we are sure of this: Burmese are dying only because their government, which insists on handling disaster assistance itself, has proven utterly incapable of doing so. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, has therefore raised the possibility that the United Nations invoke its “responsibility to protect” and deliver aid to Burmese citizens without their government’s permission. Such an action would save lives, but it probably would trigger conflict with the militant regime. So the issue arises: Is the world willing to invade Burma?

Invade? The international community cannot “protect” the Burmese people from a military government without employing military means. The United Nations, of course, is not prepared to use force. So Burmese by the tens of thousands will perish.

Of course, there are good reasons not to start a war against the junta this week. There are, for instance, tens of millions of other people who urgently need to be shielded from the tyrants who threaten their lives, and we cannot forcibly help all of them now. Yet even if the international community had the capability to do so, I doubt it is ready for dozens of simultaneous “interventions.” It’s not ready for even one. How do I know that? The United States undertook an obligation to protect the people of Iraq from the murderous Saddam Hussein. And we can see what the rest of the world now thinks of that.

Today, the United Nations World Food Program suspended the shipment of relief supplies to Burma, also known as Myanmar. The country had been ravaged by Cyclone Nargis on Saturday.

The suspension was prompted by the Burmese junta’s seizure of supplies that the agency had already sent. “All of the food aid and equipment that we managed to get in has been confiscated,” said the UN’s Paul Risley. “For the time being, we have no choice but to end further efforts to bring critical needed food aid into Myanmar at this time.”

Previously, the government blocked almost all disaster assistance offered by the international community, including the United States. According to official statistics, almost 23,000 have died. Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in Rangoon, says the toll may have already exceeded 100,000.

The UN says the flights will resume tomorrow, but we do not know whether they will in fact be allowed to land. Yet at this moment we are sure of this: Burmese are dying only because their government, which insists on handling disaster assistance itself, has proven utterly incapable of doing so. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, has therefore raised the possibility that the United Nations invoke its “responsibility to protect” and deliver aid to Burmese citizens without their government’s permission. Such an action would save lives, but it probably would trigger conflict with the militant regime. So the issue arises: Is the world willing to invade Burma?

Invade? The international community cannot “protect” the Burmese people from a military government without employing military means. The United Nations, of course, is not prepared to use force. So Burmese by the tens of thousands will perish.

Of course, there are good reasons not to start a war against the junta this week. There are, for instance, tens of millions of other people who urgently need to be shielded from the tyrants who threaten their lives, and we cannot forcibly help all of them now. Yet even if the international community had the capability to do so, I doubt it is ready for dozens of simultaneous “interventions.” It’s not ready for even one. How do I know that? The United States undertook an obligation to protect the people of Iraq from the murderous Saddam Hussein. And we can see what the rest of the world now thinks of that.

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Iran Shouts “Nuclear Apartheid”

On Monday, Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran would not submit to extensive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program while Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the NPT, as the global pact is called, and, as such, is not permitted to build or hold nuclear weapons. Israel, which maintains a small arsenal of nukes, has not joined the NPT. Citing “nuclear apartheid,” the Iranian diplomat said

The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states.

Tehran’s announcement should surprise no one. North Korea raised the nuclear apartheid argument earlier this decade to justify its serial violations of the NPT. After International Atomic Energy Agency inspections revealed that Pyongyang had been secretly experimenting with plutonium, it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in January 2003. There have been reports that North Koreans have been teaching Iranians how to avoid nuclear inspections and deal with the international community. Whether these stories are true or not, Tehran is now obviously following North Korea’s playbook.

So look for Tehran to talk about Israel again and again. There will always be questions about Israel, India, and Pakistan, the three nuclear powers that never signed the NPT. And there are broader fairness issues about the discriminatory nature of the treaty, which permits five nations to possess nukes and prohibits 185 others from doing so. Yet the United States should remind the international community that Iran, while it remains a nuclear criminal, has no standing to raise them.

