Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eli Lake

Will Jews Ever Part with the Democratic Party?

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

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Tom Campbell Will Debate on Terrorism and National Security

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that ”Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that ”Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

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Deterring Ourselves

Two news reports from the last day highlight poignantly the paralysis of the West in the face of a nuclearizing Iran. One is a Washington Times piece by Eli Lake outlining recent and prospective developments with the financial “pressure track” against Iran.  The other is Der Spiegel Online’s account of the sanctions package being prepared by the EU nations.

The Lake piece is less remarkable: one of many that clarify how heavily dependent any sanctions regime will be on the honest participation of China. The piece makes a telling foil to the Der Spiegel report, however, in part because the two articles share a particular rhetorical characteristic. They lead with language that evokes strength and energy in the approach of the West to Iran. Momentum-sapping caveats are sequestered at the end of each article, receiving little treatment of any kind and certainly not consideration commensurate with their significance.

Der Spiegel’s report has quite a promising tone overall: “massive sanctions,” “choke off imports,” “banish the Iranian central bank.” But read to the end and you find that the emerging European proposal is hostage to two self-imposed constraints listed briefly in the final paragraph: a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution as a legal foundation, and the backing of nations like Turkey, Brazil, and the Persian Gulf states.

Getting a UNSC resolution is, of course, dependent on Russia and China, which can exercise vetoes. That challenge has proved insuperable for years. But the stated reason for the second constraint — obtaining the backing of non-Western nations — is a window on the soul of the modern West. The purpose is not the practical one we might expect: to strengthen the effectiveness of sanctions, which Turkey and the Gulf states in particular could easily undermine. The concern is rather that Iran could complain of being targeted by a Western conspiracy, or the “vassals of Israel.”

To give the Europeans the benefit of the doubt, we may assume that they’re thinking of the backlash from Islamists in their own capitals if Iran claims such victimhood. But this point is only superficially persuasive. For one thing, the mullahs accuse everyone who opposes Iran of conspiracy and vassalage to Israel. It’s reflexive, not contingent on the exact nature of what anyone else does. Moreover, any backlash would probably create worse domestic problems for Turkey and the Gulf nations than it would for Europe, so attempts to gain their overt political support are unlikely to meet with success.

But the more profound concern is that if no action is taken, and taken soon, the outcome will be a nuclear-armed theocratic pariah state, one whose leaders have an apocalyptic vision of their nation’s role on earth. This nation already sponsors terrorism and insurgencies abroad. Having nuclear arms will give Iran’s disruptive activism a new strategic cover. Europe will be in range of Iranian nuclear missiles before North America is. Yet the West clearly doesn’t take this threat seriously enough to lift the self-imposed constraints — even the patently absurd ones — that are the main obstacles to action.

If Iran’s revolutionary regime does acquire nuclear weapons, the reported EU concern about a pre-nuclear Iran playing the victim card for effect will go down as one of the most foolish in history. Surely, future generations might say, the men and women of the 2010s didn’t stay their hand against Iran because of that.

Two news reports from the last day highlight poignantly the paralysis of the West in the face of a nuclearizing Iran. One is a Washington Times piece by Eli Lake outlining recent and prospective developments with the financial “pressure track” against Iran.  The other is Der Spiegel Online’s account of the sanctions package being prepared by the EU nations.

The Lake piece is less remarkable: one of many that clarify how heavily dependent any sanctions regime will be on the honest participation of China. The piece makes a telling foil to the Der Spiegel report, however, in part because the two articles share a particular rhetorical characteristic. They lead with language that evokes strength and energy in the approach of the West to Iran. Momentum-sapping caveats are sequestered at the end of each article, receiving little treatment of any kind and certainly not consideration commensurate with their significance.

Der Spiegel’s report has quite a promising tone overall: “massive sanctions,” “choke off imports,” “banish the Iranian central bank.” But read to the end and you find that the emerging European proposal is hostage to two self-imposed constraints listed briefly in the final paragraph: a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution as a legal foundation, and the backing of nations like Turkey, Brazil, and the Persian Gulf states.

Getting a UNSC resolution is, of course, dependent on Russia and China, which can exercise vetoes. That challenge has proved insuperable for years. But the stated reason for the second constraint — obtaining the backing of non-Western nations — is a window on the soul of the modern West. The purpose is not the practical one we might expect: to strengthen the effectiveness of sanctions, which Turkey and the Gulf states in particular could easily undermine. The concern is rather that Iran could complain of being targeted by a Western conspiracy, or the “vassals of Israel.”

To give the Europeans the benefit of the doubt, we may assume that they’re thinking of the backlash from Islamists in their own capitals if Iran claims such victimhood. But this point is only superficially persuasive. For one thing, the mullahs accuse everyone who opposes Iran of conspiracy and vassalage to Israel. It’s reflexive, not contingent on the exact nature of what anyone else does. Moreover, any backlash would probably create worse domestic problems for Turkey and the Gulf nations than it would for Europe, so attempts to gain their overt political support are unlikely to meet with success.

But the more profound concern is that if no action is taken, and taken soon, the outcome will be a nuclear-armed theocratic pariah state, one whose leaders have an apocalyptic vision of their nation’s role on earth. This nation already sponsors terrorism and insurgencies abroad. Having nuclear arms will give Iran’s disruptive activism a new strategic cover. Europe will be in range of Iranian nuclear missiles before North America is. Yet the West clearly doesn’t take this threat seriously enough to lift the self-imposed constraints — even the patently absurd ones — that are the main obstacles to action.

If Iran’s revolutionary regime does acquire nuclear weapons, the reported EU concern about a pre-nuclear Iran playing the victim card for effect will go down as one of the most foolish in history. Surely, future generations might say, the men and women of the 2010s didn’t stay their hand against Iran because of that.

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What if They Got Away?

Eli Lake reports:

U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States, based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing after he began cooperating. . .

Said one official: “It’s safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the Islamist terrorist group based in Yemen.

“Farouk took a month to get operational. Once he left [training in Yemen], it did not take very long,” the official said.

So in the five weeks of silence, did the other English-speaking terrorists go into hiding? Are the leads still good? We don’t know, but it is precisely this concern and the danger of leads gone cold that strike at the core of the Obami’s approach. They are concerned about extending constitutional principles to terrorists (and gaining convictions); they should have been focused like a laser on getting all the actionable data as soon as possible to prevent future attacks. Now it seems as though we are scrambling to catch up — and the Obami are trying to prepare us in the event we can’t catch up:

The data about the additional terrorist plots is thought to be one factor behind alarming congressional testimony two weeks ago from senior U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair.

Mr. Blair said he was “certain” that it was al-Qaeda’s priority to attempt an attack on the United States within three to six months.

The increased threat of terrorism emanating from Yemen was outlined in a majority staff report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made public last month. The report warned that U.S. criminals were migrating to Yemen for terrorist training.

A smart national security observer makes an additional point: “Enhanced interrogation is something also envisioned by Obama and it need not be torture. The HIG–high value interrogation group–was chartered for this kind of non torture/enhanced interrogation. It was not set up. So getting to him need not have meant waterboarding.” Conservatives would dispute whether waterboarding is torture, but the point is correct: even under the Obami’s own interrogation rules, it is hard to condone this missed opportunity.

