Commentary Magazine


Topic: Dubai

Anti-Israel Prejudice Claims Non-Israeli Victims in Dubai

A minor sports tournament held in Dubai and Qatar over the last two weeks offers an unusually clear glimpse of the corrosive effects of the world’s casual tolerance of anti-Israel prejudice. Needless to say, both hosts of this leg of the FINA Swimming World Cup blatantly violated the rule requiring all participants to be treated equally regardless of nationality: The Israeli flag wasn’t flown (a fact Qatar’s foreign minister boasted of in a joint press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday); the word “Israel” never appeared; and to avoid having to utter it, announcers in Dubai even referred to Israeli competitors as the swimmers “from ISR.” But as swimmer Gal Nevo explained upon his return to Israel this week, the organizers’ petty spite also produced a lot of non-Israeli collateral victims:

“In order that our national flag and name wouldn’t appear, the results of every race we competed in were not publicized … Competitors swim with us in the heats in the morning, and expect to see the results on the scoreboard in order to know whether they’ve qualified for the final. But on the screen they’re already broadcasting the next race, without mentioning the names and times from the previous heat.”

In short, the entire tournament was disrupted, with competitors forced to run around madly trying to find out whether or not they had advanced to the final. Swimmers from other countries complained about the disorganization, and Nevo said they were stunned when their Israeli colleagues explained that this “disorganization” was actually carefully orchestrated from above.

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A minor sports tournament held in Dubai and Qatar over the last two weeks offers an unusually clear glimpse of the corrosive effects of the world’s casual tolerance of anti-Israel prejudice. Needless to say, both hosts of this leg of the FINA Swimming World Cup blatantly violated the rule requiring all participants to be treated equally regardless of nationality: The Israeli flag wasn’t flown (a fact Qatar’s foreign minister boasted of in a joint press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday); the word “Israel” never appeared; and to avoid having to utter it, announcers in Dubai even referred to Israeli competitors as the swimmers “from ISR.” But as swimmer Gal Nevo explained upon his return to Israel this week, the organizers’ petty spite also produced a lot of non-Israeli collateral victims:

“In order that our national flag and name wouldn’t appear, the results of every race we competed in were not publicized … Competitors swim with us in the heats in the morning, and expect to see the results on the scoreboard in order to know whether they’ve qualified for the final. But on the screen they’re already broadcasting the next race, without mentioning the names and times from the previous heat.”

In short, the entire tournament was disrupted, with competitors forced to run around madly trying to find out whether or not they had advanced to the final. Swimmers from other countries complained about the disorganization, and Nevo said they were stunned when their Israeli colleagues explained that this “disorganization” was actually carefully orchestrated from above.

What makes this so shocking is precisely the fact that the event is so trivial: This was prejudice devoid of any purpose. Anti-Israel prejudice is often excused on the grounds that it furthers a goal many people support. When, for instance, the EU imposes sanctions on activity in “Israeli-occupied territory” while actively funding activity in Turkish-occupied Cyprus and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, this double standard is excused because it serves the goal of pressuring Israel to withdraw from this territory.

But a petty refusal to post race results does absolutely nothing to pressure Israel or advance the Palestinian cause; it didn’t even prevent an Israeli swimmer from winning medals in both Doha and Dubai. All it did was make life miserable for a lot of non-Israeli swimmers, while making a mockery of the equal treatment rules that FINA, like other international sporting organizations, claims to uphold.

Indeed, Arab states routinely violate these rules–see, for instance, Dubai’s refusal to let Israel’s Shahar Peer participate in a tennis tournament there in 2009, or Libya’s refusal to grant visas to Israeli chess players to attend the 2004 World Chess Championships. Yet no matter how often this happens, they keep being allowed to host international tournaments. So it’s not surprising they have become so contemptuous of the rules that they no longer hesitate to make non-Israelis collateral victims.

And that is precisely the point: Like any other kind of prejudice, the anti-Israel kind ultimately ends up claiming victims far beyond its intended targets. And the consequences–from vandalized factories and a weakened rule of law in Britain through the loss of valuable expertise on water purification in South Africa to laid-off Palestinian workers in the West Bank–are usually far more destructive than a mere disorganized swimming tournament.

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Der Spiegel Is Worried About Jewish Revenge

This week’s Der Spiegel magazine cover story is titled “Israel’s secret killer commandos. David’s avengers.” Photos of alleged Israeli intelligence agents involved in last year’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official involved in Iranian arms smuggling, are on the cover and imposed over a Star of David.

Der Spiegel is widely considered to be Germany’s most important weekly newsmagazine and carries the weight of an opinion-making publication for the chattering classes. And the magazine, like most German media, has a peculiar obsession with Jews and Israel.

German journalism’s exploitation of Jewish religious symbols coupled with worries about Jews seeking to create disorder and secure revenge has a long history in post-Holocaust Germany. The Spiegel cover deliberately conjures up not only German angst about Israel and fabricated Jewish revenge fantasies but also the clichés use of language when writing about Israel in the Federal Republic.

Take as an example the headline of the article in the current issue documenting a chronology of the planned hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his posh Dubai hotel: it screams out “An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.” The cheap wordplay on a section from the Hebrew Bible further reinforces widespread European prejudices against Jews. Der Spiegel’s editors know they are playing with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. But expanding circulation counts, and preaching to the choir of resentments in Germany takes priority over fact-based reporting.

This week’s Der Spiegel magazine cover story is titled “Israel’s secret killer commandos. David’s avengers.” Photos of alleged Israeli intelligence agents involved in last year’s assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official involved in Iranian arms smuggling, are on the cover and imposed over a Star of David.

Der Spiegel is widely considered to be Germany’s most important weekly newsmagazine and carries the weight of an opinion-making publication for the chattering classes. And the magazine, like most German media, has a peculiar obsession with Jews and Israel.

German journalism’s exploitation of Jewish religious symbols coupled with worries about Jews seeking to create disorder and secure revenge has a long history in post-Holocaust Germany. The Spiegel cover deliberately conjures up not only German angst about Israel and fabricated Jewish revenge fantasies but also the clichés use of language when writing about Israel in the Federal Republic.

Take as an example the headline of the article in the current issue documenting a chronology of the planned hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his posh Dubai hotel: it screams out “An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.” The cheap wordplay on a section from the Hebrew Bible further reinforces widespread European prejudices against Jews. Der Spiegel’s editors know they are playing with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments. But expanding circulation counts, and preaching to the choir of resentments in Germany takes priority over fact-based reporting.

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Thoroughly Modern Equestrian and Plural Royal Wife

Say what you will about the liberal bias and the lowered standards of the New York Times, but the Grey Lady can’t be topped for irony, especially when its editorial agenda collides with the lifestyles of the Arab world. A prime example was yesterday’s feature in the paper’s Sunday Sports section about the current head of the International Equestrian Federation, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein. Princess Haya is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and the wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Actually, make that, as the Times puts it, the Sheik’s “junior wife.”

The profile of the fair princess goes all out to portray her as a feminist heroine who rode in the Olympics and defied the conventions of her Islamic homeland by becoming the only woman in Jordan who is licensed to drive heavy trucks. Which is, no doubt, pretty impressive. However, in countries such as Jordan and Dubai, where the government is an extension of the monarch’s whims, the fact that the king lets his tomboy daughter drive trucks says nothing about the way the majority of women are treated.

Nevertheless, the Times was most interested in the princess’s battle for re-election as the head of the equestrian federation. Though this organization has always been led by royalty, such as the Britain’s Prince Phillip, apparently some of its members are now engaging in lèse-majesté, challenging the princess because of her support for legalizing the drugging of horses even though her husband and his son have both been suspended from equestrian competitions for drug violations.

But whatever your opinion might be about drugs and horses, the princess was perfect fodder for the Times’s politicized sports section because of her status as an Arab Muslim and a woman in charge of an international sport (whether rich people riding horses who jump over fences is really a competitive sport is another question). But though reporter Katie Thomas writes breathlessly about the princess’s couture, poise, and her common touch with all the little people she meets in her horsey world, she isn’t terribly curious about what is, to any reader not obsessed with horses or fashion, the most interesting thing about the princess: her polygamous marriage.

