Commentary Magazine


Topic: guard

Palestinians Beat Their Swords into Rocks

While marketing gurus in Israel and the United States ponder the proper methodology for “rebranding” the Jewish State to make people think better of it, the Palestinians continue to eschew ad agencies and rely on The New York Times. That’s the only way to explain the Gray Lady’s curious dispatch today, which claims that the Palestinians have put away their decades-long predilection for violence and become disciples of Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the Times’s Ethan Bronner, “Senior Palestinian leaders — men who once commanded militias — are joining unarmed protest marches against Israeli policies and are being arrested.” How inspiring! It would seem that finally the Palestinians have decided to beat their swords into plowshares and find a way to live with Israel. “It is all about self-empowerment,” said Hasan Abu-Libdeh, the Palestinian economy minister. “We want ordinary people to feel like stockholders in the process of building a state.”

But rather than Fatah focusing on improving life in its putative state or encouraging peaceful people-to-people exchanges with their Jewish neighbors, the whole point of this allegedly non-violent action is to merely carry on their struggle against Israel without all the bad press associated with suicide bombings. Hence, the “self-empowerment” that Minister Abu-Libdeh is referring to is a campaign to boycott the goods produced by Jews who live in the territories and for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in and around the settlements to give up their jobs. As for the non-violent “protest marches,” they are directed at Israel’s security fence and consist of throwing stones at any Jews present and attempts to damage or destroy the barrier that was erected to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from crossing into Israel and committing mass murder. How any of that empowers ordinary Palestinians in any way is left unexplained.

If there is any change of tactics on the part of Fatah, it is only because Israeli military actions in the West Bank and the erection of the fence have effectively taken the terrorist card out of the P.A.’s hand. Take down that fence and terrorism becomes an attractive option again for a movement that continues to vie with Hamas for popularity in a political culture that continues to value the shedding of Jewish blood over the building of an economy.

Thus it is hard to escape the conclusion that even the most attractive manifestation of Palestinian nationalism is still obsessed with expunging any manifestation of Jewish life around them. Far from a “third way,” as Bronner claims it to be for Palestinians who are frustrated with the “failure” of either terrorism or diplomacy to achieve their goals, the new tactic seems to be merely a way of creating pressure on Israel to lower its guard and make terrorism a bit easier. And if their goal was merely to declare a Palestinian state (as Bronner says Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wants to do in 2011) what is the point of the ongoing obsession with eradicating the scattered Jewish towns and villages in the West Bank as a precondition for statehood? Apparently, the notion of sovereignty is only meaningful for them if every Jew has been thrown out of the territory.

More to the point, diplomacy hasn’t failed the Palestinians. Rather, it is the Palestinians who have failed to embrace the diplomatic option as 17 years of peace talks have proved that their leadership isn’t interested in taking yes for an answer since they have repeatedly refused Israel’s offers of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, including a share of Jerusalem. The last refusal came in 2008 when the same PA that now claims to be pursuing non-violence turned down Ehud Olmert. Thus, the attempt to convince the world that this is an argument about settlements or the fence (which, as Bronner notes, has made of the village of Bilin an international tourist attraction for celebrities, such as Rajmohan Gandhi or Martin Luther King III, who want to get a little attention for bashing Israel) rather than an ongoing existential struggle against any manifestation of Zionism, is absurd.

While marketing gurus in Israel and the United States ponder the proper methodology for “rebranding” the Jewish State to make people think better of it, the Palestinians continue to eschew ad agencies and rely on The New York Times. That’s the only way to explain the Gray Lady’s curious dispatch today, which claims that the Palestinians have put away their decades-long predilection for violence and become disciples of Mahatma Gandhi.

According to the Times’s Ethan Bronner, “Senior Palestinian leaders — men who once commanded militias — are joining unarmed protest marches against Israeli policies and are being arrested.” How inspiring! It would seem that finally the Palestinians have decided to beat their swords into plowshares and find a way to live with Israel. “It is all about self-empowerment,” said Hasan Abu-Libdeh, the Palestinian economy minister. “We want ordinary people to feel like stockholders in the process of building a state.”

