Commentary Magazine


Topic: Green

Morning Commentary

President Obama’s decision to tap former banker William Daley as his next chief of staff is angering all the right people: “This was a real mistake by the White House,” [Adam] Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.” Other liberals grumbling over the president’s choice are Jane Hamsher, Ezra Klein, and MoveOn.org’s executive director, Justin Rubin.

The filibuster rule changes wouldn’t just weaken the minority party by lowering the vote threshold. According to Ramesh Ponnuru, the alterations would also weaken the minority by handing the majority more control over the Senate calendar — a major source of power in the chamber.

Could the anti-Israel delegitimization activities on college campuses have a long-term impact on America’s relationship with Israel? While most students are opposed to the delegitimization campaign, the David Project’s David Bernstein is concerned that it may prompt students to become less supportive of the Jewish state: “While young people and particularly mainstream Democrats exposed to hostility on campus may not now or ever join the movement to boycott Israel, over time they may feel less sympathetic toward the Jewish state and more ambivalent about the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. When these young leaders become the next generation of Democratic Party representatives, it may become much tougher to garner those large bipartisan majorities.”

Michael Moynihan discusses how significantly the fight for free speech has changed since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses elicited calls for his death from the Ayatollah: “In 1989, when Iran’s theocracy suborned the murder of novelist Salman Rushdie for having written a supposedly blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses, only a handful of intellectuals, habitués of both left and right, attacked the author for being impolite to ‘a billion’ religious adherents. Author Roald Dahl whimpered that ‘In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.’ Twenty years ago this was a shockingly contrarian sentiment, today it’s depressingly de rigueur.

Supporters of the man who assassinated Salman Taseer cheered him as he was transferred inside a courthouse on Thursday. The traitorous bodyguard has been hailed as a hero by many across the Muslim world, including a group of 500 Islamic scholars: “For a second day, sympathizers showed their support for Mumtaz Qadri by chanting slogans, with some throwing rose petals when police finally brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi. Authorities had tried to bring Qadri to the court from the nearby capital of Islamabad earlier Thursday, but sympathizers prevented his transfer.”

President Obama’s decision to tap former banker William Daley as his next chief of staff is angering all the right people: “This was a real mistake by the White House,” [Adam] Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.” Other liberals grumbling over the president’s choice are Jane Hamsher, Ezra Klein, and MoveOn.org’s executive director, Justin Rubin.

The filibuster rule changes wouldn’t just weaken the minority party by lowering the vote threshold. According to Ramesh Ponnuru, the alterations would also weaken the minority by handing the majority more control over the Senate calendar — a major source of power in the chamber.

Could the anti-Israel delegitimization activities on college campuses have a long-term impact on America’s relationship with Israel? While most students are opposed to the delegitimization campaign, the David Project’s David Bernstein is concerned that it may prompt students to become less supportive of the Jewish state: “While young people and particularly mainstream Democrats exposed to hostility on campus may not now or ever join the movement to boycott Israel, over time they may feel less sympathetic toward the Jewish state and more ambivalent about the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. When these young leaders become the next generation of Democratic Party representatives, it may become much tougher to garner those large bipartisan majorities.”

Michael Moynihan discusses how significantly the fight for free speech has changed since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses elicited calls for his death from the Ayatollah: “In 1989, when Iran’s theocracy suborned the murder of novelist Salman Rushdie for having written a supposedly blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses, only a handful of intellectuals, habitués of both left and right, attacked the author for being impolite to ‘a billion’ religious adherents. Author Roald Dahl whimpered that ‘In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.’ Twenty years ago this was a shockingly contrarian sentiment, today it’s depressingly de rigueur.

Supporters of the man who assassinated Salman Taseer cheered him as he was transferred inside a courthouse on Thursday. The traitorous bodyguard has been hailed as a hero by many across the Muslim world, including a group of 500 Islamic scholars: “For a second day, sympathizers showed their support for Mumtaz Qadri by chanting slogans, with some throwing rose petals when police finally brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi. Authorities had tried to bring Qadri to the court from the nearby capital of Islamabad earlier Thursday, but sympathizers prevented his transfer.”

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Another Consequence of Obama’s Failed Middle East Policy

While obsessing over a peace process with a zero chance of success, Obama has turned a blind eye to the real dangers in the region. As this report explains, Iran’s influence is steadily increasing in Lebanon:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that Lebanon was turning into an “extension of the ayatollah regime in Iran.”

Netanyahu made his remarks hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concluded a visit to Israel’s northern neighbor, focusing his trip on the Hezbollah strongholds south of Beirut.

“This is a tragedy for Lebanon, but Israel knows how to defend itself,” Netanyahu said in a private meeting.

There are lots of tragedies in the Middle East — the suppression of the Green movement, the oppression of democracy protesters in Egypt, our inability and unwillingness to check the influence of even a non-nuclear Iran, and the fraying of the U.S.-Israel alliance, which is and must be the cornerstone for stability and peace in the region.

Here is a test for Obama’s foreign policy: is there a single country or group in the Middle East with which we have improved relations in the past 18 months? Iran, Syria, and Turkey regard us with contempt, continuing to provoke and drawing no response. The Israelis distrust Obama. The moderate Arab states are nervous that the U.S. is going to allow Iran to get the bomb. The Palestinians are disappointed that Obama has not served up Israel on a platter. Human rights activists bemoan the lack of meaningful action by the U.S. All in all, we’ve significantly diminished our ability to restrain aggression and bolster allies. It is a recipe for chaos. And it is the inevitable result of Obama’s diplomatic malpractice.

While obsessing over a peace process with a zero chance of success, Obama has turned a blind eye to the real dangers in the region. As this report explains, Iran’s influence is steadily increasing in Lebanon:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Thursday that Lebanon was turning into an “extension of the ayatollah regime in Iran.”

Netanyahu made his remarks hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concluded a visit to Israel’s northern neighbor, focusing his trip on the Hezbollah strongholds south of Beirut.

“This is a tragedy for Lebanon, but Israel knows how to defend itself,” Netanyahu said in a private meeting.

There are lots of tragedies in the Middle East — the suppression of the Green movement, the oppression of democracy protesters in Egypt, our inability and unwillingness to check the influence of even a non-nuclear Iran, and the fraying of the U.S.-Israel alliance, which is and must be the cornerstone for stability and peace in the region.

Here is a test for Obama’s foreign policy: is there a single country or group in the Middle East with which we have improved relations in the past 18 months? Iran, Syria, and Turkey regard us with contempt, continuing to provoke and drawing no response. The Israelis distrust Obama. The moderate Arab states are nervous that the U.S. is going to allow Iran to get the bomb. The Palestinians are disappointed that Obama has not served up Israel on a platter. Human rights activists bemoan the lack of meaningful action by the U.S. All in all, we’ve significantly diminished our ability to restrain aggression and bolster allies. It is a recipe for chaos. And it is the inevitable result of Obama’s diplomatic malpractice.