Though she notes that the Sheik — who, at 61, is 25 years older than the princess — has a “senior” wife who is the mother to Dubai’s Crown Prince and is “rarely seen,” the question of how you can be a thoroughly modern and seemingly emancipated woman while sharing a husband with another woman is never posed. Instead, we are just supposed to be impressed by the fact that Princess Haya uses a BlackBerry and an iPhone.

The disconnect between the princess’s emancipated life with the patriarchal nature of her marriage is, no doubt, a complicated subject. But this is the same newspaper that reports about American polygamy as a freak show fraught with abuse of both women and children. Yet when confronted with “Big Love” Arab potentates and their trophy second wives who engage in a practice that most Americans rightly consider odious, the Times is prepared to bow and scrape like any courtier.

Say what you will about the liberal bias and the lowered standards of the New York Times, but the Grey Lady can’t be topped for irony, especially when its editorial agenda collides with the lifestyles of the Arab world. A prime example was yesterday’s feature in the paper’s Sunday Sports section about the current head of the International Equestrian Federation, Princess Haya bint al-Hussein. Princess Haya is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and the wife of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. Actually, make that, as the Times puts it, the Sheik’s “junior wife.”

The profile of the fair princess goes all out to portray her as a feminist heroine who rode in the Olympics and defied the conventions of her Islamic homeland by becoming the only woman in Jordan who is licensed to drive heavy trucks. Which is, no doubt, pretty impressive. However, in countries such as Jordan and Dubai, where the government is an extension of the monarch’s whims, the fact that the king lets his tomboy daughter drive trucks says nothing about the way the majority of women are treated.

Nevertheless, the Times was most interested in the princess’s battle for re-election as the head of the equestrian federation. Though this organization has always been led by royalty, such as the Britain’s Prince Phillip, apparently some of its members are now engaging in lèse-majesté, challenging the princess because of her support for legalizing the drugging of horses even though her husband and his son have both been suspended from equestrian competitions for drug violations.

But whatever your opinion might be about drugs and horses, the princess was perfect fodder for the Times’s politicized sports section because of her status as an Arab Muslim and a woman in charge of an international sport (whether rich people riding horses who jump over fences is really a competitive sport is another question). But though reporter Katie Thomas writes breathlessly about the princess’s couture, poise, and her common touch with all the little people she meets in her horsey world, she isn’t terribly curious about what is, to any reader not obsessed with horses or fashion, the most interesting thing about the princess: her polygamous marriage.

Though she notes that the Sheik — who, at 61, is 25 years older than the princess — has a “senior” wife who is the mother to Dubai’s Crown Prince and is “rarely seen,” the question of how you can be a thoroughly modern and seemingly emancipated woman while sharing a husband with another woman is never posed. Instead, we are just supposed to be impressed by the fact that Princess Haya uses a BlackBerry and an iPhone.

The disconnect between the princess’s emancipated life with the patriarchal nature of her marriage is, no doubt, a complicated subject. But this is the same newspaper that reports about American polygamy as a freak show fraught with abuse of both women and children. Yet when confronted with “Big Love” Arab potentates and their trophy second wives who engage in a practice that most Americans rightly consider odious, the Times is prepared to bow and scrape like any courtier.

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‘Clearing’ Afghanistan’s Financial System

It is axiomatic in counterinsurgency warfare that things get worse before they get better. Immediately after troops enter an insurgent-infested area, there is much hard fighting before peace can be restored. Thus it would be a mistake to see the immediate spike in casualties as a sign of failure. The same is true in the realm of nation-building, where it may be necessary to force a crisis in order to resolve a corrosive problem.

Those thoughts are prompted by news that the Afghan Central Bank has seized control of Afghanistan’s largest private financial institution, Kabul Bank. Its management has long been a scandal, with all sorts of shady money transfers and loans involving well-connected political players funneling Afghanistan’s scant wealth to offshore accounts in Dubai. Its ousted chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, is a major backer of President Karzai, while two of the bank’s largest investors have familiar names — Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, and Haseen Fahim, brother of Vice President (and notorious warlord) Mohammad Fahim.

Kabul Bank is at the center of a web of suspect relationships that also involve New Ansari, an Islamic money-transfer firm (hawala), and the country’s other major bank, Afghan United. There are persistent rumors that they are linked to both the Taliban and drug traffickers — a charge they naturally deny. All have been propped up by years of foreign aid; all the salaries that are paid to Afghan government employees, for instance, and that come primarily from the U.S. government are funneled through electronic-money transfers to Kabul Bank. This is supposed to decrease corruption by cutting the risk that cash will go astray, but it has had the perverse effect of floating a rotten institution.

The trick now will be to unravel the problems without causing a run on the banks and the collapse of a fragile financial system. I have no idea whether that will be possible to do, but I do know that it would have been impossible to leave these institutions to run as they did. Sooner or later, the whole rickety structure would have come tumbling down. It is to the credit of the Afghan officials, including President Karzai, that with American encouragement, they have moved to address this festering mess. The next few weeks and months won’t be pretty, however, because what we are seeing is, in financial terms, the “clear” phase of what in counterinsurgency operations is known as “clear, hold, and build.”

It is axiomatic in counterinsurgency warfare that things get worse before they get better. Immediately after troops enter an insurgent-infested area, there is much hard fighting before peace can be restored. Thus it would be a mistake to see the immediate spike in casualties as a sign of failure. The same is true in the realm of nation-building, where it may be necessary to force a crisis in order to resolve a corrosive problem.

Those thoughts are prompted by news that the Afghan Central Bank has seized control of Afghanistan’s largest private financial institution, Kabul Bank. Its management has long been a scandal, with all sorts of shady money transfers and loans involving well-connected political players funneling Afghanistan’s scant wealth to offshore accounts in Dubai. Its ousted chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, is a major backer of President Karzai, while two of the bank’s largest investors have familiar names — Mahmoud Karzai, the president’s brother, and Haseen Fahim, brother of Vice President (and notorious warlord) Mohammad Fahim.

Kabul Bank is at the center of a web of suspect relationships that also involve New Ansari, an Islamic money-transfer firm (hawala), and the country’s other major bank, Afghan United. There are persistent rumors that they are linked to both the Taliban and drug traffickers — a charge they naturally deny. All have been propped up by years of foreign aid; all the salaries that are paid to Afghan government employees, for instance, and that come primarily from the U.S. government are funneled through electronic-money transfers to Kabul Bank. This is supposed to decrease corruption by cutting the risk that cash will go astray, but it has had the perverse effect of floating a rotten institution.

The trick now will be to unravel the problems without causing a run on the banks and the collapse of a fragile financial system. I have no idea whether that will be possible to do, but I do know that it would have been impossible to leave these institutions to run as they did. Sooner or later, the whole rickety structure would have come tumbling down. It is to the credit of the Afghan officials, including President Karzai, that with American encouragement, they have moved to address this festering mess. The next few weeks and months won’t be pretty, however, because what we are seeing is, in financial terms, the “clear” phase of what in counterinsurgency operations is known as “clear, hold, and build.”

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The War Against Extremism

News travels slowly when you’re on vacation, especially when you’re on vacation in the French countryside, so I have only now read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from a couple of days ago updating Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis. While Huntington identified nine “civilizations” that are supposedly in conflict (“Western,” “Latin American,” “African,” “Islamic,” “Sinic,” “Hindu,” “Orthodox,” “Buddhist,”  “Japanese”), Hirsi Ali not surprisingly focuses on one such “civilization” — the Islamic one. She sees recent controversies involving Muslims providing confirmation of this thesis, including “the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France.” So, too, in her view the increasingly anti-Western orientation of Turkey provides evidence that all Muslim countries are destined to be opposed to all Western countries.

She sets up the “clash of civilizations” thesis against a straw man she labels the “One World” thesis, which she attributes to Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” writings and to an “equivalent neoconservative rosy scenario” of “a ‘unipolar’ world of unrivalled American hegemony.” This is a trope beloved of college poli-sci classes — to juxtapose Huntington vs. Fukuyama — and it makes for good debate, but the reality is that it’s hard to think of many people who take seriously Fukuyama’s thesis — and certainly not among “neoconservatives,” who since the end of the Cold War have been warning about new threats (such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Islamist terrorism) that are potent challenges to American power.