But rather than Fatah focusing on improving life in its putative state or encouraging peaceful people-to-people exchanges with their Jewish neighbors, the whole point of this allegedly non-violent action is to merely carry on their struggle against Israel without all the bad press associated with suicide bombings. Hence, the “self-empowerment” that Minister Abu-Libdeh is referring to is a campaign to boycott the goods produced by Jews who live in the territories and for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who work in and around the settlements to give up their jobs. As for the non-violent “protest marches,” they are directed at Israel’s security fence and consist of throwing stones at any Jews present and attempts to damage or destroy the barrier that was erected to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from crossing into Israel and committing mass murder. How any of that empowers ordinary Palestinians in any way is left unexplained.

If there is any change of tactics on the part of Fatah, it is only because Israeli military actions in the West Bank and the erection of the fence have effectively taken the terrorist card out of the P.A.’s hand. Take down that fence and terrorism becomes an attractive option again for a movement that continues to vie with Hamas for popularity in a political culture that continues to value the shedding of Jewish blood over the building of an economy.

Thus it is hard to escape the conclusion that even the most attractive manifestation of Palestinian nationalism is still obsessed with expunging any manifestation of Jewish life around them. Far from a “third way,” as Bronner claims it to be for Palestinians who are frustrated with the “failure” of either terrorism or diplomacy to achieve their goals, the new tactic seems to be merely a way of creating pressure on Israel to lower its guard and make terrorism a bit easier. And if their goal was merely to declare a Palestinian state (as Bronner says Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad wants to do in 2011) what is the point of the ongoing obsession with eradicating the scattered Jewish towns and villages in the West Bank as a precondition for statehood? Apparently, the notion of sovereignty is only meaningful for them if every Jew has been thrown out of the territory.

More to the point, diplomacy hasn’t failed the Palestinians. Rather, it is the Palestinians who have failed to embrace the diplomatic option as 17 years of peace talks have proved that their leadership isn’t interested in taking yes for an answer since they have repeatedly refused Israel’s offers of a state in the West Bank and Gaza, including a share of Jerusalem. The last refusal came in 2008 when the same PA that now claims to be pursuing non-violence turned down Ehud Olmert. Thus, the attempt to convince the world that this is an argument about settlements or the fence (which, as Bronner notes, has made of the village of Bilin an international tourist attraction for celebrities, such as Rajmohan Gandhi or Martin Luther King III, who want to get a little attention for bashing Israel) rather than an ongoing existential struggle against any manifestation of Zionism, is absurd.

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The Green Movement: A Work in Progress

The Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a timely program in Washington, D.C., this morning entitled Iran: Prospects for Regime Change. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is inching toward itty-bitty sanctions and has apparently rejected a serious policy of advancing the Green Movement’s efforts at regime change. Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Mohsen Sazegara of the Research Institute for Contemporary Iran had a thoughtful discussion moderated by Bill Kristol.

Several key points emerged from the panel. First, the Green Movement is a work in progress. While we may look toward the end goal of regime change — toppling of the supreme leader — it has, as do most revolutionary movements, intermediary goals, the first of which Khalaji describes as the delegitimatization of the regime — which he contends has been largely successful within Iran, especially among the middle and upper classes in the first year of the Green Movement. He cautions  that “the Movement is young,” but it has already expanded geographically beyond Tehran to new social groups and to labor organizations. Those who contend the Movement has failed because the regime is still in place miss the ongoing process of revolutionary movements — delegitimazation to paralysis to regime change.

Second, the greatest hope for the movement is the loss of legitimacy and the isolation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Sazegara explained, loyalty to Khamenei has replaced ideology or constitutional authority as the essence of the regime, casting as “soldiers of the cultural invasion every influential human being” who is not entirely loyal to the supreme leader. As a result, Khamenei is increasingly isolated. Sazegara notes that “every move was wrong” since the June 12 election — fueling opposition and solidarity against a regime increasingly viewed as corrupt and brutal.

Third, the Green Movement is  making efforts to reach out to the under class, which remains Ahmadinejad’s  base of support. The message will need to tie economic opportunity to political freedom to complete the process of undercutting the regime’s final base of popular support.

Fourth, the Revolutionary Guard, which was previously comprised of those who were ideologically motivated and dedicated to defense of the regime, is increasingly corrupt and needs to be “subsidized.” As the Guard has expanded, the opportunity for factions, rivalries, and divisions has also multiplied.