So the question comes down to this: what if in the five weeks of the Christmas Day bomber’s Mirandized silence other terrorists got away? And if the unimaginable happens and one of these should strike, what then? Even the potential for such a calamity should convince all but the most hardened Obama sycophants that we are in danger now, greater danger than we would otherwise be, had the search for mass-murders-in-training begun weeks earlier.

There is no excuse for such malfeasance. Those officials who came up with this cockeyed scheme and have now put Americans in greater danger should be sacked. And the American people, once the full account comes out, may well conclude that this includes Obama. He is commander in chief after all.

Eli Lake reports:

U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the United States, based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing after he began cooperating. . .

Said one official: “It’s safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” the Islamist terrorist group based in Yemen.

“Farouk took a month to get operational. Once he left [training in Yemen], it did not take very long,” the official said.

So in the five weeks of silence, did the other English-speaking terrorists go into hiding? Are the leads still good? We don’t know, but it is precisely this concern and the danger of leads gone cold that strike at the core of the Obami’s approach. They are concerned about extending constitutional principles to terrorists (and gaining convictions); they should have been focused like a laser on getting all the actionable data as soon as possible to prevent future attacks. Now it seems as though we are scrambling to catch up — and the Obami are trying to prepare us in the event we can’t catch up:

The data about the additional terrorist plots is thought to be one factor behind alarming congressional testimony two weeks ago from senior U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair.

Mr. Blair said he was “certain” that it was al-Qaeda’s priority to attempt an attack on the United States within three to six months.

The increased threat of terrorism emanating from Yemen was outlined in a majority staff report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made public last month. The report warned that U.S. criminals were migrating to Yemen for terrorist training.

A smart national security observer makes an additional point: “Enhanced interrogation is something also envisioned by Obama and it need not be torture. The HIG–high value interrogation group–was chartered for this kind of non torture/enhanced interrogation. It was not set up. So getting to him need not have meant waterboarding.” Conservatives would dispute whether waterboarding is torture, but the point is correct: even under the Obami’s own interrogation rules, it is hard to condone this missed opportunity.

So the question comes down to this: what if in the five weeks of the Christmas Day bomber’s Mirandized silence other terrorists got away? And if the unimaginable happens and one of these should strike, what then? Even the potential for such a calamity should convince all but the most hardened Obama sycophants that we are in danger now, greater danger than we would otherwise be, had the search for mass-murders-in-training begun weeks earlier.

There is no excuse for such malfeasance. Those officials who came up with this cockeyed scheme and have now put Americans in greater danger should be sacked. And the American people, once the full account comes out, may well conclude that this includes Obama. He is commander in chief after all.

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A Matter of Priorities

Cliff May notices an outbreak of bipartisanship on Iran sanctions, which passed the Senate unanimously last week and followed passage of a similar measure in the House by a 412-12 margin:

The sanctions bills that have passed Congress would target a chink in Iran’s armor: its dependence on gasoline imports. Yes, ordinary Iranians will suffer as fuel becomes scarce and more expensive. But President Obama is articulate enough to explain where the blame belongs. He could add that Americans look forward not just to lifting the sanctions but to working with Iranians in a spirit of cooperation — as soon as Iran has leaders interested in such relations. It would be useful if the president also provided both moral and material support to those Iranians who have been marching in the streets, chanting: “Obama! Are you with us or against us?”

But, as May notes, it’s far from clear that Obama is part of that bipartisan consensus and would use the sanction authority. He and his dutiful secretary of state have, after all, consistently talked about “leaving the door open.” Hillary Clinton is winnowing down those crippling sanctions in order to minimize their impact — so we can leave the door open, you see. The January deadline came and went with no pronouncement from the White House or Foggy Bottom. It’s as if nothing has changed, and “consequences” are always around the bend for the mullahs should they not change their tune.

It is odd that a president who thinks of himself as so transformative would be so lackadaisical if not hostile toward regime change. You would think this might be his opportunity — finally — to be not Bush (who frankly kicked the can down the road on Iran during his administration) to good effect. It is nothing less than the chance to turn the tide of history. As May notes:

In 1979, Iran’s Islamist revolution was the spark that set off the war against the West that has raged ever since. The atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, represent the most devastating battle — so far. The advent of a nuclear-armed and jihadist Iran would escalate the conflict. By contrast, an Iranian government more concerned with the welfare of its citizens than with power and conquest would ease tensions in the Middle East and beyond. If President Obama contributes to that result, he will deserve — and receive — support from both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps the president’s advisers have convinced him that the Iranian demonstrators have “little chance for success.” But as Eli Lake points out, these sorts have not had a great track record when it comes to predicting events in Iran. (“The U.S. intelligence community in the past failed to predict political events in Iran. For example, a noted CIA assessment of Iran in the fall of 1978 predicted there was no prospect for an Islamic revolution — a prediction that proved wrong within five months.”) Nevertheless, it might be just the advice Obama is looking for — confirmation that doing not much of anything to aid the democracy advocates is the ”smart” diplomatic move.

One suspects, however, that Obama is simply unwilling to give up his singular focus on the domestic revolution he cares most desperately about — the creation of a “new foundation” — to engage in a historic undertaking overseas. It is a cramped, inward vision that supposes that America doesn’t have much of a role to play beyond its shores. We’ve got health care to reinvent and light-rail programs to fund. And there’s the “real” menace — global warming. (If you ignore all those e-mails.) Yes, and meanwhile Iranians die in the streets and the mullahs move closer to nuclear-weapons capability. It is, I suppose, simply a matter of priorities.

Cliff May notices an outbreak of bipartisanship on Iran sanctions, which passed the Senate unanimously last week and followed passage of a similar measure in the House by a 412-12 margin:

The sanctions bills that have passed Congress would target a chink in Iran’s armor: its dependence on gasoline imports. Yes, ordinary Iranians will suffer as fuel becomes scarce and more expensive. But President Obama is articulate enough to explain where the blame belongs. He could add that Americans look forward not just to lifting the sanctions but to working with Iranians in a spirit of cooperation — as soon as Iran has leaders interested in such relations. It would be useful if the president also provided both moral and material support to those Iranians who have been marching in the streets, chanting: “Obama! Are you with us or against us?”

But, as May notes, it’s far from clear that Obama is part of that bipartisan consensus and would use the sanction authority. He and his dutiful secretary of state have, after all, consistently talked about “leaving the door open.” Hillary Clinton is winnowing down those crippling sanctions in order to minimize their impact — so we can leave the door open, you see. The January deadline came and went with no pronouncement from the White House or Foggy Bottom. It’s as if nothing has changed, and “consequences” are always around the bend for the mullahs should they not change their tune.

It is odd that a president who thinks of himself as so transformative would be so lackadaisical if not hostile toward regime change. You would think this might be his opportunity — finally — to be not Bush (who frankly kicked the can down the road on Iran during his administration) to good effect. It is nothing less than the chance to turn the tide of history. As May notes:

In 1979, Iran’s Islamist revolution was the spark that set off the war against the West that has raged ever since. The atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001, represent the most devastating battle — so far. The advent of a nuclear-armed and jihadist Iran would escalate the conflict. By contrast, an Iranian government more concerned with the welfare of its citizens than with power and conquest would ease tensions in the Middle East and beyond. If President Obama contributes to that result, he will deserve — and receive — support from both sides of the aisle.