The Huntington thesis, I might add, is equally hard to take seriously because it presents such a cartoonish view of the world. Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute (where Hirsi Ali also works) points out one such problem: “China is not a civilization. It’s a nation governed by one party for 60 years and whose one-time dominant ethical regime was Confucian. But also part of this Confucian world were South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan—each now firmly part of the liberal and democratic West. Our problem with China is not one of civilization but the fact that it’s ruled by an increasingly nationalistic and ambitious despotic elite.”

The same might be said about each of the “civilizations” identified by Huntington and now endorsed by Hirsi Ali: they seem uniform only if viewed from a distance of 20,000 feet. Up close, all sorts of differences emerge that stymie most attempts at generalization. France and the United States, for instance, are both part of “Western” civilization, but (as I have been discovering in the past week) they are very different culturally and, not surprisingly, they have very different outlooks on the world. (Indeed some commentators posit an “Anglosphere” pitting English-speaking countries against other “Western” nations.) So too with, say, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Malaysia. All are, according to Hirsi Ali, part of an “Islamic civilization,” yet anyone who has ever visited those countries knows that, notwithstanding a common religion, their differences are vast.

Lee Smith confirms the point in a typically smart essay on sharia law: “Because there is no way to approach what is ostensibly divine except through human agency, sharia as such does not exist except as interpreted by human beings over the long course of Islamic history. The word ‘sharia’ necessarily means many things to many people.”

Indeed, as many people have noted, the War on Terror is not a reflection of an Islam vs. the West clash; it is part of a clash within Islam pitting fanatical Islamists against the vast majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. What is striking to me, looking back on several decades of such strife, is not how successful the Islamists have been but how unsuccessful.

Which states have succumbed to Islamism? Iran since 1979. Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. That’s about it. To be sure, there are powerful Islamist movements elsewhere, and one such group may be close to taking over Somalia. Other Islamists have effectively taken over part of Pakistan’s tribal areas, southern Lebanon, and Gaza, and are trying to undermine many other governments — but so far with little success. In other words, the Islamic world, while expressing some sympathy with some of the views of the extremists, has proved remarkably resistant to actually letting the fanatics take control. Al-Qaeda has not been able to topple a single government.

This provides cause for hope and an obvious strategy for the U.S. and its allies to pursue: we must buttress the forces of moderation in the Islamic world against those of the extremists. And that is precisely what we are doing in countless countries ranging from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Djibouti. That strategy is much more likely to pay long-term dividends than are crude fulminations against “Islamic civilization,” which is precisely what Osama bin Laden & Co. long to hear.

News travels slowly when you’re on vacation, especially when you’re on vacation in the French countryside, so I have only now read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from a couple of days ago updating Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis. While Huntington identified nine “civilizations” that are supposedly in conflict (“Western,” “Latin American,” “African,” “Islamic,” “Sinic,” “Hindu,” “Orthodox,” “Buddhist,”  “Japanese”), Hirsi Ali not surprisingly focuses on one such “civilization” — the Islamic one. She sees recent controversies involving Muslims providing confirmation of this thesis, including “the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France.” So, too, in her view the increasingly anti-Western orientation of Turkey provides evidence that all Muslim countries are destined to be opposed to all Western countries.

She sets up the “clash of civilizations” thesis against a straw man she labels the “One World” thesis, which she attributes to Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” writings and to an “equivalent neoconservative rosy scenario” of “a ‘unipolar’ world of unrivalled American hegemony.” This is a trope beloved of college poli-sci classes — to juxtapose Huntington vs. Fukuyama — and it makes for good debate, but the reality is that it’s hard to think of many people who take seriously Fukuyama’s thesis — and certainly not among “neoconservatives,” who since the end of the Cold War have been warning about new threats (such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Islamist terrorism) that are potent challenges to American power.

The Huntington thesis, I might add, is equally hard to take seriously because it presents such a cartoonish view of the world. Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute (where Hirsi Ali also works) points out one such problem: “China is not a civilization. It’s a nation governed by one party for 60 years and whose one-time dominant ethical regime was Confucian. But also part of this Confucian world were South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan—each now firmly part of the liberal and democratic West. Our problem with China is not one of civilization but the fact that it’s ruled by an increasingly nationalistic and ambitious despotic elite.”

The same might be said about each of the “civilizations” identified by Huntington and now endorsed by Hirsi Ali: they seem uniform only if viewed from a distance of 20,000 feet. Up close, all sorts of differences emerge that stymie most attempts at generalization. France and the United States, for instance, are both part of “Western” civilization, but (as I have been discovering in the past week) they are very different culturally and, not surprisingly, they have very different outlooks on the world. (Indeed some commentators posit an “Anglosphere” pitting English-speaking countries against other “Western” nations.) So too with, say, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Malaysia. All are, according to Hirsi Ali, part of an “Islamic civilization,” yet anyone who has ever visited those countries knows that, notwithstanding a common religion, their differences are vast.

Lee Smith confirms the point in a typically smart essay on sharia law: “Because there is no way to approach what is ostensibly divine except through human agency, sharia as such does not exist except as interpreted by human beings over the long course of Islamic history. The word ‘sharia’ necessarily means many things to many people.”

Indeed, as many people have noted, the War on Terror is not a reflection of an Islam vs. the West clash; it is part of a clash within Islam pitting fanatical Islamists against the vast majority of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. What is striking to me, looking back on several decades of such strife, is not how successful the Islamists have been but how unsuccessful.

Which states have succumbed to Islamism? Iran since 1979. Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. That’s about it. To be sure, there are powerful Islamist movements elsewhere, and one such group may be close to taking over Somalia. Other Islamists have effectively taken over part of Pakistan’s tribal areas, southern Lebanon, and Gaza, and are trying to undermine many other governments — but so far with little success. In other words, the Islamic world, while expressing some sympathy with some of the views of the extremists, has proved remarkably resistant to actually letting the fanatics take control. Al-Qaeda has not been able to topple a single government.

This provides cause for hope and an obvious strategy for the U.S. and its allies to pursue: we must buttress the forces of moderation in the Islamic world against those of the extremists. And that is precisely what we are doing in countless countries ranging from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Djibouti. That strategy is much more likely to pay long-term dividends than are crude fulminations against “Islamic civilization,” which is precisely what Osama bin Laden & Co. long to hear.

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Sanctions on Iran: A Tale of Two Narratives

In a session with journalists at the White House last week, President Obama reportedly “made the case that his Iran policy is working.” He also hedged his bets by acknowledging that the “Iranians may be impervious to sanctions.” Friendly journalists being a quiescent filter, the Obama narrative comes through quite well: our president, earnest and competent, is doggedly wielding every tool in his toolbox. He sees some progress — reportedly in the form of “rumblings” that sanctions are prodding Iran to rethink its nuclear ambitions — but he recognizes the recalcitrant character of the Iranian leadership. He’s no fool, but this is, after all, a big problem.

That’s one narrative. It’s not a narrative about what Iran wants or is going to get, or what kind of threat that might pose to the Middle East or the U.S. It’s a narrative about what Obama is doing and how he sees the problem. We can call this one the Narrative of Obama.

The other narrative running in parallel with it is what we might call the Narrative of Events. Its elements are brought to our attention primarily by nontraditional media. The Obama administration simply ignores them in formulating its media themes, focusing instead on what Obama is doing and what he might have to do. Three developments in particular have cropped up in the last week.

One is the confirmation by IAEA inspectors that Iran has begun enriching uranium more efficiently. It’s a technical point, but it shortens the timeline to a weapon. As the Institute for Science and International Security observes, the procedure Iran has inaugurated mirrors the steps to a nuclear weapon outlined in the A.Q. Khan plans recovered from Libya. The Khan method essentially allows Iran to squeeze the most medium-enriched uranium possible from a given amount of low-enriched uranium, accelerating its progress toward the high-enriched uranium needed for a bomb. As the Reuters report notes, analysts say Iran “could advance to weapons-grade level in months.”