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The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

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Does the Administration Mean What It Now Says About Human Rights?

Obama and his secretary of state are making some effort to step up — or start, some would say — support for human rights. Obama spoke on the topic at the UN. Albeit too little and too late, the administration is taking action against Iranian human rights abuses:

Citing “mounting evidence” of repression of the Iranian opposition, the Obama administration added more sanctions against Iranian government officials, members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and others accused by the United States of being responsible for human rights abuses.

The sanctions, announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, block the assets of, and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in any business with, those on the list, which includes the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the country’s prosecutor general, and the ministers of welfare and intelligence.

There’s less here than meets the eye, however. As the Washington Post editors note, ” The high-profile announcement could give important encouragement to Iran’s opposition. But it’s worth noting that the sanctions themselves were recently mandated by Congress.” Oh. And why haven’t we committed ourselves to full support for the Green movement?

The real proof of the Obama administration’s devotion to democracy promotion will come with clear and decisive action. When do we adopt regime change as our official policy? When do we call it quits and pull the financial plug on the UNHRC? These would demonstrate actual, rather than rhetorical, support for human rights.

The Post editors observe that there’s another opportunity to prove the administration’s bona fides on human rights. Why not take action against the repressive Mubarak government, which is in the process of rigging another election?

[A] resolution authored by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) has won broad and bipartisan support. The resolution urges Mr. Mubarak’s regime “to take all steps necessary to ensure that upcoming elections are free, fair, transparent and credible, including granting independent international and domestic electoral observers unrestricted access.” …

After the president’s last meeting with Mr. Mubarak this month, a White House summary said Mr. Obama had referred to the need for “credible and transparent elections in Egypt.” The question is whether the administration is willing to take action in support of its words. So far, it has offered no indication that Mr. Mubarak’s failure to accept election observers will result in any consequence for a country that receives $1.5 billion annually in American aid. Nor has the White House offered support for the Senate resolution, in public or in private. It could, at least, do that.

Let’s see what the Obama administration does. Frankly, the president’s words don’t carry all that much credibility these days.

Obama and his secretary of state are making some effort to step up — or start, some would say — support for human rights. Obama spoke on the topic at the UN. Albeit too little and too late, the administration is taking action against Iranian human rights abuses:

Citing “mounting evidence” of repression of the Iranian opposition, the Obama administration added more sanctions against Iranian government officials, members of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and others accused by the United States of being responsible for human rights abuses.

The sanctions, announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, block the assets of, and prohibit U.S. citizens from engaging in any business with, those on the list, which includes the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the country’s prosecutor general, and the ministers of welfare and intelligence.

There’s less here than meets the eye, however. As the Washington Post editors note, ” The high-profile announcement could give important encouragement to Iran’s opposition. But it’s worth noting that the sanctions themselves were recently mandated by Congress.” Oh. And why haven’t we committed ourselves to full support for the Green movement?

The real proof of the Obama administration’s devotion to democracy promotion will come with clear and decisive action. When do we adopt regime change as our official policy? When do we call it quits and pull the financial plug on the UNHRC? These would demonstrate actual, rather than rhetorical, support for human rights.

The Post editors observe that there’s another opportunity to prove the administration’s bona fides on human rights. Why not take action against the repressive Mubarak government, which is in the process of rigging another election?

[A] resolution authored by Sens. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) has won broad and bipartisan support. The resolution urges Mr. Mubarak’s regime “to take all steps necessary to ensure that upcoming elections are free, fair, transparent and credible, including granting independent international and domestic electoral observers unrestricted access.” …

After the president’s last meeting with Mr. Mubarak this month, a White House summary said Mr. Obama had referred to the need for “credible and transparent elections in Egypt.” The question is whether the administration is willing to take action in support of its words. So far, it has offered no indication that Mr. Mubarak’s failure to accept election observers will result in any consequence for a country that receives $1.5 billion annually in American aid. Nor has the White House offered support for the Senate resolution, in public or in private. It could, at least, do that.

Let’s see what the Obama administration does. Frankly, the president’s words don’t carry all that much credibility these days.

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What Bushehr Tells Us

Jamie Fly has an important analysis of the Bushehr reactor. He contends that the reactor in and of itself is less important (“The real key to Iran’s nuclear program lies at its facilities at Natanz, Esfahan, at the factories where its centrifuges are being built, and the labs and campuses of its nuclear scientists”) than what it tells us about the general state of our Iran policy:

First, it serves as another reminder of the bipartisan failure of U.S. Iran policy. The Iran saga is not solely about failed engagement by President Obama. The Bush administration tried various tactics with Iran and also failed to halt its progress toward a nuclear capability. A serious exploration of new options, including the military option, is thus in order if the United States remains unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran. …

Second, the actual startup of Bushehr says something about Russia’s perceptions of the Iranian threat. . .Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration “consented in recent months to Russia pushing forward with Bushehr in order to gain Moscow’s support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran, which passed in June.” That adds Bushehr to a long list of concessions granted by this administration to Moscow as part of its “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. . .

Finally, the brouhaha over Bushehr obscures the real troubling aspect of the current crisis — the ongoing nuclear weapons program’s timeline.

As to the timeline, Obama’s Gray Lady PR gambit to dissuade Israel from acting unilaterally highlights the difficulty, as Fly puts it, in determining “how close Iran should be allowed to get to a nuclear capability before military action is taken to stop the program.” Fly echoes former CIA director Michael Hayden’s worry that Iran may “loiter at the nuclear threshold and not make the decision to immediately build a weapon, knowing that it would be a green light for preemptive action. If it chooses this route, Iran could keep Western intelligence agencies guessing for years, trying to discern whether the ‘go’ order had actually been given by the Supreme Leader.”

In sum, Bushehr illuminates the faulty judgment and flawed assumptions that undergird Obama’s foreign policy. It turns out that sanctions are too late in coming and totally ineffective, that the Russians can’t be enlisted to disarm Iran, that “reset” is nothing more than frantic appeasement, that Iran isn’t more “isolated” thanks to the Obami’s policy, that time is on the mullah’s side (Obama squandered a critical 18 months on engagement/scrawny sanctions), and that it wasn’t so smart to put the mullahs at ease about the prospects for U.S. military action.

We can’t get the 18 months back. We can’t reset the calendar to June 12 and lend critical, timely aid to the Green movement. But we can prepare, threaten, and, if need be, conduct a military action that would rescue Obama’s credibility, maintain America’s superpower status, prevent an existential danger to Israel, remove a threat to the American homeland and to our allies, and disrupt  Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and growing alliances in the region. Or we could sit idly by as the worst national security disaster in our lifetime plays out before our eyes. We should pray that Obama – for good reasons or not – chooses action rather than passivity.