Perhaps the president’s advisers have convinced him that the Iranian demonstrators have “little chance for success.” But as Eli Lake points out, these sorts have not had a great track record when it comes to predicting events in Iran. (“The U.S. intelligence community in the past failed to predict political events in Iran. For example, a noted CIA assessment of Iran in the fall of 1978 predicted there was no prospect for an Islamic revolution — a prediction that proved wrong within five months.”) Nevertheless, it might be just the advice Obama is looking for — confirmation that doing not much of anything to aid the democracy advocates is the ”smart” diplomatic move.

One suspects, however, that Obama is simply unwilling to give up his singular focus on the domestic revolution he cares most desperately about — the creation of a “new foundation” — to engage in a historic undertaking overseas. It is a cramped, inward vision that supposes that America doesn’t have much of a role to play beyond its shores. We’ve got health care to reinvent and light-rail programs to fund. And there’s the “real” menace — global warming. (If you ignore all those e-mails.) Yes, and meanwhile Iranians die in the streets and the mullahs move closer to nuclear-weapons capability. It is, I suppose, simply a matter of priorities.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

The number of terrorists convicted in the criminal-justice system is 300. Or 195. Or 39, if you believe the ACLU.  Andy McCarthy writes: “It is disingenuous to low-ball the figure, as the ACLU does, in order to minimize the problem. It is equally disingenuous to exaggerate the figure, as DOJ is now doing, to create a myth of law-enforcement effectiveness (in order to discredit wartime military processes). Both of these plays are in the Left’s playbook. But guys, but when your objective is to hoodwink the public, you’re not supposed to run both plays at the same time! Can’t anybody here play this game?”

Obama is not turning out to be everything (anything?) the Left had hoped he’d be. Eli Lake reports: “President Obama is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens. … Since taking office, Mr. Obama has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel’s allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.” Well, he hasn’t set up the High Value Interrogation group either, so the Left shouldn’t take it personally. He’s just not very good on following through.

But the key test for Democrats is not what they say in a hearing, but how they vote: “The Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee said he is a skeptic of President Barack Obama’s long-term budget plan. Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.) told White House officials Tuesday that the nation can’t accept the budget’s projected deficits at the end of this decade, which approach $1 trillion. ‘We are on an unsustainable course by any measure,’ Conrad said during his committee’s first hearing on the administration’s 2011 budget request. ‘I believe the president is taking us in the right direction over the next several years,’ he added. ‘But I must say I am very concerned about the long term.’”

More horrid polling for Blanche Lincoln: “Her GOP rivals, including Congressman John Boozman who is expected to enter the race on Saturday, all earn roughly 50% of the vote against the two-term Democrat. … Boozman, the newest entrant in the race, runs strongest among likely voters in Arkansas for now, beating Lincoln by 19 points, 54% to 35%. State Senator Gilbert Baker also leads Lincoln by 19, 52% to 33%. State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren posts a 51% to 35% lead over the incumbent.”

The Obami’s vendetta against Fox was a stunning success — for Fox. “Fox News had its best January in the history of the network, and was the only cable news network to grow year-to-year. FNC also had the top 13 programs on cable news in total viewers for the fifth month in a row, and the top 13 programs in the A25-54 demographic for the first time in more than five years.”

Sen. John Kerry: “We need a constitutional amendment to make it clear once and for all that corporations do not have the same free speech rights as individuals.” It may be a daft idea to amend the Constitution so as to restrict speech, but at least he’s more honest than the president. You can’t overrule a First Amendment decision by statute.

Sen. Judd Gregg will be missed when he retires. “Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag faced the wrath of Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Tuesday during the Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s budget proposal for 2011. Gregg was irked about President Obama’s plan to unveil a new proposal to use $30 billion from Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to help community banks lend to small businesses at an event Tuesday afternoon in Nashua, NH — Gregg’s home state. ‘This proposal violates the law,’ Gregg said. ‘The whole concept of the TARP was as we recouped the money, we would use it to pay down the debt. Now that’s not going to happen. It’s become a piggy bank. A piggy bank which adds to our deficit.’”

Yes, Richard Reid was Mirandized. So what? John McCormack: “But the fact remains that it was a mistake to mirandize Abdulmutallab — just as it was a mistake to mirandize Reid. At what point will Democrats realize that the Bush administration’s mistakes are not an excuse for the Obama administration’s failures?” The answer is never. They ran against Bush, they won being against Bush, they crafted not-Bush national-security policies, and now they are convinced they can govern being not Bush (except when they repeat an error of the Bush administration). This is what comes from Bush Derangement Syndrome, I suppose.

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9/11 Commissioners to Obama: What Were You Thinking?!

Eli Lake reports:

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, New Jersey Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, said U.S. intelligence agencies should have been consulted before the bombing suspect, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was granted constitutional protections under U.S. law, known as Miranda rights, and initially stopped talking to investigators.

The criticism from two of Washington’s respected former government officials comes as a bipartisan panel on Tuesday gave the Obama administration a failing grade for its efforts to date to prepare for and respond to biological-weapon terrorist attacks.

Echoing  conservative critics and members of Congress, Kean (“I was shocked, and I was upset”) and Hamilton (“There did not seem to be a policy of the government as to how to handle these people”) can’t fathom why the Obami did not properly interrogate the bomber (with the requisite intelligence data in hand) to elicit potentially valuable information. Kean observes that “here is a man who may have trained with other people who are trying to get into this country in one way or another, who may have worked with some of the top leadership in Yemen and al Qaeda generally — and we don’t know the details of that — who may know about other plots that are pending, and we haven’t found out about them.”

The White House is nevertheless wedded to its law enforcement approach and after-the-fact clean-up preparations rather than the ferreting out of information potentially within our grasp. As Lake notes, on the same day the 9/11 commissions raised their complaints, the “Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism.” The Obami assured us they are coming up with a ”new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks.” How about simply questioning a terrorist we’ve apprehended? (That’d be new.) The best “response” is not more emergency vehicles to tend to the sick and dying, but a no-nonsense approach that seeks to gather information to prevent the attacks from occurring. That is precisely the tactic of the Bush team, which was not on some bizarre lark when it determined that it was going to employ enhanced interrogation techniques on those who were seeking to kill Americans (in large numbers). Putting aside the techniques to be employed, the Obami, to the shock of the 9/11 commissioners and most of the country, have essentially thrown in the towel on eliciting information from any terrorist we capture on U.S. soil. We certainly do need a “new plan.”

Obama has insisted that in tossing aside Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, he was defending our “values” or that we somehow “lost our way” in the aftermath of 9/11. It is increasingly clear, as with so much other blather than comes from the White House, that it is this administration that’s lost. There is a bipartisan consensus emerging that the Obami have behaved irresponsibly and that there is no moral or constitutional imperative to Mirandize terrorists and allow them to clam up. It’s become obvious to all but the reality-insulated Left that the moral preening is no more than a smoke screen for an ill-conceived and poorly executed set of policies.