The other developments are interrelated and concern the economic sanctions themselves. One is the extent to which China — along with Turkey, India, and Russia — is stepping into the void created by tightened Western sanctions. This article from the new-right journal Il Foglio (available only in Italian) summarizes a number of mutually reinforcing factors, from Iran’s significance in China’s petroleum strategy to the dramatic increase in trade between the two countries and India’s determination not to be sidelined. According to Il Foglio, Turkey has proposed that Iran use major Turkish ports — rather than Dubai — as hubs for its foreign business. As I wrote in July, the rail lines are in place to make this a reality, allowing Iran to simply bypass the Strait of Hormuz for much of its trade.

Worrying about the danger it might create to inspect cargo ships in the Persian Gulf may soon be an outdated concern. Meanwhile, the third development reported in the last week is South Korea’s dilemma over the sanctions. This editorial reflects the significant concerns in Seoul about oil imports and the impact on medium-size businesses; Il Foglio points out, moreover, that if South Korea cooperates fully on sanctions, it will be abandoning one of its fastest-growing foreign markets to China. South Korean enthusiasm for effective cooperation is by no means assured.

Indeed, we are reaching the point at which it’s just as likely that patterns of trade and regional power will shift as it is that nations will continue to respond reflexively to American requests. Rick’s piece today is a timely reminder that the Narrative of Obama is an especially verbose one. It is also increasingly divorced from the Narrative of Events.

In a session with journalists at the White House last week, President Obama reportedly “made the case that his Iran policy is working.” He also hedged his bets by acknowledging that the “Iranians may be impervious to sanctions.” Friendly journalists being a quiescent filter, the Obama narrative comes through quite well: our president, earnest and competent, is doggedly wielding every tool in his toolbox. He sees some progress — reportedly in the form of “rumblings” that sanctions are prodding Iran to rethink its nuclear ambitions — but he recognizes the recalcitrant character of the Iranian leadership. He’s no fool, but this is, after all, a big problem.

That’s one narrative. It’s not a narrative about what Iran wants or is going to get, or what kind of threat that might pose to the Middle East or the U.S. It’s a narrative about what Obama is doing and how he sees the problem. We can call this one the Narrative of Obama.

The other narrative running in parallel with it is what we might call the Narrative of Events. Its elements are brought to our attention primarily by nontraditional media. The Obama administration simply ignores them in formulating its media themes, focusing instead on what Obama is doing and what he might have to do. Three developments in particular have cropped up in the last week.

One is the confirmation by IAEA inspectors that Iran has begun enriching uranium more efficiently. It’s a technical point, but it shortens the timeline to a weapon. As the Institute for Science and International Security observes, the procedure Iran has inaugurated mirrors the steps to a nuclear weapon outlined in the A.Q. Khan plans recovered from Libya. The Khan method essentially allows Iran to squeeze the most medium-enriched uranium possible from a given amount of low-enriched uranium, accelerating its progress toward the high-enriched uranium needed for a bomb. As the Reuters report notes, analysts say Iran “could advance to weapons-grade level in months.”

The other developments are interrelated and concern the economic sanctions themselves. One is the extent to which China — along with Turkey, India, and Russia — is stepping into the void created by tightened Western sanctions. This article from the new-right journal Il Foglio (available only in Italian) summarizes a number of mutually reinforcing factors, from Iran’s significance in China’s petroleum strategy to the dramatic increase in trade between the two countries and India’s determination not to be sidelined. According to Il Foglio, Turkey has proposed that Iran use major Turkish ports — rather than Dubai — as hubs for its foreign business. As I wrote in July, the rail lines are in place to make this a reality, allowing Iran to simply bypass the Strait of Hormuz for much of its trade.

Worrying about the danger it might create to inspect cargo ships in the Persian Gulf may soon be an outdated concern. Meanwhile, the third development reported in the last week is South Korea’s dilemma over the sanctions. This editorial reflects the significant concerns in Seoul about oil imports and the impact on medium-size businesses; Il Foglio points out, moreover, that if South Korea cooperates fully on sanctions, it will be abandoning one of its fastest-growing foreign markets to China. South Korean enthusiasm for effective cooperation is by no means assured.

Indeed, we are reaching the point at which it’s just as likely that patterns of trade and regional power will shift as it is that nations will continue to respond reflexively to American requests. Rick’s piece today is a timely reminder that the Narrative of Obama is an especially verbose one. It is also increasingly divorced from the Narrative of Events.

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The UAE No Fan of the Blackberry — or Intellectual Freedom

The link between political freedom and economic prosperity is by now well-established. It is no coincidence that capitalism and democracy developed at roughly the same time and in the same place — 18th-century Great Britain and to a lesser extent the 17th-century Netherlands. It is hard for a country to prosper if it has a political system intolerant of the kind of intellectual freedom needed to generate good ideas and to attract freethinkers.

That news doesn’t seem to have reached the United Arab Emirates, which has announced plans to ban Blackberry e-mails and text messages because the state-security services find them hard to monitor. Perhaps as a Crackberry addict. I’m biased, but I have to say that this is one of the dumber decisions that the UAE could make given that Dubai — its principal city — has built its wealth on its reputation for being freer and more business-friendly than the surrounding Arab states.

If this decision stands, Dubai’s long-term future, already endangered by reckless real-estate speculation, could be further put at risk.

The link between political freedom and economic prosperity is by now well-established. It is no coincidence that capitalism and democracy developed at roughly the same time and in the same place — 18th-century Great Britain and to a lesser extent the 17th-century Netherlands. It is hard for a country to prosper if it has a political system intolerant of the kind of intellectual freedom needed to generate good ideas and to attract freethinkers.

That news doesn’t seem to have reached the United Arab Emirates, which has announced plans to ban Blackberry e-mails and text messages because the state-security services find them hard to monitor. Perhaps as a Crackberry addict. I’m biased, but I have to say that this is one of the dumber decisions that the UAE could make given that Dubai — its principal city — has built its wealth on its reputation for being freer and more business-friendly than the surrounding Arab states.

If this decision stands, Dubai’s long-term future, already endangered by reckless real-estate speculation, could be further put at risk.

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Obama’s Faulty Middle East Vision

Lee Smith has a two-part series featuring different takes on the Middle East. I previously highlighted Elliott Abrams’s concise summary in part one of Obama’s multiple failings. Martin Kramer offers this insight on the region more generally:

In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.

The response in Washington is to huff and puff, imposing settlement “freezes” and “crippling” sanctions. This is the illusion of power, not its substance. The Obama Administration is bringing the United States out of the Middle East, to a position from which it believes it can “contain” threats with diplomacy, deterrence, and drones. As the United States decamps, its allies will feel insecure, its enemies emboldened. The Middle East’s stress test has begun.

It is a zero-sum game that Obama understands not at all, for his strategy — give the aggressors more respect and our ally Israel more grief — is one that will encourage our enemies. And Obama and his advisers have missed the importance of the Iranian Green movement. Ramin Ahmadi, founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (which the Obama team defunded), observes:

The administration had looked at Iran’s democratic revolution as an inconvenience, and yet it didn’t seem wise to make concessions to an appalling regime that was falling apart. The Green Revolution is a powerful display of “people’s power,” and yet it has not toppled the regime after a full year, effectively putting all the possible rapprochement initiatives on hold. It exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime in Tehran and the lack of a cohesive Iran policy here in Washington. It took Obama some time to voice any support for the Green Revolution and when he finally did, it was too little too late.

Obama fancies himself a sort of Muslim expert, a far more informed observer of the region that was his predecessor. But it turns out that the Obama Middle East policy has been operating with ideological blinders, oblivious to the realities on the ground. You can’t practice “smart” diplomacy if you haven’t a clue what’s going on. And so America’s influence recedes, and the region becomes more dangerous and unstable.

Lee Smith has a two-part series featuring different takes on the Middle East. I previously highlighted Elliott Abrams’s concise summary in part one of Obama’s multiple failings. Martin Kramer offers this insight on the region more generally:

In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.

The response in Washington is to huff and puff, imposing settlement “freezes” and “crippling” sanctions. This is the illusion of power, not its substance. The Obama Administration is bringing the United States out of the Middle East, to a position from which it believes it can “contain” threats with diplomacy, deterrence, and drones. As the United States decamps, its allies will feel insecure, its enemies emboldened. The Middle East’s stress test has begun.