Jamie Fly has an important analysis of the Bushehr reactor. He contends that the reactor in and of itself is less important (“The real key to Iran’s nuclear program lies at its facilities at Natanz, Esfahan, at the factories where its centrifuges are being built, and the labs and campuses of its nuclear scientists”) than what it tells us about the general state of our Iran policy:

First, it serves as another reminder of the bipartisan failure of U.S. Iran policy. The Iran saga is not solely about failed engagement by President Obama. The Bush administration tried various tactics with Iran and also failed to halt its progress toward a nuclear capability. A serious exploration of new options, including the military option, is thus in order if the United States remains unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran. …

Second, the actual startup of Bushehr says something about Russia’s perceptions of the Iranian threat. . .Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal reported that the administration “consented in recent months to Russia pushing forward with Bushehr in order to gain Moscow’s support for a fourth round of United Nations sanctions against Iran, which passed in June.” That adds Bushehr to a long list of concessions granted by this administration to Moscow as part of its “reset” of U.S.-Russian relations. . .

Finally, the brouhaha over Bushehr obscures the real troubling aspect of the current crisis — the ongoing nuclear weapons program’s timeline.

As to the timeline, Obama’s Gray Lady PR gambit to dissuade Israel from acting unilaterally highlights the difficulty, as Fly puts it, in determining “how close Iran should be allowed to get to a nuclear capability before military action is taken to stop the program.” Fly echoes former CIA director Michael Hayden’s worry that Iran may “loiter at the nuclear threshold and not make the decision to immediately build a weapon, knowing that it would be a green light for preemptive action. If it chooses this route, Iran could keep Western intelligence agencies guessing for years, trying to discern whether the ‘go’ order had actually been given by the Supreme Leader.”

In sum, Bushehr illuminates the faulty judgment and flawed assumptions that undergird Obama’s foreign policy. It turns out that sanctions are too late in coming and totally ineffective, that the Russians can’t be enlisted to disarm Iran, that “reset” is nothing more than frantic appeasement, that Iran isn’t more “isolated” thanks to the Obami’s policy, that time is on the mullah’s side (Obama squandered a critical 18 months on engagement/scrawny sanctions), and that it wasn’t so smart to put the mullahs at ease about the prospects for U.S. military action.

We can’t get the 18 months back. We can’t reset the calendar to June 12 and lend critical, timely aid to the Green movement. But we can prepare, threaten, and, if need be, conduct a military action that would rescue Obama’s credibility, maintain America’s superpower status, prevent an existential danger to Israel, remove a threat to the American homeland and to our allies, and disrupt  Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and growing alliances in the region. Or we could sit idly by as the worst national security disaster in our lifetime plays out before our eyes. We should pray that Obama – for good reasons or not – chooses action rather than passivity.

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Time to Focus on What Matters

John Bolton has his eye on the ball and some practical advice for those who perceive that Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is a failure:

As Tehran and Pyongyang can plainly see, President Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is intellectually and politically exhausted. But U.S. exhaustion will not lead to stasis. North Korea and Iran will continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs in the face of our feeble policy.

What can be done? Bolton suggests that lawmakers and opinion makers “must demand increased intelligence collection on the North Korea-Iran connection. Where possible without compromising sources and methods, this information should be disseminated to increase public awareness.” Perhaps even more important, Bolton recommends:

Slowly, but now with increasing certainty, analysts have come to understand that Iran is going to become a nuclear-weapons state sooner rather than later. Arab states have understood this for some time and have hoped for a pre-emptive U.S. strike. But that will not happen under Mr. Obama absent a Damascene conversion in the Oval Office.

What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran’s Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets. Congress can make it clear, for example, that it would support immediate resupply and rearming to make up for Israeli losses in the event of such an attack. Having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.

What is remarkable is that virtually no lawmaker or Jewish organization to date has done this — not remotely. They have, by and large, marched in lockstep with the administration, holding out hope in the face of abundant contrary evidence that engagement and then sanctions were serious attempts to dismantle the nuclear program, and if push came to shove that “all options would be on the table.” But engagement was a failure, Obama missed an opportunity to back the Green movement, sanctions are too little, too late, and Obama shows no interest in the use of military force.

It would be tragic if Obama abdicated his role as leader of the Free World to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans. The blow to American stature and credibility after the “unacceptable” was allowed to happen on his watch would be immense. But it would be catastrophic if Obama hindered Israel in the event the Jewish state acted in its own defense. Israel’s friends should begin now, not a month or a year from now, to make clear to the White House that Obama will find no support in Congress, among American Jewry, and in the entire country (which remains pro-Israel) for anything less than unqualified and unconditional support for Israel should force be required.

The Jewish community has gotten distracted by the “peace process.” It’s not only futile — it’s a dangerous sideshow that has allowed the administration to escape criticism for an entirely ineffective Iran policy. What matters now — and should be fully debated in the election — is what America will do to defuse the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state. Yes, it is an emergency.

John Bolton has his eye on the ball and some practical advice for those who perceive that Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is a failure:

As Tehran and Pyongyang can plainly see, President Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is intellectually and politically exhausted. But U.S. exhaustion will not lead to stasis. North Korea and Iran will continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs in the face of our feeble policy.

What can be done? Bolton suggests that lawmakers and opinion makers “must demand increased intelligence collection on the North Korea-Iran connection. Where possible without compromising sources and methods, this information should be disseminated to increase public awareness.” Perhaps even more important, Bolton recommends:

Slowly, but now with increasing certainty, analysts have come to understand that Iran is going to become a nuclear-weapons state sooner rather than later. Arab states have understood this for some time and have hoped for a pre-emptive U.S. strike. But that will not happen under Mr. Obama absent a Damascene conversion in the Oval Office.

What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran’s Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets. Congress can make it clear, for example, that it would support immediate resupply and rearming to make up for Israeli losses in the event of such an attack. Having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.

What is remarkable is that virtually no lawmaker or Jewish organization to date has done this — not remotely. They have, by and large, marched in lockstep with the administration, holding out hope in the face of abundant contrary evidence that engagement and then sanctions were serious attempts to dismantle the nuclear program, and if push came to shove that “all options would be on the table.” But engagement was a failure, Obama missed an opportunity to back the Green movement, sanctions are too little, too late, and Obama shows no interest in the use of military force.

It would be tragic if Obama abdicated his role as leader of the Free World to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans. The blow to American stature and credibility after the “unacceptable” was allowed to happen on his watch would be immense. But it would be catastrophic if Obama hindered Israel in the event the Jewish state acted in its own defense. Israel’s friends should begin now, not a month or a year from now, to make clear to the White House that Obama will find no support in Congress, among American Jewry, and in the entire country (which remains pro-Israel) for anything less than unqualified and unconditional support for Israel should force be required.

The Jewish community has gotten distracted by the “peace process.” It’s not only futile — it’s a dangerous sideshow that has allowed the administration to escape criticism for an entirely ineffective Iran policy. What matters now — and should be fully debated in the election — is what America will do to defuse the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state. Yes, it is an emergency.

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Pivot or Feint?