Given the lack of support for the current approach and the urging of figures like Kean and Hamilton to take a second look at the Obami’s assumption, it seems there is plenty for responsible lawmakers to do. Scott Brown seemed to have a handle on this when he said that “our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.” Perhaps he can reach across the aisle and induce some of his new colleagues, just as we are seeing on health care, to set aside the foolishness of Obama’s first year in favor of some responsible governance.

Eli Lake reports:

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, New Jersey Republican, and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, Indiana Democrat, said U.S. intelligence agencies should have been consulted before the bombing suspect, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was granted constitutional protections under U.S. law, known as Miranda rights, and initially stopped talking to investigators.

The criticism from two of Washington’s respected former government officials comes as a bipartisan panel on Tuesday gave the Obama administration a failing grade for its efforts to date to prepare for and respond to biological-weapon terrorist attacks.

Echoing  conservative critics and members of Congress, Kean (“I was shocked, and I was upset”) and Hamilton (“There did not seem to be a policy of the government as to how to handle these people”) can’t fathom why the Obami did not properly interrogate the bomber (with the requisite intelligence data in hand) to elicit potentially valuable information. Kean observes that “here is a man who may have trained with other people who are trying to get into this country in one way or another, who may have worked with some of the top leadership in Yemen and al Qaeda generally — and we don’t know the details of that — who may know about other plots that are pending, and we haven’t found out about them.”

The White House is nevertheless wedded to its law enforcement approach and after-the-fact clean-up preparations rather than the ferreting out of information potentially within our grasp. As Lake notes, on the same day the 9/11 commissions raised their complaints, the “Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism said the Obama administration is not addressing urgent threats, including bioterrorism.” The Obami assured us they are coming up with a ”new plan for a better and quicker response to bioterrorism threats and attacks.” How about simply questioning a terrorist we’ve apprehended? (That’d be new.) The best “response” is not more emergency vehicles to tend to the sick and dying, but a no-nonsense approach that seeks to gather information to prevent the attacks from occurring. That is precisely the tactic of the Bush team, which was not on some bizarre lark when it determined that it was going to employ enhanced interrogation techniques on those who were seeking to kill Americans (in large numbers). Putting aside the techniques to be employed, the Obami, to the shock of the 9/11 commissioners and most of the country, have essentially thrown in the towel on eliciting information from any terrorist we capture on U.S. soil. We certainly do need a “new plan.”

Obama has insisted that in tossing aside Bush-era anti-terrorism policies, he was defending our “values” or that we somehow “lost our way” in the aftermath of 9/11. It is increasingly clear, as with so much other blather than comes from the White House, that it is this administration that’s lost. There is a bipartisan consensus emerging that the Obami have behaved irresponsibly and that there is no moral or constitutional imperative to Mirandize terrorists and allow them to clam up. It’s become obvious to all but the reality-insulated Left that the moral preening is no more than a smoke screen for an ill-conceived and poorly executed set of policies.

Given the lack of support for the current approach and the urging of figures like Kean and Hamilton to take a second look at the Obami’s assumption, it seems there is plenty for responsible lawmakers to do. Scott Brown seemed to have a handle on this when he said that “our Constitution and laws exist to protect this nation — they do not grant rights and privileges to enemies in wartime. In dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.” Perhaps he can reach across the aisle and induce some of his new colleagues, just as we are seeing on health care, to set aside the foolishness of Obama’s first year in favor of some responsible governance.

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NIAC’s PR Offensive

As the NIAC and Trita Parsi story unfolds in the wake of Eli Lake’s bombshell story, it is interesting to note just how it might be that many on the Left are simultaneously reaching the same conclusions (e.g., it’s all a neocon conspiracy, Parsi is besieged by an MEK agent).

On Parsi and NIAC’s side is Brown Lloyd James, a PR firm with much experience in this area. The firm’s website tells us: “Brown Lloyd James handled the international launch of Al Jazeera English.” And we also know from news reports that “Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm with offices in London and New York, has opened an office in Tripoli. It is reported to have placed articles by Colonel Gadaffi in American newspapers.” So they have the best of the best when it comes to representing these sorts of clients.

It should come as no surprise then that even before the Washington Times story was released, NIAC was laying the groundwork to scream foul. Back on November 3, Parsi sent out a fundraising letter, which tipped the hand on the upcoming defense and those who would be telling a sympathetic tale:

Dear NIAC Friend,

When we launched the Truth out 2010 Campaign two weeks ago, we never expected the overwhelming response we got. Our sincere thanks to all those who responded. Clearly, our many supporters are just as tired of the smear campaign against NIAC as we are.

One thing that those behind the smears seem to have in common is a belief that Iranian Americans shouldn’t have a say in America’s approach to Iran simply because they are Iranian Americans. Not only is this ridiculous and offensive, it has a racist undertone with innuendos of dual loyalty.

See for instance what ultra-conservative Martin Kramer said at an AIPAC conference in 2009. Kramer argued that Iranian Americans tend to still have family in Iran and are therefore easily intimidated into backing Tehran, saying: “[W]e have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian Diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran. Many of these communities desperately want access to their own country. And it dramatically tilts their analysis toward accommodation.”

There has been a flurry of articles by fair-minded American journalists in the media that defend NIAC, push back and do not allow these smears to go unanswered.  Just today, the Huffington Post published an article uncovering the true motives behind the smears — stating that they “were dishonest at best and defamatory at worst,” and “as NIAC’s voice grew louder in foreign policy circles, so too did the vehemence of its critics.”

Other influential journalists have also rejected the allegations against NIAC:

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic:

“The implication that [Trita Parsi] is somehow a tool of the regime is unfair, untrue and malicious.”

Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent:

“Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad.”

Matt Yglesias, Think Progress:

“What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran.”

Daniel Luban, The Faster Times:

“Why, then, is [Parsi] being attacked as a stooge for the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: while Parsi has harshly criticized the regime’s actions, he has joined Iran’s leading opposition figures in opposing the use of sanctions or military force against Iran, on the grounds that they would be likely simply to kill innocent Iranian civilians while strengthening the regime’s hold on power. For the Iran hawks, this is a mortal sin.” Read More

As the NIAC and Trita Parsi story unfolds in the wake of Eli Lake’s bombshell story, it is interesting to note just how it might be that many on the Left are simultaneously reaching the same conclusions (e.g., it’s all a neocon conspiracy, Parsi is besieged by an MEK agent).

On Parsi and NIAC’s side is Brown Lloyd James, a PR firm with much experience in this area. The firm’s website tells us: “Brown Lloyd James handled the international launch of Al Jazeera English.” And we also know from news reports that “Brown Lloyd James, a public relations firm with offices in London and New York, has opened an office in Tripoli. It is reported to have placed articles by Colonel Gadaffi in American newspapers.” So they have the best of the best when it comes to representing these sorts of clients.