Finally, the U.S. can play a role. As Sazegara noted, “Every move, even indifference, affects the internal situation in Iran.” Silence in the face of brutality emboldens the regime and demoralizes those seeking to exploit its weaknesses. Efforts to aid the Green Movement’s essential communication tools — internet and satellite TV — can have a meaningful impact.  Gerecht summed up that in the 1980s,  it was apparent that “the regime was losing legitimacy. That process has only accelerated.” The Green Movement, he explains, “owns the middle and upper classes. The regime can’t replicate itself.” He urged those hoping for regime change to “be more patient. The regime has lost the best and the brightest. It eats its own.”

That the Obama administration has so obviously turned its back on the Green Movement and instead has gone out of its way to confer legitimacy on the brutal regime is a great moral and geopolitical failing. What the panel made clear is that the Obama adminstration is also missing a critical opportunity to assist and accelerate a movement that is steadily undermining the Islamic dictatorship.

The Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a timely program in Washington, D.C., this morning entitled Iran: Prospects for Regime Change. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is inching toward itty-bitty sanctions and has apparently rejected a serious policy of advancing the Green Movement’s efforts at regime change. Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Mohsen Sazegara of the Research Institute for Contemporary Iran had a thoughtful discussion moderated by Bill Kristol.

Several key points emerged from the panel. First, the Green Movement is a work in progress. While we may look toward the end goal of regime change — toppling of the supreme leader — it has, as do most revolutionary movements, intermediary goals, the first of which Khalaji describes as the delegitimatization of the regime — which he contends has been largely successful within Iran, especially among the middle and upper classes in the first year of the Green Movement. He cautions  that “the Movement is young,” but it has already expanded geographically beyond Tehran to new social groups and to labor organizations. Those who contend the Movement has failed because the regime is still in place miss the ongoing process of revolutionary movements — delegitimazation to paralysis to regime change.

Second, the greatest hope for the movement is the loss of legitimacy and the isolation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Sazegara explained, loyalty to Khamenei has replaced ideology or constitutional authority as the essence of the regime, casting as “soldiers of the cultural invasion every influential human being” who is not entirely loyal to the supreme leader. As a result, Khamenei is increasingly isolated. Sazegara notes that “every move was wrong” since the June 12 election — fueling opposition and solidarity against a regime increasingly viewed as corrupt and brutal.

Third, the Green Movement is  making efforts to reach out to the under class, which remains Ahmadinejad’s  base of support. The message will need to tie economic opportunity to political freedom to complete the process of undercutting the regime’s final base of popular support.

Fourth, the Revolutionary Guard, which was previously comprised of those who were ideologically motivated and dedicated to defense of the regime, is increasingly corrupt and needs to be “subsidized.” As the Guard has expanded, the opportunity for factions, rivalries, and divisions has also multiplied.

Finally, the U.S. can play a role. As Sazegara noted, “Every move, even indifference, affects the internal situation in Iran.” Silence in the face of brutality emboldens the regime and demoralizes those seeking to exploit its weaknesses. Efforts to aid the Green Movement’s essential communication tools — internet and satellite TV — can have a meaningful impact.  Gerecht summed up that in the 1980s,  it was apparent that “the regime was losing legitimacy. That process has only accelerated.” The Green Movement, he explains, “owns the middle and upper classes. The regime can’t replicate itself.” He urged those hoping for regime change to “be more patient. The regime has lost the best and the brightest. It eats its own.”

That the Obama administration has so obviously turned its back on the Green Movement and instead has gone out of its way to confer legitimacy on the brutal regime is a great moral and geopolitical failing. What the panel made clear is that the Obama adminstration is also missing a critical opportunity to assist and accelerate a movement that is steadily undermining the Islamic dictatorship.

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Journalism’s Worst Crime

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

“There’s no worse crime in journalism these days than simply deciding something’s a story because Drudge links to it,” according to NBC’s chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Really? No worse crime? Not Dan Rather’s use of forged documents in a one-sided 60 Minutes hit piece intended to cost President Bush re-election? Not the plagiarism and fabrications of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and the New Republic’s Stephen Glass?

There are, in fact, an endless number of “crimes” in journalism that are worse than deciding something is a story because Matt Drudge links to it.