The Washington Post editors think Obama is pivoting on his Middle East policy. After pummeling Israel in public, demanding unilateral concessions, and raising Palestinians’ hopes, Obama, they say, is trying something new:

With U.S. midterm elections looming, Mr. Obama tried a different tack Tuesday, showering Mr. Netanyahu with public praise and encouragement during a White House visit. The president said he believes that the Israeli leader “wants peace,” praised his “restraint” on settlements and joined with him in calling on Palestinians to begin direct peace negotiations by September, when the settlement freeze expires. This switch may look craven to some of Israel’s critics — but in fact it is smart. By reaffirming U.S. support for Israel and pressing for direct talks, Mr. Obama has created an opportunity to put both Palestinian leaders and Mr. Netanyahu to the test and to discover who is serious and who is not about a two-state settlement.

This raises a number of issues, starting with a basic question: is this a domestic political gambit brought about by the “looming” midterm election? One can imagine how dismal the fundraising numbers must have been and how frightened the White House was to bring about even an atmospheric change this dramatic. What we don’t know is whether it signals a substantive reversal and whether Obama is going to, for example, cease doing the Palestinians’ negotiating for them.

You can’t blame all the parties for being confused about Obama’s intentions and position at this point. Is he the president who spoon-fed the world the Palestinian-victim narrative at Cairo and who is going to refrain from vetoing a UN resolution should housing projects continue in Jerusalem? Or is he the Obama of the 2008 campaign, who was embracing, not distancing himself, from the Jewish state? It’s hard to know, and his wild swings in tone and rhetoric are not likely to improve our standing as a trusted interlocutor with either side. As Israel’s enemies and moderate Arab states observe all this, they must be more convinced than ever that Obama is flaky and undependable.

And then there are the Israel-bashers. The J Street gang must be melting down. They’ve been counseling the president to turn the screws on Israel and bully Bibi. Not only has this not worked, but now the president has undercut them and the rest of the anti-Israel left (I repeat myself), at least rhetorically. They were delighted by his condemnations of Israel, thrilled at the prospect of an imposed peace deal, gratified by the NPT statement singling out Israel, and emboldened by Obama’s reluctance to defend Israel over the flotilla incident. And now all that may be inoperative. If so, what is J Street to do — continue their Obama cheerleading, or go after him for abandoning their “tough love” (which was tough but never loving) stance?

All this is really a sideshow. The central issue for Israel, its neighbors, and the West is the Iranian nuclear threat. What we didn’t get from the Bibi visit was any indication that Obama is contemplating a similar pivot on his Iran policy. If he begins a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, to support the Green movement, and to put a military option back on the table (and cut out all the talk that this is unacceptably “destabilizing”), then we’ll really be getting somewhere. With Obama in retreat, at least atmospherically, it would seem that this is where Jewish groups and pro-Israel lawmakers should apply pressure. After all, once midterm elections are no longer “looming,” the old Obama Middle East policy may be back.

The Washington Post editors think Obama is pivoting on his Middle East policy. After pummeling Israel in public, demanding unilateral concessions, and raising Palestinians’ hopes, Obama, they say, is trying something new:

With U.S. midterm elections looming, Mr. Obama tried a different tack Tuesday, showering Mr. Netanyahu with public praise and encouragement during a White House visit. The president said he believes that the Israeli leader “wants peace,” praised his “restraint” on settlements and joined with him in calling on Palestinians to begin direct peace negotiations by September, when the settlement freeze expires. This switch may look craven to some of Israel’s critics — but in fact it is smart. By reaffirming U.S. support for Israel and pressing for direct talks, Mr. Obama has created an opportunity to put both Palestinian leaders and Mr. Netanyahu to the test and to discover who is serious and who is not about a two-state settlement.

This raises a number of issues, starting with a basic question: is this a domestic political gambit brought about by the “looming” midterm election? One can imagine how dismal the fundraising numbers must have been and how frightened the White House was to bring about even an atmospheric change this dramatic. What we don’t know is whether it signals a substantive reversal and whether Obama is going to, for example, cease doing the Palestinians’ negotiating for them.

You can’t blame all the parties for being confused about Obama’s intentions and position at this point. Is he the president who spoon-fed the world the Palestinian-victim narrative at Cairo and who is going to refrain from vetoing a UN resolution should housing projects continue in Jerusalem? Or is he the Obama of the 2008 campaign, who was embracing, not distancing himself, from the Jewish state? It’s hard to know, and his wild swings in tone and rhetoric are not likely to improve our standing as a trusted interlocutor with either side. As Israel’s enemies and moderate Arab states observe all this, they must be more convinced than ever that Obama is flaky and undependable.

And then there are the Israel-bashers. The J Street gang must be melting down. They’ve been counseling the president to turn the screws on Israel and bully Bibi. Not only has this not worked, but now the president has undercut them and the rest of the anti-Israel left (I repeat myself), at least rhetorically. They were delighted by his condemnations of Israel, thrilled at the prospect of an imposed peace deal, gratified by the NPT statement singling out Israel, and emboldened by Obama’s reluctance to defend Israel over the flotilla incident. And now all that may be inoperative. If so, what is J Street to do — continue their Obama cheerleading, or go after him for abandoning their “tough love” (which was tough but never loving) stance?

All this is really a sideshow. The central issue for Israel, its neighbors, and the West is the Iranian nuclear threat. What we didn’t get from the Bibi visit was any indication that Obama is contemplating a similar pivot on his Iran policy. If he begins a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, to support the Green movement, and to put a military option back on the table (and cut out all the talk that this is unacceptably “destabilizing”), then we’ll really be getting somewhere. With Obama in retreat, at least atmospherically, it would seem that this is where Jewish groups and pro-Israel lawmakers should apply pressure. After all, once midterm elections are no longer “looming,” the old Obama Middle East policy may be back.

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What if Sanctions Don’t Work?

The Senate passed its toughest sanctions to date by a 99-0 vote. Sen. Joe Lieberman had praise for the measure:

This bill represents the most powerful and comprehensive package of Iran sanctions ever passed by Congress. I am grateful to the leadership of Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Howard Berman for guiding the development of this complex and critically important legislation, as well as the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell in ensuring its swift passage by the Senate.

I hope and believe that the House will now act swiftly to pass this vital legislation, and that President Obama will sign it into law. Just as importantly, it is critical that these provisions are forcefully and proactively implemented once they become law.

The measures imposed by this legislation—together with sanctions adopted at the UN and, even more importantly, by like-minded nations around the world—offer our last, best hope of peacefully preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Time is of the essence.

But Lieberman made clear that sanctions are not an end in themselves. And in contrast to the president’s que sera, sera attitude, Lieberman was emphatic that if the sanctions don’t work (and more about that below), we must use other options, including force:

While we hope that our combined sanctions will change the calculus of the Iranian regime, we must also recognize that every day that passes brings Iran closer to the point of nuclear no return. Ultimately, we must do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—through peaceful and diplomatic means if we possibly can, but through military force if we absolutely must.