It should come as no surprise then that even before the Washington Times story was released, NIAC was laying the groundwork to scream foul. Back on November 3, Parsi sent out a fundraising letter, which tipped the hand on the upcoming defense and those who would be telling a sympathetic tale:

Dear NIAC Friend,

When we launched the Truth out 2010 Campaign two weeks ago, we never expected the overwhelming response we got. Our sincere thanks to all those who responded. Clearly, our many supporters are just as tired of the smear campaign against NIAC as we are.

One thing that those behind the smears seem to have in common is a belief that Iranian Americans shouldn’t have a say in America’s approach to Iran simply because they are Iranian Americans. Not only is this ridiculous and offensive, it has a racist undertone with innuendos of dual loyalty.

See for instance what ultra-conservative Martin Kramer said at an AIPAC conference in 2009. Kramer argued that Iranian Americans tend to still have family in Iran and are therefore easily intimidated into backing Tehran, saying: “[W]e have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian Diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran. Many of these communities desperately want access to their own country. And it dramatically tilts their analysis toward accommodation.”

There has been a flurry of articles by fair-minded American journalists in the media that defend NIAC, push back and do not allow these smears to go unanswered.  Just today, the Huffington Post published an article uncovering the true motives behind the smears — stating that they “were dishonest at best and defamatory at worst,” and “as NIAC’s voice grew louder in foreign policy circles, so too did the vehemence of its critics.”

Other influential journalists have also rejected the allegations against NIAC:

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic:

“The implication that [Trita Parsi] is somehow a tool of the regime is unfair, untrue and malicious.”

Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent:

“Any American reporter who paid any attention to the U.S. debate over the Iranian election quoted Parsi and NIAC, constantly, denouncing Ahmadinejad.”

Matt Yglesias, Think Progress:

“What can be seen, right out in the open and on the record, is that NIAC has consistently criticized human rights abuses by the Iranian government and agitated for liberalization, fair elections, and decent treatment of the population of Iran.”

Daniel Luban, The Faster Times:

“Why, then, is [Parsi] being attacked as a stooge for the Iranian regime? The answer is simple: while Parsi has harshly criticized the regime’s actions, he has joined Iran’s leading opposition figures in opposing the use of sanctions or military force against Iran, on the grounds that they would be likely simply to kill innocent Iranian civilians while strengthening the regime’s hold on power. For the Iran hawks, this is a mortal sin.”

Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com calls NIAC’s attackers “neocon character assassins.”

As part of our Truth in 2010 Campaign, we are providing a Facts vs Myths section on our website. It’s a great resource to find out the truth about NIAC’s work. Make sure you study it and tell your friends — nothing is more effective in fighting smear than the truth!

Your loyalty and support is what has gotten our community this far — so, please don’t stop now. Please continue to support NIAC by donating $20.10 or more to the 2010 Campaign — and remember, all your donations are tax-deductible.

But don’t just donate. Make sure you email the Huffington Post article and this email to all your friends. Post it on your Facebook status. Tweet about it. And talk to your friends about the work NIAC is doing!

Momentum is building in our favor, but that doesn’t mean our work is over. We have to continue our offensive in order to meet our commitment to you of dispelling myths and falsehoods by 2010.

As always, thank you for your support. We look forward to sharing more good news with you in the near future!

Sincerely,

Trita Parsi, PhD

Weeks before the story actually broke, the  groundwork for the defense was being laid. And it is interesting that just after the story did break, Andrew Sullivan rushed forward with the very same “dual loyalty” argument. Luban stepped up to smear a Parsi critic as a terrorist. And so it went as some in the Left blogosphere struggled mightily to paint Parsi as the innocent victim and somehow the friend of the Greens (neatly sidestepping the conspiracy to defund the same). That sort of smooth-running rebuttal doesn’t just happen on its own, it is fair to conclude, and you can’t say Parsi and NIAC aren’t getting their money’s worth from their PR team

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How NIAC Lobbied Against Dennis Ross

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross's] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.
Read More

As revealed in Eli Lake’s bombshell story, the National Iranian-American Council has often acted as an advocate for the interests of the Iranian regime, especially in the early days of the Obama administration and before the Iranian election in June. As Lake documents, the leader of this “Iranian-American” organization, Trita Parsi, is not an American citizen. And the council, which claims to speak on behalf of the 1-million-strong Iranian-American community, has only a few thousand members.

It is also a 501(c)(3), which means that its mission and operation must be nonpartisan — no lobbying allowed. But as information obtained in the discovery phase of a lawsuit filed by NIAC against a critic shows, the organization has been deeply involved in political advocacy. What follows is but one example.

When it became clear in early January that President-elect Obama intended to pick Dennis Ross to oversee Iran policy at the State Department, NIAC sprung into action to scuttle the nomination.

In a Google group called the “New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee,” where several political allies of NIAC, including lobbying groups, participated, Patrick Disney, NIAC’s acting policy director, wrote that “I should be clear — I think we can still influence the [Ross] selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible.” He continued: “NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. … I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.”

This was followed by e-mail from Mike Amitay, who is a senior policy analyst at the Open Society Policy Center, a George Soros–funded 501(c)(4) — a lobby. Amitay agreed on the need for action against Ross and added that “a most troubling aspects [sic] of [Ross's] limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran.”

So, involvement in United Against a Nuclear Iran was a disqualification for the New Iran Policy Coordinating Committee. UANI’s goal is to “promote efforts that focus on vigorous national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures” in opposition to the Iranian nuclear program. Its leadership consists of a bipartisan cast of foreign-policy leaders — it is an utterly, even conspicuously, centrist organization. But for NIAC, even an organization that so much as expresses concern about the nuclear program is unacceptable.

This e-mail exchange shows not just the political radicalism of NIAC and its advocacy of Iranian-regime interests but also the way the organization skates blithely across some very thin ice. Here we have an employee of NIAC acting in his official capacity and using his NIAC e-mail address to help organize a campaign to undermine an Obama-administration nominee. NIAC claims, and its tax status requires, that it is not a lobby and spends zero percent of its time lobbying. Yet Disney is joined by Amitay, a lobbyist, in organizing what is clearly a lobbying campaign. Nowhere is there an attempt to distinguish between the activities of the two groups or to assume roles consistent with their legal statuses. In fact, just the opposite — it is Disney who seeks to spearhead the campaign.

And this comes in the context of a litany of other incriminating revelations — that Parsi set up meetings between U.S. congressmen and the Iranian ambassador to the UN, that members of NIAC attended meetings explicitly devoted to establishing lobbying agendas and tactics, and so on. And all this, it must be added, in order to help the Iranian regime get sanctions lifted and end American opposition to its nuclear ambitions.

Below the jump is a copy of the e-mail exchange in question.

—–Original Message—–
From: Mike Amitay [mailto:mamitay@osi-dc.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:35 PM
To: jparillo@psr.org; PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

Ross has not worked extensively on Iran, though his most recent employer WINEP, is a “think-tank” created by AIPAC leadership in the 1980s. As Jill points out, a most troubling aspects of his limited Iran-related resume is his role in crafting Bi-Partisan Policy Council report and prominence on Advisory Board of United Against a Nuclear Iran. (Holbrooke also serves on this body). UANI is a right-wing “pro-Israel” PR effort established to push a more militant US policy towards Iran. If in fact Ross appointment confirmed, I find this deeply troubling. One question to consider, however, is whether publicly objecting to Ross would damage our ability to work with him and others in USG in the future.