And while we’re on this topic: exactly who should decide what qualifies as a news story? Chuck Todd believes Chuck Todd should. Mr. Todd, of course, works for NBC and MSNBC – the latter being the most partisan and reckless cable news network in America, home to such magisterial journalists as Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, and Rachel Maddow. So why should we trust Todd’s judgment over Matt Drudge’s? Because Todd is part of the “old” media, of course. Because he’s an “objective journalist” who is able to sort through all the news of the day and determine what merits attention and what does not.

Mr. Todd’s comments embody a particular mindset – one deeply resentful that the MSM is no longer the gatekeeper of the news, that there are now hundreds of outlets and blogs that influence the news and allow the American people a choice in what they are able to watch. The old guard hates the competition – and they hate the end of their monopoly. That’s understandable; every person who has been a part of a monopoly has resented its end, even if it advances the public interest.

Chuck Todd and his colleagues can continue to howl into the wind. They can continue to complain and plead their case. It doesn’t much matter. Events have moved way beyond them. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no turning back.

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Reality to Be Avoided at All Costs

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

You wonder how Ahmadinejad’s favorite duo of spinners, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, will spin this one:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said that the existence of “the Zionist regime” is an insult to humanity. …

Ahmadinejad made his remarks at a conference called “National and Islamic Solidarity for the Future of Palestine” where he declared Israel the reason for instability in the Middle East.

The Iranian leader said Israel’s presence on even one inch of the region’s soil was a cause for crisis and war, adding that the only way to confront Israel is through the resistance of Palestinian youth and other nations in the region.

Ahmadinejad also told the conference that the “Zionist regime” is the origin of all the wars, genocide, terrors and crimes against humanity and that it is a racist group that does not respect human principles.

Also in attendance at the conference were Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Shallah and the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, Ahmed Jibril, all of whom live in exile.

The Iranian president ended his speech by suggesting a referendum on the destruction of Israel.

One can only imagine that the mullahs’ favorite propagandists will hail that referendum suggestion as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s great devotion to democracy.

But this is the great problem with not only the most fatuous apologists of the regime but also the entire contingent of pro-engagement, self-described Iran “realists” (who are more fabulists than realists). The “realists” require that we engage in all manner of excuses to explain away Ahmadinejad’s genocidal language. It’s just for domestic consumption, you see. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll make it worse if we aid those who want to overthrow the regime. Have we left anything out? Oh, he’s not important at all because it’s really the Revolutionary Guard that runs the show. (Yes, well, that might be worse, but let’s not dwell on it.)

The Obami’s engagement theory was (is? as they haven’t given it up) premised on the notion that we’re dealing with rational actors who assess costs and benefits as we would and who will perceive it in their self-interest to join the “community of nations.” When reality intrudes — Ahmadinejad reveals himself as leader of the destroy-Israel brigade or the regime turns Tehran into a “sealed citadel” — the pro-engagement crowd cringes. Their insistence on engaging those who obviously do not want to be engaged is once again revealed to be frankly delusional.

As even some “card-carrying” realists like Richard Haass – that is, those who refuse to shield their eyes from the nature of the regime with whom we must deal —  have come to concede:

The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago. …

Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Haass and others who now advocate regime change  have an advantage over those who still cling to the notion that we can do business with the existing Iranian regime: they need not avoid inconvenient facts nor engage in Rube Goldberg theories to explain away the obvious. Those who must do so surely aren’t “realists,” if that moniker has any meaning.

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The Silence of the Lamb

In an interview last week with Al Arabiya, Hillary Clinton expressed surprise that “engagement” has failed, since “so many experts” thought it would succeed:

People say to me all the time, what happened to Iran? … When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that’s what he’s been trying to do — reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership. And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama’s outreach, has there not?

It’s a puzzler. But who were those experts who thought an outstretched hand, a video, an apology, a private letter, and a speech would cause Iran to slow (much less agree to stop) its nuclear weapons program? How many thought a nine-month period for response would produce anything other than nine months of uninterrupted centrifuge-spinning? Was there some hitherto unknown academic study of lion-lamb relations that gave the experts cause for optimism?

An explanation for the Iranian reaction is suggested by the question Ruth Wisse once asked in a different context: “Did the bleat of the lamb excite the tiger?” Obama set a deadline, then another, and then discarded any deadline at all; the result was open contempt from Iran’s president. The current effort to move to the “pressure track” of a UN resolution (with a strong letter to follow) is accompanied by public assurances from the secretary of state that the “engagement track” remains open and that the third track has been removed from the table. This is a foreign policy that would embarrass Neville Chamberlain.