This is precisely what the president and his advisers have refused to say, and indeed have intimated is not in the cards.

But there is another problem. We aren’t likely to know whether sanctions are “working,” and the Iranians are quite likely to exploit the additional time to stave off other measures. How are we to know if work stops on the mullahs’ nuclear programs? And if the Iranians declare that they will return to the bargaining table, what is to prevent them, as they did last year, from practicing the same game of delay as they continue with their plans? The problem, it seems, is not merely the absence of effective tools to force a change in the Iranians’ conduct but also the will and determination to use those tools in a meaningful way.

Obama set the pattern last year — withholding support for the Green movement, muting the reaction to the Qom revelation, and allowing deadline after deadline to pass. From all this the mullahs have learned that very little is required to hold the U.S. at bay and that we are overeager to avoid confrontation. At every turn, they have bested Obama and the “international community” and bought themselves breathing room.

The sanctions, therefore, are not the solution to the Iranian threat. Rather than congratulating the administration for passing sanctions after nearly a year and a half, Congress and pro-Israel groups must make clear that “containment” is not an option and that we will use military force and provide Israel with unconditional support if necessary. “Passed useless sanctions and allowed Iran to go nuclear” is not a result from which the president, lawmakers, or American Jewry will recover. And it is not an outcome Israelis can tolerate.

The Senate passed its toughest sanctions to date by a 99-0 vote. Sen. Joe Lieberman had praise for the measure:

This bill represents the most powerful and comprehensive package of Iran sanctions ever passed by Congress. I am grateful to the leadership of Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Howard Berman for guiding the development of this complex and critically important legislation, as well as the leadership of Senator Reid and Senator McConnell in ensuring its swift passage by the Senate.

I hope and believe that the House will now act swiftly to pass this vital legislation, and that President Obama will sign it into law. Just as importantly, it is critical that these provisions are forcefully and proactively implemented once they become law.

The measures imposed by this legislation—together with sanctions adopted at the UN and, even more importantly, by like-minded nations around the world—offer our last, best hope of peacefully preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Time is of the essence.

But Lieberman made clear that sanctions are not an end in themselves. And in contrast to the president’s que sera, sera attitude, Lieberman was emphatic that if the sanctions don’t work (and more about that below), we must use other options, including force:

While we hope that our combined sanctions will change the calculus of the Iranian regime, we must also recognize that every day that passes brings Iran closer to the point of nuclear no return. Ultimately, we must do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—through peaceful and diplomatic means if we possibly can, but through military force if we absolutely must.

This is precisely what the president and his advisers have refused to say, and indeed have intimated is not in the cards.

But there is another problem. We aren’t likely to know whether sanctions are “working,” and the Iranians are quite likely to exploit the additional time to stave off other measures. How are we to know if work stops on the mullahs’ nuclear programs? And if the Iranians declare that they will return to the bargaining table, what is to prevent them, as they did last year, from practicing the same game of delay as they continue with their plans? The problem, it seems, is not merely the absence of effective tools to force a change in the Iranians’ conduct but also the will and determination to use those tools in a meaningful way.

Obama set the pattern last year — withholding support for the Green movement, muting the reaction to the Qom revelation, and allowing deadline after deadline to pass. From all this the mullahs have learned that very little is required to hold the U.S. at bay and that we are overeager to avoid confrontation. At every turn, they have bested Obama and the “international community” and bought themselves breathing room.

The sanctions, therefore, are not the solution to the Iranian threat. Rather than congratulating the administration for passing sanctions after nearly a year and a half, Congress and pro-Israel groups must make clear that “containment” is not an option and that we will use military force and provide Israel with unconditional support if necessary. “Passed useless sanctions and allowed Iran to go nuclear” is not a result from which the president, lawmakers, or American Jewry will recover. And it is not an outcome Israelis can tolerate.

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Colombia: Another Obama Victim

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

Both the Washington Post‘s and the Wall Street Journal‘s editors rightly praise the outcome of the election in Colombia and implore the Obama administration not to treat this president as poorly as it treated the last one. The Post explains:

Juan Manuel Santos has demonstrated that pro-American, pro-free-market politicians still have life in Latin America. Mr. Santos, who romped to victory in Colombia’s presidential runoff on Sunday, has no interest in courting Iran, unlike Brazil’s Luiz Ignácio Lula da Silva. He has rejected the authoritarian socialism of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. A former journalist with degrees from the University of Kansas and Harvard, he values free media and independent courts. His biggest priority may be ratifying and implementing a free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States. So the question raised by Mr. Santos’s election is whether the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders will greet this strong and needed U.S. ally with open arms — or with the arms-length disdain and protectionist stonewalling to which they subjected his predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. … The Obama administration, which has courted Mr. Lula and sought to improve relations with Venezuela and Cuba, has been cool to Colombia, recommending another 11 percent reduction in aid for next year and keeping the trade agreement on ice.

The Journal writes:

On Sunday 13 police and soldiers were killed by guerrillas trying to disrupt the vote. Mr. Santos has also challenged neighboring countries that provide a haven to the FARC. This triumph also ought to echo in Washington, where Democrats in Congress and the White House continue to deny a vote on the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. One liberal Democratic excuse has been concerns about Mr. Uribe’s security policies, but Colombia’s people have now spoken.

Like Mr. Uribe, Mr. Santos wants the free trade deal to force his country to face the discipline of global competition and turn Colombia into the next Chile or Taiwan. Such progress would further reduce the FARC’s appeal, and it is certainly in the U.S. national interest. This one shouldn’t even be controversial.

Obama’s stance toward Colombia is another in a series of “picking the wrong side” errors he perpetually makes (e.g., the Hugo Chavez–backed Manual Zelaya instead of the broad-based coalition that ousted him, the Russians over our Czech and Polish allies, the Iranian regime over the Green movement). He rather consistently backs those who are hostile to the U.S., even at the expense of ignoring evidence (Zelaya’s power grab) or the long-term strategic interests of the U.S. (empowering the UN to pronounce on Israel’s anti-terror tactics).

Obama’s supporters would say he’s trying to “engage” or reduce conflict with our foes, although this hardly explains the gratuitous swipes at allies. His critics contend he either puts domestic priorities above national security (e.g., siding with Big Labor on free-trade deals) or has a fetish for strongmen. Whatever the rationale, it’s getting easy to spot the “good guys” in regional disputes. They’re the ones Obama is treating the worst.

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Obama Should ‘Anoint’ the Iranian Green Movement

Reuel Gerecht, one of the sharpest commentators around on the Middle East, makes a compelling case in the New York Times for more American support to allow the Green movement in Iran to access the Internet and other communications technologies. Against his points one will hear the familiar argument, made by some Green leaders themselves, that the U.S. government is incapable of running a truly covert program and that the taint of American support will undermine the opposition’s credibility.