###########################################

Mike Amitay – Senior Policy Analyst
Middle East, North Africa and Central Eurasia
Open Society Institute / Open Society Policy Center
1120 19th Street, NW – 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20036
202-721-5625 (direct) 202-530-0138 (fax)
www.soros.org / www.opensocietypolicycenter.org

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Jill Parillo
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 2:03 PM
To: PDisney@niacouncil.org; new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

On Ross, I sent an email earlier, but I would like to add:
Engagement with Iran is aimed at reducing tension in US-Iranian relations, to avoid war and build confidence, so to get to a point where together we can develop common policies that will US and Iranian concerns.

If someone is sent to the talks (like when Burns was) who could increase tension, the policy of engagement as a solution to the Iran challenge will not be a success.
We should talk to those that know Ross well and his policies, and ability to negotiate in a peaceful fair manner.

In spending time as part of the Department of Disarmament Affairs and at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, I sat through several high level negotiations where country Ambassadors walked out of the room because of Bush Administration officials being very rude. The right person and the right policy are important.

We need to also pay attention to who the envoy will report to, in this case it is Clinton, not Obama.
I have never met Ross in person, so I will not judge if he is a good or bad pick. However, I can say I have concerns, since he signed onto the attached paper which says, “WE BELIEVE A MILITARY STRIKE IS A FEASIBLE OPTION…..the United States will need to augment its military presence in the region. This should commence the first day the new President enters office.” I am taking this out of context, so please look at this section for yourself, but in any case, it is concerning.

Best,

Jill

PS. I am off to speak in Italy until Jan 19-Pugwash Conference, so I may not be available for much of the next 10 days. Thanks

—–Original Message—–
From: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com [mailto:new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of pdisney@niacouncil.org
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 1:33 PM
To: new-iran-policy-coordinating-committee@googlegroups.com; IranPWG@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Response to Ross as Iran envoy

All,

As the rumors appear to be more substantiated by the hour, I think we should start a conversation about what our response will be if Dennis Ross is named Iran envoy.

I should be clear–I think we can still influence the selection by submitting our recommendation as soon as possible. However, if it does prove to be Ross, we have to make a choice as to how to respond.

NIAC is obviously still formulating a plan, but we’re exploring the idea of coming out publicly, and relatively strongly, against Ross. We would make it clear that we prefer to work with Obama, and that Ross does not align with Obama’s plan to change America’s approach. Obviously, there are pro’s and con’s to any strategy, but if it’s simply impossible for us to work with Ross, we should be in a position to say I told you so after he messes everything up. But I’d like to hear others’ thoughts.

Again, this is a brainstorm rather than a concrete plan. I’d like for all of us to coordinate our message as much as possible. So let’s discuss things now and get prepared before things move ahead.
Thanks very much.
-p

January 7, 2009, 10:21 AM
Obama
Picks Foreign Envoys

Posted by Michelle

Levi

Transition officials confirm to CBS News’ Marc Ambinder that President-elect Obama has asked Dennis Ross, Richard Haas, and Richard Holbrooke, to serve as his chief emissaries to world hot spots. Ross and Holbrooke both served in senior Clinton administration roles. Haas had senior posts in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2003 and in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

It’s expected that Ross will be assigned the Iran portfolio, that Holbrooke, the hard-headed architect of the Dayton Peace Accords, will take the difficult Southwest Asia portfolio, including India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Haas will deal with the Middle East.

Each men’s turf is still in flux, so these early assignments are not firm.
Read More Posts In Transition

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Defenders of NIAC

Since Eli Lake’s blockbuster story and the follow-up by Ben Smith – which revealed, among other things, that the NIAC has been seeking to dislodge Dennis Ross, working to defund Iranian democratic activists, misrepresenting itself as the broad-based representative of the American Iranian community, and actively lobbying the U.S. government without registering as a foreign agent — a curious phenomenon has occurred. The Left and those self-proclaimed non-Leftists who nevertheless uphold each and every one of the Left’s positions have come rushing to the defense of the NIAC and of the now embattled Trita Parsi (who turns out not to be an Iranian-American at all, although that’s been part of his spiel).

Weren’t these the folks painting their websites green and crying crocodile tears over the mullahs’ brutality? Why are they now in the business of flaking for the mullahs’ flak? Take one point: the accusation that the man being sued by the NIAC is a terrorist, Hassan Daioleslam. (The litigation has, it seems, provided the documents that now are the source of the NIAC scandal.) Daniel Luban breathlessly asserts: “Daioleslam is an unsavory character, said by multiple sources to be affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK, or MKO) — a terrorist group (classified as such by the State Department) with close ties to the Saddam Hussein regime.” Now that’s a serious charge. Where is the proof that this man is a terrorist, and who are these multiple sources? Did Luban check with Daioleslam, as Eli Lake meticulously checked with each source in his account? Or is this another element in the Leftist smear-fest? And the “our critics are MEK terrorists” line is, surprise, surprise, right out of the NIAC playbook.

But because the story involved no gynecological intrigue, Andrew Sullivan — who surely seemed to be on the side of the democracy protesters whom Parsi conspired to defund — decided that there was no story there at all. And he seems to be very, very confused regarding who’s on the side of the Greens here (“Smearing the non-neocon Green opposition as essentially pro-Khamenei solidifies the neoconservative war project.”) Uh, actually it is Parsi and his J Street friends who were in the business of fending off opposition to the Iranian regime and depriving the Greens and democracy organizations of funds and support. He really thinks the Green movement and its American supporters look upon Parsi as their ally? (As Lake details, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian filmmaker and defender of the Green Movement abroad, explained: “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”) Well, if Sullivan can get to the bottom of Sarah Palin’s faked pregnancy, then anything is possible, I suppose.

This hue and cry, the mimicking of the NIAC line, and the utter absence of facts to rebut Lake’s account suggest that the name of the game here is distraction. For after all, what can they say — that Parsi really represents the American-Iranian community? Well, 2,500-3,000 members isn’t much. That he’s not been pushing the mullahs’ line to further their uranium-enrichment ambitions? But he has, as he assures us:

The current nuclear impasse is partly rooted in the questionable assumption that zero enrichment is the only route to avoid an Iranian bomb. While the optimal situation is one in which Iran does not enrich, this goal is no longer possible. . . But that does not mean that a small-scale Iranian enrichment program is tantamount to a nuclear bomb. According to nuclear experts like Bruno Pellaud, former deputy director general and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Department of Safeguards, intrusive inspections is the best tool to ensure that Iran doesn’t divert its civilian program into a military one. Yet these inspections can only take place as part of a package deal with Iran that includes some level of enrichment. This makes reassessment of the zero-enrichment objective all the more important.

At some point the NIAC, Parsi, and those who consorted with them to influence U.S. policy, to oust Dennis Ross, to cut off funds to the democracy dissidents, and to push the mullahs’ propaganda line will have to face tough questions. And so will those who went out on a limb to defend them with nothing more than smears against those who exposed them.