It is a zero-sum game that Obama understands not at all, for his strategy — give the aggressors more respect and our ally Israel more grief — is one that will encourage our enemies. And Obama and his advisers have missed the importance of the Iranian Green movement. Ramin Ahmadi, founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (which the Obama team defunded), observes:

The administration had looked at Iran’s democratic revolution as an inconvenience, and yet it didn’t seem wise to make concessions to an appalling regime that was falling apart. The Green Revolution is a powerful display of “people’s power,” and yet it has not toppled the regime after a full year, effectively putting all the possible rapprochement initiatives on hold. It exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime in Tehran and the lack of a cohesive Iran policy here in Washington. It took Obama some time to voice any support for the Green Revolution and when he finally did, it was too little too late.

Obama fancies himself a sort of Muslim expert, a far more informed observer of the region that was his predecessor. But it turns out that the Obama Middle East policy has been operating with ideological blinders, oblivious to the realities on the ground. You can’t practice “smart” diplomacy if you haven’t a clue what’s going on. And so America’s influence recedes, and the region becomes more dangerous and unstable.

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Passport Fraud and Double Standards

The excellent British organization Just Journalism has a report out today comparing the remarkable calm with which the latest instance of passport fraud has been treated with the hysterics that followed the Dubai assassination:

An editorial published by The Guardian following the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK following the Dubai affair: ‘Israel and Britain: The rule of law,’ (24 March 2010) carried the sub-head, ‘The forging of British passports is the work of a country which believes it can act with impunity when planning the murder of its enemies’. The piece described the faking of UK passports as ‘the mark[s] of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself.’ In today’s editorial, ‘Russian espionage: Spies like us,’ in the same newspaper, the alleged use of a forged UK passport failed to even elicit a mention.

Well, that’s because in the current case the passport forgers are not Jews.

What would be far better than reports from interest groups, though, are some statements from Israeli political leaders, shaming Britain for its hypocrisy. Given the British media’s hyper-obsession with Israel, such statements would surely receive a great deal of coverage — coverage that would invariably have to deal with the question of double standards, rather than with imagined Israeli crimes. That’s why it’s important to seize opportunities to be the accuser instead of waiting around to play the role of the accused.

The excellent British organization Just Journalism has a report out today comparing the remarkable calm with which the latest instance of passport fraud has been treated with the hysterics that followed the Dubai assassination:

An editorial published by The Guardian following the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK following the Dubai affair: ‘Israel and Britain: The rule of law,’ (24 March 2010) carried the sub-head, ‘The forging of British passports is the work of a country which believes it can act with impunity when planning the murder of its enemies’. The piece described the faking of UK passports as ‘the mark[s] of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself.’ In today’s editorial, ‘Russian espionage: Spies like us,’ in the same newspaper, the alleged use of a forged UK passport failed to even elicit a mention.

Well, that’s because in the current case the passport forgers are not Jews.

What would be far better than reports from interest groups, though, are some statements from Israeli political leaders, shaming Britain for its hypocrisy. Given the British media’s hyper-obsession with Israel, such statements would surely receive a great deal of coverage — coverage that would invariably have to deal with the question of double standards, rather than with imagined Israeli crimes. That’s why it’s important to seize opportunities to be the accuser instead of waiting around to play the role of the accused.

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RE: The No-Fly List Didn’t Work, Mr. Holder

After discovering that the federal no-fly list failed to keep Faisal Shahzad off a Dubai-bound commercial flight, there is only one thing to say: It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Actually, that was said, word for word, by President Obama – back in December. He was talking about alleged Nigerian underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who managed to board a Northwest flight bound for Detroit, despite intelligence agencies having long been aware of the threat he posed.

That “systemic failure” led to an immediate investigation of the no-fly-list system. That investigation led, four months later, to Faisal Shahzad seated in an upright position, cash-bought ticket in hand, and ready to take off after allegedly trying to set Times Square ablaze.

What did the December investigation produce? At the time, Bloomberg reported, “Obama directed intelligence agencies to collect all information in government files that could be related to the bombing attempt, the date it was collected and how it had been shared between different departments. He also requested the criteria used for placing people on terrorist watch lists.”

It sounds reassuringly presidential, doesn’t it? But somehow we’re still left with street vendors and New York City Police as our first line of defense. This administration is great with broad, visionary talk: the universal this, international that, and historic other. But the particulars are another story.  Whether it’s getting individual Gitmo detainees relocated, explaining health-care reform, or making sure that suspected terrorists don’t get on airplanes, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano are hopelessly adrift. This is an administration so swept up in its own sense of destiny it’s simply not governing in the here and now.

After discovering that the federal no-fly list failed to keep Faisal Shahzad off a Dubai-bound commercial flight, there is only one thing to say: It’s becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.

Actually, that was said, word for word, by President Obama – back in December. He was talking about alleged Nigerian underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who managed to board a Northwest flight bound for Detroit, despite intelligence agencies having long been aware of the threat he posed.

That “systemic failure” led to an immediate investigation of the no-fly-list system. That investigation led, four months later, to Faisal Shahzad seated in an upright position, cash-bought ticket in hand, and ready to take off after allegedly trying to set Times Square ablaze.

What did the December investigation produce? At the time, Bloomberg reported, “Obama directed intelligence agencies to collect all information in government files that could be related to the bombing attempt, the date it was collected and how it had been shared between different departments. He also requested the criteria used for placing people on terrorist watch lists.”

It sounds reassuringly presidential, doesn’t it? But somehow we’re still left with street vendors and New York City Police as our first line of defense. This administration is great with broad, visionary talk: the universal this, international that, and historic other. But the particulars are another story.  Whether it’s getting individual Gitmo detainees relocated, explaining health-care reform, or making sure that suspected terrorists don’t get on airplanes, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and Janet Napolitano are hopelessly adrift. This is an administration so swept up in its own sense of destiny it’s simply not governing in the here and now.

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Still Mirandizing

Well, as I suspected would be the case, we did Mirandize the Times Square bomber. We are told he has chosen to talk, but what if he didn’t? Would we have been content to let him clam up as the Christmas Day bomber did for five weeks?  And, of course, we are preparing him to be tried in a federal courtroom. We have learned, however, that he may not be the lone wolf (and certainly not the aggrieved ObamaCare critic Mayor Bloomberg stupidly suggested he might be):

Shahzad, a recently naturalized U.S. citizen living in Connecticut., was taken off an airliner bound for the Persian Gulf sheikhdom of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates about 53 hours after the attempted bombing, authorities said.

Asked if Shahzad had implicated himself under questioning by federal agents, Holder said, “He has done that.” He said Shahzad “has provided useful information to authorities.”

Shahzad was initially questioned under a public safety exception to the Miranda rule and was cooperative, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said at the news conference. He said Shahzad was later read his Miranda rights and “continued talking.”

Although Shahzad was arrested after the plane he had boarded returned to the departure gate, Holder said there was no risk that he would get away. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said authorities could have ordered the plane to return to the airport if it had taken off.

Concerned that he got on an airplane and wasn’t on the no-fly list? Well, Eric Holder says everything worked fine: “There was never any danger of losing him.”

Although we are treating Shahzad as an ordinary criminal, it appears he’s part of an international plot:

In Pakistan, an intelligence official said authorities arrested at least two people in the southern port city of Karachi in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt. The official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, identified one of those arrested as Tausif Ahmed, who was picked up in a busy commercial neighborhood called Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Again, we return to the question: is the criminal-justice model really appropriate for such enemies? At some point, the American people and Congress will decide that the administration’s tactics are ludicrously ill-suited to the war we are fighting.

Well, as I suspected would be the case, we did Mirandize the Times Square bomber. We are told he has chosen to talk, but what if he didn’t? Would we have been content to let him clam up as the Christmas Day bomber did for five weeks?  And, of course, we are preparing him to be tried in a federal courtroom. We have learned, however, that he may not be the lone wolf (and certainly not the aggrieved ObamaCare critic Mayor Bloomberg stupidly suggested he might be):

Shahzad, a recently naturalized U.S. citizen living in Connecticut., was taken off an airliner bound for the Persian Gulf sheikhdom of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates about 53 hours after the attempted bombing, authorities said.