The explanation Clinton gave to Al Arabiya for the expert-confounding situation was that the power of the Revolutionary Guard has been growing. But that explanation elicits the question: what caused it to grow? Bill Kristol’s analysis from 2006 now looks prophetic:

One of the bad side effects of our looking weak and hesitant is that in the last year Ahmadinejad’s been running around provoking everyone, behaving like a madman, thumbing his nose at the U.S. and the West — and he pays no price. And if one were an opponent of Admadinejad in Iran — not a dissident, but someone in government who is kind of a more cautious type, and you’ve been warning, “gee, this will get us in trouble” — and [Admadinejad] gets in no trouble at all — it’s very bad for the internal dynamics in Iran. I think we have inadvertently helped to strengthen [hardliners] in Iran by not responding vigorously.

Clinton’s Al Arabyia interview marked the inauguration of a new, exculpatory administration meme: don’t blame us for the failure of our “engagement” policy — it was thwarted by the triumph of the Iranian hardliners. But that triumph was the predictable result of the policy itself.

Obama’s obsessive “reaching out to the Iranian leadership,” starting in his inauguration speech and continuing month after month in spite of no Iranian response, sent an unmistakable signal — one confirmed when he stood mute after the fraudulent Iranian election; confirmed again after he offered a muffled response to the secret nuclear facility in Qom; confirmed yet again when he remained silent as each of his “deadlines” passed; and confirmed even now by his continuing silence on the subject as he devotes his speeches and attention to ObamaCare. Lions know a lamb when they see one.

In an interview last week with Al Arabiya, Hillary Clinton expressed surprise that “engagement” has failed, since “so many experts” thought it would succeed:

People say to me all the time, what happened to Iran? … When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that’s what he’s been trying to do — reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership. And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama’s outreach, has there not?

It’s a puzzler. But who were those experts who thought an outstretched hand, a video, an apology, a private letter, and a speech would cause Iran to slow (much less agree to stop) its nuclear weapons program? How many thought a nine-month period for response would produce anything other than nine months of uninterrupted centrifuge-spinning? Was there some hitherto unknown academic study of lion-lamb relations that gave the experts cause for optimism?

An explanation for the Iranian reaction is suggested by the question Ruth Wisse once asked in a different context: “Did the bleat of the lamb excite the tiger?” Obama set a deadline, then another, and then discarded any deadline at all; the result was open contempt from Iran’s president. The current effort to move to the “pressure track” of a UN resolution (with a strong letter to follow) is accompanied by public assurances from the secretary of state that the “engagement track” remains open and that the third track has been removed from the table. This is a foreign policy that would embarrass Neville Chamberlain.

The explanation Clinton gave to Al Arabiya for the expert-confounding situation was that the power of the Revolutionary Guard has been growing. But that explanation elicits the question: what caused it to grow? Bill Kristol’s analysis from 2006 now looks prophetic:

One of the bad side effects of our looking weak and hesitant is that in the last year Ahmadinejad’s been running around provoking everyone, behaving like a madman, thumbing his nose at the U.S. and the West — and he pays no price. And if one were an opponent of Admadinejad in Iran — not a dissident, but someone in government who is kind of a more cautious type, and you’ve been warning, “gee, this will get us in trouble” — and [Admadinejad] gets in no trouble at all — it’s very bad for the internal dynamics in Iran. I think we have inadvertently helped to strengthen [hardliners] in Iran by not responding vigorously.

Clinton’s Al Arabyia interview marked the inauguration of a new, exculpatory administration meme: don’t blame us for the failure of our “engagement” policy — it was thwarted by the triumph of the Iranian hardliners. But that triumph was the predictable result of the policy itself.

Obama’s obsessive “reaching out to the Iranian leadership,” starting in his inauguration speech and continuing month after month in spite of no Iranian response, sent an unmistakable signal — one confirmed when he stood mute after the fraudulent Iranian election; confirmed again after he offered a muffled response to the secret nuclear facility in Qom; confirmed yet again when he remained silent as each of his “deadlines” passed; and confirmed even now by his continuing silence on the subject as he devotes his speeches and attention to ObamaCare. Lions know a lamb when they see one.