UPDATE: Beyond whether the NIAC registered as a foreign agent is the more glaring issue as to why the group and its officials were not not registered as lobbyists. As Ben Smith wrote, the documents that have come to light “bolster the notion that the group works to change U.S. policy, part of the definition of lobbying.”

Since Eli Lake’s blockbuster story and the follow-up by Ben Smith – which revealed, among other things, that the NIAC has been seeking to dislodge Dennis Ross, working to defund Iranian democratic activists, misrepresenting itself as the broad-based representative of the American Iranian community, and actively lobbying the U.S. government without registering as a foreign agent — a curious phenomenon has occurred. The Left and those self-proclaimed non-Leftists who nevertheless uphold each and every one of the Left’s positions have come rushing to the defense of the NIAC and of the now embattled Trita Parsi (who turns out not to be an Iranian-American at all, although that’s been part of his spiel).

Weren’t these the folks painting their websites green and crying crocodile tears over the mullahs’ brutality? Why are they now in the business of flaking for the mullahs’ flak? Take one point: the accusation that the man being sued by the NIAC is a terrorist, Hassan Daioleslam. (The litigation has, it seems, provided the documents that now are the source of the NIAC scandal.) Daniel Luban breathlessly asserts: “Daioleslam is an unsavory character, said by multiple sources to be affiliated with the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK, or MKO) — a terrorist group (classified as such by the State Department) with close ties to the Saddam Hussein regime.” Now that’s a serious charge. Where is the proof that this man is a terrorist, and who are these multiple sources? Did Luban check with Daioleslam, as Eli Lake meticulously checked with each source in his account? Or is this another element in the Leftist smear-fest? And the “our critics are MEK terrorists” line is, surprise, surprise, right out of the NIAC playbook.

But because the story involved no gynecological intrigue, Andrew Sullivan — who surely seemed to be on the side of the democracy protesters whom Parsi conspired to defund — decided that there was no story there at all. And he seems to be very, very confused regarding who’s on the side of the Greens here (“Smearing the non-neocon Green opposition as essentially pro-Khamenei solidifies the neoconservative war project.”) Uh, actually it is Parsi and his J Street friends who were in the business of fending off opposition to the Iranian regime and depriving the Greens and democracy organizations of funds and support. He really thinks the Green movement and its American supporters look upon Parsi as their ally? (As Lake details, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the Iranian filmmaker and defender of the Green Movement abroad, explained: “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”) Well, if Sullivan can get to the bottom of Sarah Palin’s faked pregnancy, then anything is possible, I suppose.

This hue and cry, the mimicking of the NIAC line, and the utter absence of facts to rebut Lake’s account suggest that the name of the game here is distraction. For after all, what can they say — that Parsi really represents the American-Iranian community? Well, 2,500-3,000 members isn’t much. That he’s not been pushing the mullahs’ line to further their uranium-enrichment ambitions? But he has, as he assures us:

The current nuclear impasse is partly rooted in the questionable assumption that zero enrichment is the only route to avoid an Iranian bomb. While the optimal situation is one in which Iran does not enrich, this goal is no longer possible. . . But that does not mean that a small-scale Iranian enrichment program is tantamount to a nuclear bomb. According to nuclear experts like Bruno Pellaud, former deputy director general and head of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Department of Safeguards, intrusive inspections is the best tool to ensure that Iran doesn’t divert its civilian program into a military one. Yet these inspections can only take place as part of a package deal with Iran that includes some level of enrichment. This makes reassessment of the zero-enrichment objective all the more important.

At some point the NIAC, Parsi, and those who consorted with them to influence U.S. policy, to oust Dennis Ross, to cut off funds to the democracy dissidents, and to push the mullahs’ propaganda line will have to face tough questions. And so will those who went out on a limb to defend them with nothing more than smears against those who exposed them.

UPDATE: Beyond whether the NIAC registered as a foreign agent is the more glaring issue as to why the group and its officials were not not registered as lobbyists. As Ben Smith wrote, the documents that have come to light “bolster the notion that the group works to change U.S. policy, part of the definition of lobbying.”

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Eli Lake on NIAC

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America – or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does ”a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, ”I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America – or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does ”a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, ”I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

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Nothing to See Here

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

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The “Hands off Syria” Crowd

Steve Clemons, stalwart of the liberal foreign-policy establishment, picked the wrong day to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad — as it was the same day that Hezbollah fighters buried Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus. Clemons applauded Syria for cracking down on terrorism and attacked the Bush administration for introducing a new round of financial sanctions against Syrian government figures. Syria, he says, should instead be thanked for its sheltering 1.2 million Iraqi refugees (many of whom are returning to Iraq, by the way), and rewarded for being such a good international citizen.

Let’s parse this short excerpt:

Syria must be a party to any arrangement with the broader Arab world — and thus far, Syria has been on the whole reasonably behaved with regard to Israel. When Israel attacked some warehouses that Seymour Hersh argues were not nuclear weapons related, Syria restrained itself from attacking back and did not unleash agents into Israel to create domestic strife.

“Reasonably behaved with regard to Israel?” You’ve got to love how Clemons uses the construction “Seymour Hersh argues” as if it were de facto proof of the charge’s veracity. He then goes onto applaud Syria for its “restrained” response to Israel’s attack last year on suspected nuclear facilities, as the Baathists in Damascus held back from causing “domestic strife” in Israel, a terrific euphemism for terrorism  I’ll remember the next time my younger brother and I get into a fight about playing X-Box or something. When Hezbollah inevitably retaliates for the murder of Mughniyeh at an El-Al airport counter or Jewish Community Center, perhaps Clemons will wag his finger at Syria for its “bad behavior.”

In the comments to Clemons’s piece, Eli Lake of the New York Sun takes issue with Clemons’s use of the word “strangle” to describe U.S. sanctions, since, as he says,  Syrian “top regime apparats…themselves ‘strangle,’ I don’t know, Kurdish opposition figures, liberal newspaper editors, and anyone suspected of disloyalty in their police state.”

Steve Clemons, stalwart of the liberal foreign-policy establishment, picked the wrong day to defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad — as it was the same day that Hezbollah fighters buried Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus. Clemons applauded Syria for cracking down on terrorism and attacked the Bush administration for introducing a new round of financial sanctions against Syrian government figures. Syria, he says, should instead be thanked for its sheltering 1.2 million Iraqi refugees (many of whom are returning to Iraq, by the way), and rewarded for being such a good international citizen.

Let’s parse this short excerpt:

Syria must be a party to any arrangement with the broader Arab world — and thus far, Syria has been on the whole reasonably behaved with regard to Israel. When Israel attacked some warehouses that Seymour Hersh argues were not nuclear weapons related, Syria restrained itself from attacking back and did not unleash agents into Israel to create domestic strife.

“Reasonably behaved with regard to Israel?” You’ve got to love how Clemons uses the construction “Seymour Hersh argues” as if it were de facto proof of the charge’s veracity. He then goes onto applaud Syria for its “restrained” response to Israel’s attack last year on suspected nuclear facilities, as the Baathists in Damascus held back from causing “domestic strife” in Israel, a terrific euphemism for terrorism  I’ll remember the next time my younger brother and I get into a fight about playing X-Box or something. When Hezbollah inevitably retaliates for the murder of Mughniyeh at an El-Al airport counter or Jewish Community Center, perhaps Clemons will wag his finger at Syria for its “bad behavior.”