Perhaps. But aren’t the mullahs already painting the opposition leaders as American stooges? They don’t need actual evidence to make their charges; concocted evidence and bizarre conspiracy theories will do. After years of such charges, I am guessing that most Iranians are inured to regime propaganda and probably wouldn’t credit it even if it were true.

In any case, aren’t we always hearing about President Obama’s stellar popularity around the world? Surely anointment by The One would not hurt the chances of success in Iran — which, opinion polls suggest, is actually one of the more pro-American countries in the region.

Reuel Gerecht, one of the sharpest commentators around on the Middle East, makes a compelling case in the New York Times for more American support to allow the Green movement in Iran to access the Internet and other communications technologies. Against his points one will hear the familiar argument, made by some Green leaders themselves, that the U.S. government is incapable of running a truly covert program and that the taint of American support will undermine the opposition’s credibility.

Perhaps. But aren’t the mullahs already painting the opposition leaders as American stooges? They don’t need actual evidence to make their charges; concocted evidence and bizarre conspiracy theories will do. After years of such charges, I am guessing that most Iranians are inured to regime propaganda and probably wouldn’t credit it even if it were true.

In any case, aren’t we always hearing about President Obama’s stellar popularity around the world? Surely anointment by The One would not hurt the chances of success in Iran — which, opinion polls suggest, is actually one of the more pro-American countries in the region.

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Obama’s Wasted Chance with Iran

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent Iranian elections, which led to a popular uprising against the regime that was brutally put down. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami offers this scorching indictment:

There is no guarantee that categorical American support would have altered the outcome of the struggle between autocracy and liberty in Iran. But it shall now be part of the narrative of liberty that when Persia rose in the summer of 2009 the steward of American power ducked for cover, and that a president who prided himself on his eloquence couldn’t even find the words to tell the forces of liberty that he understood the wellsprings of their revolt.

For an American president to have been on the wrong side of this struggle — he lost his voice during this crucial moment, when the Green movement represented genuine hope and change for Iran — is shameful. And unfortunately, Obama’s actions fit into a perfectly predictable pattern. He has shown himself largely indifferent to the human-rights struggles of people around the globe. That message, having been sent, has also been received. Dissidents, and the cause of liberty, are paying the price for it.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the fraudulent Iranian elections, which led to a popular uprising against the regime that was brutally put down. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami offers this scorching indictment:

There is no guarantee that categorical American support would have altered the outcome of the struggle between autocracy and liberty in Iran. But it shall now be part of the narrative of liberty that when Persia rose in the summer of 2009 the steward of American power ducked for cover, and that a president who prided himself on his eloquence couldn’t even find the words to tell the forces of liberty that he understood the wellsprings of their revolt.

For an American president to have been on the wrong side of this struggle — he lost his voice during this crucial moment, when the Green movement represented genuine hope and change for Iran — is shameful. And unfortunately, Obama’s actions fit into a perfectly predictable pattern. He has shown himself largely indifferent to the human-rights struggles of people around the globe. That message, having been sent, has also been received. Dissidents, and the cause of liberty, are paying the price for it.

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Spokesman For Evil

Busy, busy, busy — a trip to Iran, a series of cringe-inducing (for non-Kool-aid-drinking readers) blogs, and then a debate. Flynt Leverett is working overtime for the mullahs. In his face-off with Michael Ledeen at the Atlantic Council, he chides Obama, who just isn’t living up to expectations — the mullahs’ expectations, that is:

Hillary [Mann Leverett] and I have just come back from a trip to the region and we were able to spend the better part of a week in Tehran.  And I can tell you from discussions with Iranian officials that the Iranian leadership had a certain amount of hope about President Obama.  And when he changed the rhetorical tone about Iran early in his administration, in his inaugural address, in some interviews, in the Nowruz message last year, this had an effect.

Two days after the Nowruz message, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, came out publicly and said, okay, if you change – you, the United States change – your policies towards us, we will change, too.

From an Iranian perspective, there has been no change.  There’s no change in the red lines on the nuclear issue, there’s no change in U.S. support for both overt and covert activities which the Iranians see as threatening to their internal stability.  And in that kind of climate, the Iranians will not respond favorably to American overtures.

But, if the United States put on the table a real author of a grand bargain, a real author aimed at a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations, I believe that the Iranian leadership, under successive presidents and throughout Ayatollah Khamenei’s tenure as leader, has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment and that they would respond positively to it.

The key is to realize America is washed up and to give the Iranian regime what it wants. The Iranian people? Leverett says those darn neocons have been expecting a revolution, and they’re not going to get it. And besides, what’s the protestors’ beef? Ahmadinejad won fair and square:

Many advocates of regime-change in Iran – those who have been uniformly wrong about the Islamic Republic’s internal politics for 30 years – say, okay, maybe we were somewhat ahead of our time, premature in our judgment, but look at the situation today.  There’s never been anything like the Green movement; we have to be right now.

Well, sorry, no, you’re not.  Hillary and I have been arguing since June of last year that there is no hard evidence that the Islamic Republic’s presidential election of June 12, 2009, was stolen.  I say no “hard evidence,” not “must have been,” “had to have been,” “no way Ahmadinejad could have won” stuff, but “hard evidence.”  Even the suggested evidence that some people claim to find in the election results, supposedly more votes cast in some districts than there were registered voters in those districts, how could Ahmadinejad have won in Azeri-majority areas when Mousavi was ethnically Azeri, et cetera?

And in case that wasn’t clear, he explains that the protestors dying on the streets are on a fool’s errand: “This is not a place that is on the verge of revolution.  They had a revolution 31 years ago.  They don’t want another one.” They? Who is they? (Maybe the gang that orchestrated his tour and provides that precious access so Leverett can regurgitate the regime’s talking points.) What would help matters? Why, if America renounced any intention to “interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic.” The regime really wants to engage America — they told Leverett, so it must be true. (“I heard from Iranian officials that they want to engage with the Obama administration.  But they want to see signs, indications that the United States really does want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the Islamic Republic.”)

And on it went. One questioner, an Iranian woman, could barely contain herself. She told Leverett:

But Mr. Leverett, you are – for the last 30 years, you’ve had negotiations with the regime of Iran from Mr. Reagan with – (inaudible) – and on through Mr. Clinton, eight years, through Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and through Ms. Rice and during Bush administration, and now 14 months with Obama administration.

Iranian regime is not going to make any deals because they cannot.  They took over Iran by anti-Western civilization – America being the symbol of it.  And they are not going to give it up.

Indeed. Back to the talking points (the regime’s, that is). Leverett — and his regime pals — have a larger goal in mind: the U.S. must simply retreat. “What does Iran need to do to signal – look, I think that, in itself, reflects a certain mindset that the United States is still the hegemonic power that it was in the 1990s and can basically dictate the terms by which problem states realign with the United States. You know, that model might have worked with Libya – I was involved to some degree in that process, think that it was a very successful outcome for the United States.  It’s not going to work with Iran.”