Asked if Shahzad had implicated himself under questioning by federal agents, Holder said, “He has done that.” He said Shahzad “has provided useful information to authorities.”

Shahzad was initially questioned under a public safety exception to the Miranda rule and was cooperative, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said at the news conference. He said Shahzad was later read his Miranda rights and “continued talking.”

Although Shahzad was arrested after the plane he had boarded returned to the departure gate, Holder said there was no risk that he would get away. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said authorities could have ordered the plane to return to the airport if it had taken off.

Concerned that he got on an airplane and wasn’t on the no-fly list? Well, Eric Holder says everything worked fine: “There was never any danger of losing him.”

Although we are treating Shahzad as an ordinary criminal, it appears he’s part of an international plot:

In Pakistan, an intelligence official said authorities arrested at least two people in the southern port city of Karachi in connection with the Times Square bombing attempt. The official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, identified one of those arrested as Tausif Ahmed, who was picked up in a busy commercial neighborhood called Gulshan-e-Iqbal.

Again, we return to the question: is the criminal-justice model really appropriate for such enemies? At some point, the American people and Congress will decide that the administration’s tactics are ludicrously ill-suited to the war we are fighting.

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The Jihadist Attack on Times Square

The New York Times reports:

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced. …

Mr. Shahzad was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an early morning statement delivered at the Justice Department in Washington. Charges against Mr. Shahzad, who had returned recently from a trip to Pakistan, were not announced, but he was expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.

So, a couple of questions: has he been Mirandized, and is he now lawyered up? I’d frankly be pleasantly shocked if that weren’t the case. And there are other questions that will follow, including whether we had any prior knowledge of Faisal Shahzad. What we do know is that the investigation has shifted to the international terrorism branch of the Joint Task Force and that “it’s a prominent lead that they’re following, the international association.”

Once again, despite the best efforts of the administration to excise “Islamic extremists” or “Islamic fundamentalists” from our vocabulary, all indications are that this is one more attack in a war Obama refuses to label accurately.

The New York Times reports:

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced. …

Mr. Shahzad was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an early morning statement delivered at the Justice Department in Washington. Charges against Mr. Shahzad, who had returned recently from a trip to Pakistan, were not announced, but he was expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.

So, a couple of questions: has he been Mirandized, and is he now lawyered up? I’d frankly be pleasantly shocked if that weren’t the case. And there are other questions that will follow, including whether we had any prior knowledge of Faisal Shahzad. What we do know is that the investigation has shifted to the international terrorism branch of the Joint Task Force and that “it’s a prominent lead that they’re following, the international association.”

Once again, despite the best efforts of the administration to excise “Islamic extremists” or “Islamic fundamentalists” from our vocabulary, all indications are that this is one more attack in a war Obama refuses to label accurately.

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From Screaming to Silence

The Obama administration, acting like a wounded spouse, has now migrated from screaming at Israel to the silent treatment. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had meetings with Bibi Netanyahu. But if the relationship was as “rock solid” as Hillary disingenuously proclaimed in her AIPAC speech, you’d never know it :

No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.

This is petulance, if not rudeness. Can one imagine any other “ally” receiving such dismissive treatment? The Obami are, I suppose, technically abiding by the advice to move their disputes with Bibi behind closed doors. But the snippy reception that telegraphs their anger with Bibi over his continuing to allow Jews to live anywhere in Israel’s eternal capital is just more of the same Obama gambit in another guise. The message to Israel, to the Muslim World, and to the Palestinians is the same: the U.S. is in a snit over Israel’s housing policy, and a significant gap between the two countries has not been healed. The contrast between the warm greeting from members of Congress and the stony silence from the White House only highlighted the point.

The result is real and troubling: when the U.S. backs away from Israel, we send a signal to our allies that Israel deserves the cold shoulder:

The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel’s diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel’s suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.

As the Washington Post notes, the Obami have made hash out of the Middle East from the get-go:

The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion — and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu’s compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as “unprecedented.”

U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.

Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (“Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.

The Obama administration, acting like a wounded spouse, has now migrated from screaming at Israel to the silent treatment. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton had meetings with Bibi Netanyahu. But if the relationship was as “rock solid” as Hillary disingenuously proclaimed in her AIPAC speech, you’d never know it :

No reporters, or even photographers, were invited when Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Clinton Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Biden on Monday or when he met with Obama on Tuesday night. There was no grand Rose Garden ceremony. Official spokesmen issued only the blandest of statements.

This is petulance, if not rudeness. Can one imagine any other “ally” receiving such dismissive treatment? The Obami are, I suppose, technically abiding by the advice to move their disputes with Bibi behind closed doors. But the snippy reception that telegraphs their anger with Bibi over his continuing to allow Jews to live anywhere in Israel’s eternal capital is just more of the same Obama gambit in another guise. The message to Israel, to the Muslim World, and to the Palestinians is the same: the U.S. is in a snit over Israel’s housing policy, and a significant gap between the two countries has not been healed. The contrast between the warm greeting from members of Congress and the stony silence from the White House only highlighted the point.

The result is real and troubling: when the U.S. backs away from Israel, we send a signal to our allies that Israel deserves the cold shoulder:

The cooling in the U.S.-Israel relationship coincides with an apparent deepening of Israel’s diplomatic isolation. Anger has grown in Europe in the wake of Israel’s suspected misuse of European passports to kill a Palestinian militant in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat over the incident, an unusually drastic step for an ally. Relations with Turkey, a rare Muslim friend of Israel for decades, have hit a new low.

As the Washington Post notes, the Obami have made hash out of the Middle East from the get-go:

The Obama administration has struggled from the start to find its footing with Israel and the Palestinians. Obama took office soon after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, which had ruptured peace talks nurtured by the George W. Bush administration. Obama appointed a special envoy, former senator George J. Mitchell, on his second day in office. But then the administration tried to pressure Israel to freeze all settlement expansion — and failed. The United States further lost credibility when Clinton embraced Netanyahu’s compromise proposal, which fell short of Palestinian expectations, as “unprecedented.”

U.S. pressure at the time also backfired because it appeared to let the Palestinians off the hook. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to enter into direct talks before a settlement freeze, even though he had done so before. The administration had to settle for indirect talks, with Mitchell shuttling back and forth. The recent disagreement has set back that effort.

Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (“Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

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Hamas: Israel Not Responsible for Dubai Assassination

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

Hamas is now saying that Egypt and Jordan are behind the assassination in Dubai of their slain commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Clearly, given Hamas’s propensity to tell the truth, this information must be taken with a grain of salt. But then again, the version offered by Dubai’s police is not that much better — 27 suspects later, they are making it more laughable for themselves by the hour.

The question now is, will the governments of Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland issue an apology to their Israeli ambassadors, who were summoned for some rough protest when Israel was accused? And will they now reserve the same rough treatment for the Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors?

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Der Spiegel: “An Israeli Affront Against Germany”

The headline is breathless, and the article is stupid. The German paper claims that both the failure of the Shalit talks and the Dubai assassination were grave Israeli insults to Germany.

This marks the second time that the Germans have been snubbed. [The first time, Der Spiegel says, was when the Mossad did not tell the German mediator in the Shalit talks that the Dubai assassination was about to take place. No, that doesn’t make sense to me either — NP] In late December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected at the last moment a detailed agreement that his negotiator Hagai Hadas had hammered out with Hamas via the German intelligence agency. …

Zahar said it had been difficult to convince Khalid Mashaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas in Damascus, Syria, to approve the deal. Netanyahu’s subsequent rejection seriously damaged his reputation within Hamas, says Zahar. “I have suffered a lot internally,” he adds. “I am not ready to negotiate anymore.”

So Israel rejected a prisoner swap and hung Mahmoud Zahar out to dry? This is pure Hamas spin — and therefore very attractive to Western journalists. The reality of the negotiations is that Israel has been waiting on a Hamas answer on the prisoner swap since December, an answer that has not been forthcoming because of a rift between Hamas’s Gaza and Damascus leadership. The Gazans want to do the swap; the Syrian leadership does not:

Last December, at the conclusion of a round of mediated negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the deal to the inner cabinet on security matters, which gave a conditional approval to the German offer.