In the comments to Clemons’s piece, Eli Lake of the New York Sun takes issue with Clemons’s use of the word “strangle” to describe U.S. sanctions, since, as he says,  Syrian “top regime apparats…themselves ‘strangle,’ I don’t know, Kurdish opposition figures, liberal newspaper editors, and anyone suspected of disloyalty in their police state.”

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Rudy’s Bank Shot

As mayor, Rudy Giuliani endeared himself to conservatives around the country, as much for his enemies as for his accomplishments. When Giuliani attacked big-spending, culturally elitist, Al Sharpton-allied Democrats, he scored big with hordes of GOP primary voters. Now, in defending General David Petraeus, he is using the same tactic against the McCarthy-like attacks of the Moveon.orgers, widely loathed by conservatives and disdained by moderates. But in attacking Senator Clinton—the likely Democratic nominee—for refusing to disavow Moveon.org, Giuliani has also pulled off a two-cushion bank shot for both himself and the leading Democrat.

His criticisms not only allow Giuliani to define himself, once again, by who his enemies are: it does the same for Hillary. The ranters on DailyKos and the Moveon.orgers have, as Matt Bai’s recent book The Argument points out, little in the way of a positive agenda. Like the Islamists they try so hard to ignore, their strongest suit is unyielding hostility. And Clinton has long been one of the objects of their hostility: they despise her for her middle-of-the-road position on Iraq and for the moderate politics of her husband’s presidency.

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As mayor, Rudy Giuliani endeared himself to conservatives around the country, as much for his enemies as for his accomplishments. When Giuliani attacked big-spending, culturally elitist, Al Sharpton-allied Democrats, he scored big with hordes of GOP primary voters. Now, in defending General David Petraeus, he is using the same tactic against the McCarthy-like attacks of the Moveon.orgers, widely loathed by conservatives and disdained by moderates. But in attacking Senator Clinton—the likely Democratic nominee—for refusing to disavow Moveon.org, Giuliani has also pulled off a two-cushion bank shot for both himself and the leading Democrat.

His criticisms not only allow Giuliani to define himself, once again, by who his enemies are: it does the same for Hillary. The ranters on DailyKos and the Moveon.orgers have, as Matt Bai’s recent book The Argument points out, little in the way of a positive agenda. Like the Islamists they try so hard to ignore, their strongest suit is unyielding hostility. And Clinton has long been one of the objects of their hostility: they despise her for her middle-of-the-road position on Iraq and for the moderate politics of her husband’s presidency.

Giuliani has, essentially, recreated the dynamic of the 1990’s, the dynamic that made Hillary a darling of the Left even as she disavowed some of its policies. Then, the Clintons fought Newt Gingrich and Ken Starr and the GOP’s foolish attempts to impeach Bill, forcing left-wing Democrats to come to their defense. Now, Giuliani, by attacking Hillary as anti-military, has given her ammunition against critics and candidates to her left. As Eli Lake points out in the New York Sun:

For a Democratic candidate who not only voted to authorize the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but scolded the earnest protesters at Code Pink when they questioned her vote, what could be better than having a pro-victory Republican say she was too tough on the military?

Lake describes the dynamic set in motion by the two as a process of “Mutually Assured Nomination.”

All of this, it should be noted, eludes New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. For her, Giuliani’s ad against Hillary places him in the same category as Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards in their criticism of the former first lady. She accuses him of ignoring

her attempts to be New Hillary, a senator who loves men in uniform, who is not afraid to use military power, and who is tough enough to deal with bin Laden. He recasts her as Old Hillary, a Code Pink pinko first lady and opportunist from a White House that had a reputation for having a flower-child distaste for the military . . . .

Maybe. But what could be better at the moment for Hillary’s candidacy than having more firepower to fend off challenges coming entirely from her left?

Giuliani and Clinton are leading their respective packs because in the wake of the many failings of the Bush presidency, they are the most competent, most experienced candidates of their respective parties. Each will campaign as the only real alternative to the other—and each will be right. It’s a mutually beneficial antagonism.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, The NIE

As usual, there has been considerable fanfare leading up to the release of the new National Intelligence Estimate on “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” (Or, to be more exact, the release of the NIE summary—the full text remains classified.) Early commentary suggested that this NIE—a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—had determined that al Qaeda was just as potent today as it had been on 9/11, and that therefore President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies have been a dismal failure. The actual text is more nuanced, providing ammunition for both the President and his critics.

Read More

As usual, there has been considerable fanfare leading up to the release of the new National Intelligence Estimate on “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland.” (Or, to be more exact, the release of the NIE summary—the full text remains classified.) Early commentary suggested that this NIE—a consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community—had determined that al Qaeda was just as potent today as it had been on 9/11, and that therefore President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies have been a dismal failure. The actual text is more nuanced, providing ammunition for both the President and his critics.

The summary begins with a nod to administration achievements:

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11.

It goes on to say that al Qaeda remains active in planning to attack the U.S., and that “[a]s a result, we judge that the United States currently is in a heightened threat environment.” It lists several causes for concern:

We assess that the spread of radical—especially Salafi—Internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti-US rhetoric and actions, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West’s Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States.

None of this is particularly new or surprising. And although it could be used by Democrats as evidence that Bush isn’t doing enough to win the war on terrorism, it also helps Republicans who argue, against Democrats like John Edwards, that there really is a war on terrorism.

The NIE’s take on Iraq also cuts both ways:

Of note, we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

So much for last Friday’s front-page New York Times story, whose headline claimed “Bush Distorts Qaeda Links.” (The argument being that the President doesn’t acknowledge the differences between al Qaeda in Iraq and the main al Qaeda group.) It turns out, as the NIE notes, that the two are closely linked. To be sure, the fact that Iraq has become a staging ground for such an active al Qaeda franchise is an indictment of U.S. policy to date; if Bush hadn’t muffed the post-invasion phase of operations, this might not have happened. But it has happened, and the NIE finding strengthens the case for remaining in Iraq to fight the terrorists.

In another area the NIE delivers a more scathing (if implicit) indictment of Bush policy:

We assess the group [al Qaeda] has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe-haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.

This shows the bankruptcy of our policy of supporting unreservedly Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship, aimed at increasing Pakistani efforts against extremists. While there have been such efforts, they have been insufficient to prevent al Qaeda from establishing a “safe haven” in Pakistan. The intelligence community would not admit this lightly, as it is sure to aggravate Islamabad.

Eli Lake reports this morning in the New York Sun that another, classified section of the NIE locates an al Qaeda safe haven in eastern Iran. This shows the need for a revised policy not only toward Pakistan, but also toward Iran. The Bush administration has done poorly on both fronts. But there is scant cause to think that a Democrat would have done any better. We know, in fact, that the Clinton administration didn’t have any more success in dealing with these breeding grounds of terrorism.

While not particularly revelatory, the NIE performs a valuable service by calling attention to the threat we still face from Islamist terrorists—something that many complacent Americans have been losing sight of in recent years.

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