You get the picture. Makes one’s blood run a bit cold, doesn’t it — to hear the rhetoric of the butchers of Tehran articulated through an American mouthpiece with such stunning sincerity? Really, who are we to say Iran can’t have its nuclear program?

The polls, which show that the public is perfectly supportive of trading off aspects of the nuclear program that might be purely weapons-related in return for better relations with the United States, but they do not see uranium enrichment fuel cycle activities in that light.  That is seen as something that Iran has a right to do.  It is part of Iran becoming a technically modern and advanced society.  And I don’t think there is any political appetite or support in Iran, at this point, for giving up uranium enrichment.

The regime continues to say, the government continues to say to its own people that this is a peaceful nuclear program.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, does not want nuclear weapons, and that Shia Islam forbids the acquisition of nuclear weapons.  But I think that there is very, very broad popular support for the nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities.

The mullahas must be delighted. All their points covered, all their arguments made. Look how their visit with Leverett and his wife has paid off!

Busy, busy, busy — a trip to Iran, a series of cringe-inducing (for non-Kool-aid-drinking readers) blogs, and then a debate. Flynt Leverett is working overtime for the mullahs. In his face-off with Michael Ledeen at the Atlantic Council, he chides Obama, who just isn’t living up to expectations — the mullahs’ expectations, that is:

Hillary [Mann Leverett] and I have just come back from a trip to the region and we were able to spend the better part of a week in Tehran.  And I can tell you from discussions with Iranian officials that the Iranian leadership had a certain amount of hope about President Obama.  And when he changed the rhetorical tone about Iran early in his administration, in his inaugural address, in some interviews, in the Nowruz message last year, this had an effect.

Two days after the Nowruz message, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, came out publicly and said, okay, if you change – you, the United States change – your policies towards us, we will change, too.

From an Iranian perspective, there has been no change.  There’s no change in the red lines on the nuclear issue, there’s no change in U.S. support for both overt and covert activities which the Iranians see as threatening to their internal stability.  And in that kind of climate, the Iranians will not respond favorably to American overtures.

But, if the United States put on the table a real author of a grand bargain, a real author aimed at a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations, I believe that the Iranian leadership, under successive presidents and throughout Ayatollah Khamenei’s tenure as leader, has wanted that kind of fundamental realignment and that they would respond positively to it.

The key is to realize America is washed up and to give the Iranian regime what it wants. The Iranian people? Leverett says those darn neocons have been expecting a revolution, and they’re not going to get it. And besides, what’s the protestors’ beef? Ahmadinejad won fair and square:

Many advocates of regime-change in Iran – those who have been uniformly wrong about the Islamic Republic’s internal politics for 30 years – say, okay, maybe we were somewhat ahead of our time, premature in our judgment, but look at the situation today.  There’s never been anything like the Green movement; we have to be right now.

Well, sorry, no, you’re not.  Hillary and I have been arguing since June of last year that there is no hard evidence that the Islamic Republic’s presidential election of June 12, 2009, was stolen.  I say no “hard evidence,” not “must have been,” “had to have been,” “no way Ahmadinejad could have won” stuff, but “hard evidence.”  Even the suggested evidence that some people claim to find in the election results, supposedly more votes cast in some districts than there were registered voters in those districts, how could Ahmadinejad have won in Azeri-majority areas when Mousavi was ethnically Azeri, et cetera?

And in case that wasn’t clear, he explains that the protestors dying on the streets are on a fool’s errand: “This is not a place that is on the verge of revolution.  They had a revolution 31 years ago.  They don’t want another one.” They? Who is they? (Maybe the gang that orchestrated his tour and provides that precious access so Leverett can regurgitate the regime’s talking points.) What would help matters? Why, if America renounced any intention to “interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic.” The regime really wants to engage America — they told Leverett, so it must be true. (“I heard from Iranian officials that they want to engage with the Obama administration.  But they want to see signs, indications that the United States really does want a fundamentally different kind of relationship with the Islamic Republic.”)

And on it went. One questioner, an Iranian woman, could barely contain herself. She told Leverett:

But Mr. Leverett, you are – for the last 30 years, you’ve had negotiations with the regime of Iran from Mr. Reagan with – (inaudible) – and on through Mr. Clinton, eight years, through Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and through Ms. Rice and during Bush administration, and now 14 months with Obama administration.

Iranian regime is not going to make any deals because they cannot.  They took over Iran by anti-Western civilization – America being the symbol of it.  And they are not going to give it up.

Indeed. Back to the talking points (the regime’s, that is). Leverett — and his regime pals — have a larger goal in mind: the U.S. must simply retreat. “What does Iran need to do to signal – look, I think that, in itself, reflects a certain mindset that the United States is still the hegemonic power that it was in the 1990s and can basically dictate the terms by which problem states realign with the United States. You know, that model might have worked with Libya – I was involved to some degree in that process, think that it was a very successful outcome for the United States.  It’s not going to work with Iran.”

You get the picture. Makes one’s blood run a bit cold, doesn’t it — to hear the rhetoric of the butchers of Tehran articulated through an American mouthpiece with such stunning sincerity? Really, who are we to say Iran can’t have its nuclear program?

The polls, which show that the public is perfectly supportive of trading off aspects of the nuclear program that might be purely weapons-related in return for better relations with the United States, but they do not see uranium enrichment fuel cycle activities in that light.  That is seen as something that Iran has a right to do.  It is part of Iran becoming a technically modern and advanced society.  And I don’t think there is any political appetite or support in Iran, at this point, for giving up uranium enrichment.

The regime continues to say, the government continues to say to its own people that this is a peaceful nuclear program.  Iran does not have nuclear weapons, does not want nuclear weapons, and that Shia Islam forbids the acquisition of nuclear weapons.  But I think that there is very, very broad popular support for the nuclear program, including fuel cycle activities.

The mullahas must be delighted. All their points covered, all their arguments made. Look how their visit with Leverett and his wife has paid off!

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Ahmed Chalabi, Redux

Ahmed Chalabi (remember him?) is back in the news. He is the power behind the de-Baathification Commission, which is wreaking havoc with Iraqi politics by disqualifying secular candidates for supposed Baathist ties. As General Ray Odierno has said, Chalabi and his protégé, Ali Faisal al-Lami, appear to be acting at the behest of the Iranians:

The two Iraqi politicians “clearly are influenced by Iran,” General Odierno said. “We have direct intelligence that tells us that.” He said the two men had several meetings in Iran, including sessions with an Iranian who is on the United States terrorist watch list.

Real Clear World’s Compass blogger Greg Scoblete has responded with a non sequitur headlined “Paging Douglas Feith”:

Many neoconservatives are demanding that the U.S. throw its full weight behind the Iranians in their pursuit of freedom. On the surface, this is obviously a noble idea, but it’s worth remembering that the very people making confident predictions about the predilections of the Iranian people were duped by an Iranian stooge.

In turn Feith, the former Undersecretary of Defense, has weighed in to deny “that Pentagon officials aimed to favor or ‘anoint’ Chalabi as the leader of Iraq after Saddam” or that they were duped by Chalabi before the war.