Since then, Hamas has avoided providing its own response to the offer. It may be that this was part of an effort to avoid having the blame for failure directed at the organization. However, the absence of a response also reflected genuine disagreement between al-Zahar and others in the organization.

Intelligence sources in the West and Israel have said that al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, are aware of the severity of the crisis that the organization is experiencing as a result of more than three years of siege on the Gaza Strip, and are eager to reach a compromise that would permit them to also show some gain in the form of a large prisoner release.

It is not unusual in the least for leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups to baldly lie about any number of things; holy warriors grant themselves many indulgences. What should be unusual is the willingness of Western reporters to reprint these lies as journalistic fact. One would think that a German paper should be especially careful about breathlessly repeating false allegations against the Jewish state.

The headline is breathless, and the article is stupid. The German paper claims that both the failure of the Shalit talks and the Dubai assassination were grave Israeli insults to Germany.

This marks the second time that the Germans have been snubbed. [The first time, Der Spiegel says, was when the Mossad did not tell the German mediator in the Shalit talks that the Dubai assassination was about to take place. No, that doesn’t make sense to me either — NP] In late December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected at the last moment a detailed agreement that his negotiator Hagai Hadas had hammered out with Hamas via the German intelligence agency. …

Zahar said it had been difficult to convince Khalid Mashaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas in Damascus, Syria, to approve the deal. Netanyahu’s subsequent rejection seriously damaged his reputation within Hamas, says Zahar. “I have suffered a lot internally,” he adds. “I am not ready to negotiate anymore.”

So Israel rejected a prisoner swap and hung Mahmoud Zahar out to dry? This is pure Hamas spin — and therefore very attractive to Western journalists. The reality of the negotiations is that Israel has been waiting on a Hamas answer on the prisoner swap since December, an answer that has not been forthcoming because of a rift between Hamas’s Gaza and Damascus leadership. The Gazans want to do the swap; the Syrian leadership does not:

Last December, at the conclusion of a round of mediated negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the deal to the inner cabinet on security matters, which gave a conditional approval to the German offer.

Since then, Hamas has avoided providing its own response to the offer. It may be that this was part of an effort to avoid having the blame for failure directed at the organization. However, the absence of a response also reflected genuine disagreement between al-Zahar and others in the organization.

Intelligence sources in the West and Israel have said that al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, are aware of the severity of the crisis that the organization is experiencing as a result of more than three years of siege on the Gaza Strip, and are eager to reach a compromise that would permit them to also show some gain in the form of a large prisoner release.

It is not unusual in the least for leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups to baldly lie about any number of things; holy warriors grant themselves many indulgences. What should be unusual is the willingness of Western reporters to reprint these lies as journalistic fact. One would think that a German paper should be especially careful about breathlessly repeating false allegations against the Jewish state.

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Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, Fashion Icon

Alleged Mossad hits are good for business, apparently:

Sales of Mossad-themed T-shirts, available by mail order, have risen tenfold since the Israeli spy agency was linked to last month’s assassination in Dubai.

Despite the fact that Israeli leaders are refusing to confirm or deny Mossad involvement, orders for the garments have flooded in over the past few weeks – from Israelis and particularly from diaspora Jews.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of a top mail order company selling Israeli-made products, told The Irish Times they have been overwhelmed by demand since they launched a special “Show off your Mossad and Israeli pride” campaign earlier this week.

A friend e-mails: “Hamas’s marketing arm is desperately planning a retaliatory hit as a means to boost its own t-shirt sales.”

Alleged Mossad hits are good for business, apparently:

Sales of Mossad-themed T-shirts, available by mail order, have risen tenfold since the Israeli spy agency was linked to last month’s assassination in Dubai.

Despite the fact that Israeli leaders are refusing to confirm or deny Mossad involvement, orders for the garments have flooded in over the past few weeks – from Israelis and particularly from diaspora Jews.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of a top mail order company selling Israeli-made products, told The Irish Times they have been overwhelmed by demand since they launched a special “Show off your Mossad and Israeli pride” campaign earlier this week.

A friend e-mails: “Hamas’s marketing arm is desperately planning a retaliatory hit as a means to boost its own t-shirt sales.”

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Jason Bourne, Call Your Office

Another day, and another Western government chastises Israel for the use of non-Israeli passports in the assassination of Hamas terrorist mastermind Mahmoud al-Mabhou. This time it’s Australia’s turn. Australia’s PM, Kevin Rudd, was quoted as saying that

Any state that has been complicit in use or abuse of the Australian passport system, let alone for the conduct of an assassination, is treating Australia with contempt and there will therefore be action by the Australian government in response.

Clearly, one needs to believe Dubai’s police on the revelations about the forged passports. There is no smoking gun yet about Israel’s responsibility. And hopefully, Israel will keep quiet about this. As Yossi Melman indicates in today’s Haaretz, the investigation is rising to comical levels, even as the evidence against Israel is thin.

Look, anyone familiar with James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the Mission Impossible franchise knows that secret agents travel on forged passports. And even assuming Israel is responsible, what did anyone expect — a bunch of Israelis to show up at Dubai airport waving their Israeli passports? Just imagine the conversation.

UAE immigration officer: Nationality?

Agent: Israeli.

Immigration officer: Occupation?

Agent: Mossad agent.

Immigration officer: Purpose of your visit?

Agent: Targeted killing of a top Hamas terrorist.

Immigration officer: Welcome to our country, sir, and have a nice day.

Sure, it would have been preferable that those involved were not caught on camera and belatedly identified — although every new release of suspects by Dubai’s police makes their involvement look less credible. How many people does it takes to kill one Hamas terrorist, even in Dubai?

There would not have been so much grief in London, Paris, or Canberra. Countries are more likely to turn a blind eye when friendly secret services do not get caught abusing or violating their laws. The problem with the outrage is not the deed itself, then, but the embarrassment resulting from the exposure.

Finally, the international outrage has forgotten to take into account the obvious: Mahmoud al-Mabhou deserved to die. He was a terrorist. He was involved in something sinister and potentially very big — which had to do with arms-smuggling from Iran to Gaza. He had personally killed Israeli hostages. There should be little sorrow expressed about sending him to delight with heavenly virgins long before he had planned.

Another day, and another Western government chastises Israel for the use of non-Israeli passports in the assassination of Hamas terrorist mastermind Mahmoud al-Mabhou. This time it’s Australia’s turn. Australia’s PM, Kevin Rudd, was quoted as saying that

Any state that has been complicit in use or abuse of the Australian passport system, let alone for the conduct of an assassination, is treating Australia with contempt and there will therefore be action by the Australian government in response.

Clearly, one needs to believe Dubai’s police on the revelations about the forged passports. There is no smoking gun yet about Israel’s responsibility. And hopefully, Israel will keep quiet about this. As Yossi Melman indicates in today’s Haaretz, the investigation is rising to comical levels, even as the evidence against Israel is thin.

Look, anyone familiar with James Bond, Jason Bourne, and the Mission Impossible franchise knows that secret agents travel on forged passports. And even assuming Israel is responsible, what did anyone expect — a bunch of Israelis to show up at Dubai airport waving their Israeli passports? Just imagine the conversation.

UAE immigration officer: Nationality?

Agent: Israeli.

Immigration officer: Occupation?

Agent: Mossad agent.

Immigration officer: Purpose of your visit?

Agent: Targeted killing of a top Hamas terrorist.

Immigration officer: Welcome to our country, sir, and have a nice day.

Sure, it would have been preferable that those involved were not caught on camera and belatedly identified — although every new release of suspects by Dubai’s police makes their involvement look less credible. How many people does it takes to kill one Hamas terrorist, even in Dubai?

There would not have been so much grief in London, Paris, or Canberra. Countries are more likely to turn a blind eye when friendly secret services do not get caught abusing or violating their laws. The problem with the outrage is not the deed itself, then, but the embarrassment resulting from the exposure.

Finally, the international outrage has forgotten to take into account the obvious: Mahmoud al-Mabhou deserved to die. He was a terrorist. He was involved in something sinister and potentially very big — which had to do with arms-smuggling from Iran to Gaza. He had personally killed Israeli hostages. There should be little sorrow expressed about sending him to delight with heavenly virgins long before he had planned.