The mullahs appear to be laying the groundwork for ditching the NPT. “What is the problem with withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?” asked Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the leader of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, in 2003. “North Korea withdrew from the treaty.”

So we should start laying groundwork of our own. We need to tell Iran it has no right to withdraw from the NPT until it first complies with its treaty obligations and all the demands of the Security Council that it suspend the enrichment of uranium. The sooner Washington announces this–along with its intentions to use force to back up its demands–the better.

On Monday, Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Tehran would not submit to extensive U.N. inspections of its nuclear program while Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is a signatory to the NPT, as the global pact is called, and, as such, is not permitted to build or hold nuclear weapons. Israel, which maintains a small arsenal of nukes, has not joined the NPT. Citing “nuclear apartheid,” the Iranian diplomat said

The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states.

Tehran’s announcement should surprise no one. North Korea raised the nuclear apartheid argument earlier this decade to justify its serial violations of the NPT. After International Atomic Energy Agency inspections revealed that Pyongyang had been secretly experimenting with plutonium, it announced its withdrawal from the treaty in January 2003. There have been reports that North Koreans have been teaching Iranians how to avoid nuclear inspections and deal with the international community. Whether these stories are true or not, Tehran is now obviously following North Korea’s playbook.

So look for Tehran to talk about Israel again and again. There will always be questions about Israel, India, and Pakistan, the three nuclear powers that never signed the NPT. And there are broader fairness issues about the discriminatory nature of the treaty, which permits five nations to possess nukes and prohibits 185 others from doing so. Yet the United States should remind the international community that Iran, while it remains a nuclear criminal, has no standing to raise them.

The mullahs appear to be laying the groundwork for ditching the NPT. “What is the problem with withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?” asked Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the leader of Iran’s powerful Guardian Council, in 2003. “North Korea withdrew from the treaty.”

So we should start laying groundwork of our own. We need to tell Iran it has no right to withdraw from the NPT until it first complies with its treaty obligations and all the demands of the Security Council that it suspend the enrichment of uranium. The sooner Washington announces this–along with its intentions to use force to back up its demands–the better.

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Too Many Lives at Stake

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

Yesterday, representatives from the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5 + 1, met but failed to agree on a new package of incentives for Iran. The most significant aspect of the meeting is not the result–it was clear from the get-go that the six nations would not immediately see eye-to-eye–but its location, Shanghai: China hosted the talks.

In one sense, it is a measure of progress that Beijing is helping to find a solution to the greatest security challenge of our times. As Guo Xian’gang, a former Chinese diplomat, told Reuters, “China wanted to show that it’s a mainstream member of the five plus one process.”

But should the United States be ceding even more initiative to the Chinese? In 2003 President Bush committed himself to multilateral diplomacy on North Korea, and he generously made China the centerpiece of global efforts to disarm Pyongyang.

The Chinese used their position to craft an arrangement, announced in September 2005, that permitted even more North Korean delaying tactics and bad faith negotiation. And why did the President accept an obviously deficient deal? Largely because Chinese negotiators presented their plan as take-it-or-leave-it and told their American counterparts that they would publicly blame them if they rejected it. In short, the United States generously gave Beijing a leading role on Korea-and the Chinese then turned around and used their new-found prominence to mug America. Now, North Korea is prevailing over United States, as Abe Greenwald suggested on Tuesday, largely because Pyongyang has Beijing on its side.

Yet the Bush administration is again trying to give the Chinese a leading role in international affairs, this time to stop Iran’s efforts to weaponize the atom. That’s why the place of yesterday’s meeting is so important. Working with China can hasten its integration into the global order, yet long before Beijing is ready to accept the role as a constructive power, the Iranians will have built an arsenal of nuclear warheads.

Whether or not it was wise for the White House to work with the Chinese over North Korea five years ago, it should not be doing so now with Iran. There are too many lives at stake for the Bush administration to continue its optimistic diplomacy experiment with China.

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“They Want to Destroy People”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

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