I think Feith is right on the narrow technical points (the U.S. did not try to install Chalabi as Iraq’s leader and the U.S. intelligence community did not buy all the intel he was peddling) but wrong on the larger issue. There is no doubt that Chalabi had a significant impact on the Washington debate prior to the invasion of Iraq: he was a leading lobbyist for the view that Saddam could be replaced by a democratic regime with minimal American investment of blood and treasure. Like other exiles (and some American experts), he vastly exaggerated the influence of secular technocrats and vastly underplayed the power of tribal and religious forces. This view was adopted by the Bush administration and helps to account for the major American blunders of 2003-2004, which were essentially based on the premise that Iraqi society could regenerate itself after Saddam’s downfall.

But I also believe Greg Scoblete is wrong: First place, the Green movement in Iran is not a figment of some exile’s imagination. Second, simply because Chalabi is now an Iranian stooge does not mean he was one in 2003. My read is that he is an opportunist, out to grab power for himself, who will make use of whatever allies he finds helpful. Prior to the invasion of Iraq and immediately afterward, Chalabi, no doubt, hoped that his American backers would enthrone him. When this didn’t happen, when in fact the U.S. authorities turned against him, he sought backing in another quarter and struck an unsavory alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr and his sponsors in the Quds Force.

The bottom line is that Chalabi now exercises a pernicious influence in Iraq and the U.S. should work with other Iraqi political factions to minimize his impact and try to roll back his electoral disqualifications. And those of us who ever had a kind word for him (myself included) should eat their words.

Ahmed Chalabi (remember him?) is back in the news. He is the power behind the de-Baathification Commission, which is wreaking havoc with Iraqi politics by disqualifying secular candidates for supposed Baathist ties. As General Ray Odierno has said, Chalabi and his protégé, Ali Faisal al-Lami, appear to be acting at the behest of the Iranians:

The two Iraqi politicians “clearly are influenced by Iran,” General Odierno said. “We have direct intelligence that tells us that.” He said the two men had several meetings in Iran, including sessions with an Iranian who is on the United States terrorist watch list.

Real Clear World’s Compass blogger Greg Scoblete has responded with a non sequitur headlined “Paging Douglas Feith”:

Many neoconservatives are demanding that the U.S. throw its full weight behind the Iranians in their pursuit of freedom. On the surface, this is obviously a noble idea, but it’s worth remembering that the very people making confident predictions about the predilections of the Iranian people were duped by an Iranian stooge.

In turn Feith, the former Undersecretary of Defense, has weighed in to deny “that Pentagon officials aimed to favor or ‘anoint’ Chalabi as the leader of Iraq after Saddam” or that they were duped by Chalabi before the war.

I think Feith is right on the narrow technical points (the U.S. did not try to install Chalabi as Iraq’s leader and the U.S. intelligence community did not buy all the intel he was peddling) but wrong on the larger issue. There is no doubt that Chalabi had a significant impact on the Washington debate prior to the invasion of Iraq: he was a leading lobbyist for the view that Saddam could be replaced by a democratic regime with minimal American investment of blood and treasure. Like other exiles (and some American experts), he vastly exaggerated the influence of secular technocrats and vastly underplayed the power of tribal and religious forces. This view was adopted by the Bush administration and helps to account for the major American blunders of 2003-2004, which were essentially based on the premise that Iraqi society could regenerate itself after Saddam’s downfall.

But I also believe Greg Scoblete is wrong: First place, the Green movement in Iran is not a figment of some exile’s imagination. Second, simply because Chalabi is now an Iranian stooge does not mean he was one in 2003. My read is that he is an opportunist, out to grab power for himself, who will make use of whatever allies he finds helpful. Prior to the invasion of Iraq and immediately afterward, Chalabi, no doubt, hoped that his American backers would enthrone him. When this didn’t happen, when in fact the U.S. authorities turned against him, he sought backing in another quarter and struck an unsavory alliance with Muqtada al-Sadr and his sponsors in the Quds Force.

The bottom line is that Chalabi now exercises a pernicious influence in Iraq and the U.S. should work with other Iraqi political factions to minimize his impact and try to roll back his electoral disqualifications. And those of us who ever had a kind word for him (myself included) should eat their words.

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Imagine What They Think in Tehran

Op-ed-page editors have been watching the Iranian mullahs and think the Obama administration should be paying closer attention. The Washington Post, for example, observes another hostage situation — the nabbing and trial of three American hikers — and concludes:

For the Obama administration, the hikers’ treatment is but one more indication that the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has no interest in the constructive “engagement” that Mr. Obama has offered. Such despicable persecution of innocent people only adds to the reasons the administration should focus its energies on isolating and imposing sanctions on the regime’s leaders, while doing what it can to support the opposition Green movement.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors agree and are chagrined that the Obami seem to be interested in slowing down rather than encouraging sanctions legislation in Congress:

Iran spurns every overture from the U.S. and continues to develop WMD while abusing its neighbors. In response, the Administration, which had set a December deadline for diplomacy, now says it opposes precisely the kind of sanctions it once promised to impose if Iran didn’t come clean, never mind overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. For an explanation of why Iran’s behavior remains unchanged, look no further.

Now if American editorial writers are unconvinced the Obami have signaled sufficient toughness, imagine what the Iranians must believe. They’ve seen us lift not a finger for the Green protesters, and in fact, we cut their funding. They saw us happily downplay the existence of the Qom facility and dither away a year. They’ve watched and have every reason to be encouraged. So convincing them now that we really, really mean business (or they might get a letter too!) is going to be an uphill climb.

Op-ed-page editors have been watching the Iranian mullahs and think the Obama administration should be paying closer attention. The Washington Post, for example, observes another hostage situation — the nabbing and trial of three American hikers — and concludes:

For the Obama administration, the hikers’ treatment is but one more indication that the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has no interest in the constructive “engagement” that Mr. Obama has offered. Such despicable persecution of innocent people only adds to the reasons the administration should focus its energies on isolating and imposing sanctions on the regime’s leaders, while doing what it can to support the opposition Green movement.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors agree and are chagrined that the Obami seem to be interested in slowing down rather than encouraging sanctions legislation in Congress:

Iran spurns every overture from the U.S. and continues to develop WMD while abusing its neighbors. In response, the Administration, which had set a December deadline for diplomacy, now says it opposes precisely the kind of sanctions it once promised to impose if Iran didn’t come clean, never mind overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. For an explanation of why Iran’s behavior remains unchanged, look no further.

Now if American editorial writers are unconvinced the Obami have signaled sufficient toughness, imagine what the Iranians must believe. They’ve seen us lift not a finger for the Green protesters, and in fact, we cut their funding. They saw us happily downplay the existence of the Qom facility and dither away a year. They’ve watched and have every reason to be encouraged. So convincing them now that we really, really mean business (or they might get a letter too!) is going to be an uphill climb.

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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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