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The Dubai Hit

Eli Lake has another scoop, this time on the surgical strike in Dubai — that is, the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the co-founder of Hamas’ military arm. While some in the West are in a knot over the execution of a butcher (with no collateral damage, no innocents disturbed), Israeli sources tell Lake that the operation hasn’t posed any real complications for them. He writes:

“There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena,” said the senior official, who asked not to be named because he was speaking about sensitive intelligence matters. The official said he was speaking only about the effects on intelligence links and was not confirming Israel’s involvement in the hit.

“The countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this as some of the public statements,” the official said. “There has been no effect on the operational side.”

It’s not only the Israelis who confirm that the operation had little downside for them. For example, the founder of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center is quoted as saying, “I don’t think anyone is going to come out and say, ‘That was wonderful [really? well lots of Israelis, Fatah members and others rooting for Hamas’ downfall sure do]. … But on the other hand, this will not have an effect on Mossad’s relationship with other intelligence services over the long run. That is why intelligence-to-intelligence relationships exist, so they can carry on in moments like this.”

Yes, publicly the EU is fussing over the use of false passports, but that seems to be more for show. In all this, two things are clear. First, the Israelis have reminded the terrorists of the world that no place is safe from the reach of Mossad. And second, when Israel acts from strength and demonstrates its military and intelligence prowess, it incurs respect and admiration from others. Well, not from many on the American Left, but then only a weak and defenseless Israel would please them. But what really matters is that Mabhouh is dead, fewer innocents will die, and terrorists will think twice before checking into a hotel in Dubai.

Eli Lake has another scoop, this time on the surgical strike in Dubai — that is, the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the co-founder of Hamas’ military arm. While some in the West are in a knot over the execution of a butcher (with no collateral damage, no innocents disturbed), Israeli sources tell Lake that the operation hasn’t posed any real complications for them. He writes:

“There is a lot of hyperventilating about this in the public arena,” said the senior official, who asked not to be named because he was speaking about sensitive intelligence matters. The official said he was speaking only about the effects on intelligence links and was not confirming Israel’s involvement in the hit.

“The countries that coordinate the war on terror with allies like Israel and the United States and Europe are not as exercised about this as some of the public statements,” the official said. “There has been no effect on the operational side.”

It’s not only the Israelis who confirm that the operation had little downside for them. For example, the founder of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center is quoted as saying, “I don’t think anyone is going to come out and say, ‘That was wonderful [really? well lots of Israelis, Fatah members and others rooting for Hamas’ downfall sure do]. … But on the other hand, this will not have an effect on Mossad’s relationship with other intelligence services over the long run. That is why intelligence-to-intelligence relationships exist, so they can carry on in moments like this.”

Yes, publicly the EU is fussing over the use of false passports, but that seems to be more for show. In all this, two things are clear. First, the Israelis have reminded the terrorists of the world that no place is safe from the reach of Mossad. And second, when Israel acts from strength and demonstrates its military and intelligence prowess, it incurs respect and admiration from others. Well, not from many on the American Left, but then only a weak and defenseless Israel would please them. But what really matters is that Mabhouh is dead, fewer innocents will die, and terrorists will think twice before checking into a hotel in Dubai.

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Dershowitz on the Mahmoud al-Mabhouh Killing

As Alan Dershowitz is wont to do, he takes a lawyerly look at whether the killing of Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room was legally and morally justified. He assumes, for the sake of argument, of course, that Mossad “did make the hit.” On the legal side, he notes that there are certainly extrajudicial killings that are not unlawful. “Every soldier who kills an enemy combatant engages in an extrajudicial killing, as does every policeman who shoots a fleeing felon.” After some analysis, he concludes: “This was not an ordinary murder. It was carried out as a matter of state policy as part of an ongoing war. … Obviously it would have been better if he could have been captured and subjected to judicial justice. But it was impossible to capture him, especially when he was in Dubai.” Well, the “obviously” is debatable, but his conclusion is sound.

Once Dershowitz considers the moral equation, the fun starts. He’s Dershowitz, after all, so he goes at it:

The Goldstone Report ordered by the UN Human Rights Council suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists.

Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mabhouh. Not only was he the commander in charge of Hamas’ unlawful military actions, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers several years earlier.

It’s hard not to see the unalloyed benefit in the surgical assassination of Mabhouh, unless, of course, the applicable moral rule in these situations is that Israel is never entitled to defend itself. While the professional Israel hamstringers fret, others are mystified by all the hand-wringing, content in the knowledge that some women, children, and Israel soldiers might be spared. (“Was he sleeping the happy sleep of the just terrorist after completing yet another deal with the butchers of Iran to import Iranian-made weapons into Gaza when he was dispatched to the arms of his 72 virgins?”) Meanwhile, moral clarity reigns in Israel, even on the Left:

While Europe is up in arms over the slaying of top Hamas guerrilla Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh — and everyone blames the Mossad — the near-unanimous verdict in Israel: mission accomplished.

Even self-described Tel Aviv “Communist” Haish Harel gave a thumbs-up to the Jan. 20 assassination in Dubai, which has brought Israel a blizzard of unwanted international attention.

“He wasn’t a civilian. He was a fighter, and he was still active,” said Harel, 29, carrying his young son on his shoulders.

And thanks to Mossad — well, if it was Mossad — Harel and that young son may sleep a little sounder, and those who would seek to slaughter them both (and thousands more, if they could) may be warier of hotel rooms and many other spots on the planet where at any moment they too can be victims of a justified extrajudicial killing.

As Alan Dershowitz is wont to do, he takes a lawyerly look at whether the killing of Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room was legally and morally justified. He assumes, for the sake of argument, of course, that Mossad “did make the hit.” On the legal side, he notes that there are certainly extrajudicial killings that are not unlawful. “Every soldier who kills an enemy combatant engages in an extrajudicial killing, as does every policeman who shoots a fleeing felon.” After some analysis, he concludes: “This was not an ordinary murder. It was carried out as a matter of state policy as part of an ongoing war. … Obviously it would have been better if he could have been captured and subjected to judicial justice. But it was impossible to capture him, especially when he was in Dubai.” Well, the “obviously” is debatable, but his conclusion is sound.

Once Dershowitz considers the moral equation, the fun starts. He’s Dershowitz, after all, so he goes at it:

The Goldstone Report ordered by the UN Human Rights Council suggests that Israel cannot lawfully fight Hamas rockets by wholesale air attacks. Richard Goldstone, in interviews, has suggested that Israel should protect itself from these unlawful attacks by more proportionate retail measures, such as commando raids and targeted killing of terrorists.

Well, there could be no better example of a proportionate and focused attack on a combatant who was deeply involved in the rocket attacks on Israel, than the killing of Mabhouh. Not only was he the commander in charge of Hamas’ unlawful military actions, he was also personally responsible for the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers several years earlier.

It’s hard not to see the unalloyed benefit in the surgical assassination of Mabhouh, unless, of course, the applicable moral rule in these situations is that Israel is never entitled to defend itself. While the professional Israel hamstringers fret, others are mystified by all the hand-wringing, content in the knowledge that some women, children, and Israel soldiers might be spared. (“Was he sleeping the happy sleep of the just terrorist after completing yet another deal with the butchers of Iran to import Iranian-made weapons into Gaza when he was dispatched to the arms of his 72 virgins?”) Meanwhile, moral clarity reigns in Israel, even on the Left:

While Europe is up in arms over the slaying of top Hamas guerrilla Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh — and everyone blames the Mossad — the near-unanimous verdict in Israel: mission accomplished.

Even self-described Tel Aviv “Communist” Haish Harel gave a thumbs-up to the Jan. 20 assassination in Dubai, which has brought Israel a blizzard of unwanted international attention.

“He wasn’t a civilian. He was a fighter, and he was still active,” said Harel, 29, carrying his young son on his shoulders.

And thanks to Mossad — well, if it was Mossad — Harel and that young son may sleep a little sounder, and those who would seek to slaughter them both (and thousands more, if they could) may be warier of hotel rooms and many other spots on the planet where at any moment they too can be victims of a justified extrajudicial killing.

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