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Any Hope for a Change in Iran Policy?

On Fox News Sunday, the roundtable discussed Obama’s Iran policy. Indeed, none of the participants was exactly sure there is an Iran policy, or if there were, who is making it. What is clear is that we have an opening to do something more productive than the kabuki dance of engagement with the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency report. Bill Kristol inquired:

“If the Obama administration is serious about stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, we now have the authoritative international agency, which in the past has been somewhat hostile to U.S. analysis, now explicitly saying they have, as Susan Rice, our U.N. ambassador, said, been flouting their international obligations. And then the question is simply is the administration going to get serious, or are we going to — is our response to their past flouting of international obligations to — let’s have some more international obligations, let’s spend months getting a meaningless resolution through the Security Council, or let’s spent months even working on very targeted, limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard corps, or are we going to be serious about doing gasoline sanctions and insurance sanctions, the two that would really make a big difference on Iran? And are we going to be serious about helping the Green Movement there possibly topple the regime?”

Most who have followed the Obama administration’s excuse-filled year of do-nothingness have a sinking feeling that the Obami won’t push for serious sanctions or make an effort to get behind the Green Movement. The most recent indications (especially the bizarrely counterproductive comments that we won’t consider military force) suggest the Obami are in the mode of doing the least possible so as to not be accused of doing absolutely nothing. But, they are doing nothing that might actually set back the Iranian nuclear program.

Mara Liasson on the roundtable senses we are evolving toward a “much tougher, more confrontational, you know, Hillary Clinton-esque approach to Iran.” Unfortunately, it was Clinton who took the potential for military force off the table, and it has been Clinton talking in circles about engagement. So if we’re now banking on Clinton to devise a robust, regime-change, sanctions-serious alternative to engagement, I think we’re bound to be disappointed. Because, you know, the Hillary Clinton-esque approach, like the James Jones approach, is pretty much the Barack Obama approach. That is and will remain, I would suggest, one of conflict avoidance at all costs. And the cost will be huge if, in fact, Obama presides over an enfeebled policy that allows Iran to go nuclear.

On Fox News Sunday, the roundtable discussed Obama’s Iran policy. Indeed, none of the participants was exactly sure there is an Iran policy, or if there were, who is making it. What is clear is that we have an opening to do something more productive than the kabuki dance of engagement with the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency report. Bill Kristol inquired:

“If the Obama administration is serious about stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, we now have the authoritative international agency, which in the past has been somewhat hostile to U.S. analysis, now explicitly saying they have, as Susan Rice, our U.N. ambassador, said, been flouting their international obligations. And then the question is simply is the administration going to get serious, or are we going to — is our response to their past flouting of international obligations to — let’s have some more international obligations, let’s spend months getting a meaningless resolution through the Security Council, or let’s spent months even working on very targeted, limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard corps, or are we going to be serious about doing gasoline sanctions and insurance sanctions, the two that would really make a big difference on Iran? And are we going to be serious about helping the Green Movement there possibly topple the regime?”

Most who have followed the Obama administration’s excuse-filled year of do-nothingness have a sinking feeling that the Obami won’t push for serious sanctions or make an effort to get behind the Green Movement. The most recent indications (especially the bizarrely counterproductive comments that we won’t consider military force) suggest the Obami are in the mode of doing the least possible so as to not be accused of doing absolutely nothing. But, they are doing nothing that might actually set back the Iranian nuclear program.

Mara Liasson on the roundtable senses we are evolving toward a “much tougher, more confrontational, you know, Hillary Clinton-esque approach to Iran.” Unfortunately, it was Clinton who took the potential for military force off the table, and it has been Clinton talking in circles about engagement. So if we’re now banking on Clinton to devise a robust, regime-change, sanctions-serious alternative to engagement, I think we’re bound to be disappointed. Because, you know, the Hillary Clinton-esque approach, like the James Jones approach, is pretty much the Barack Obama approach. That is and will remain, I would suggest, one of conflict avoidance at all costs. And the cost will be huge if, in fact, Obama presides over an enfeebled policy that allows Iran to go nuclear.

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Iran Strike, Out

In case you missed it, the Obama administration has unequivocally taken the option of a military strike off the Iran-policy table. Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a February 15 Al Jazeera interview:

MR. FOUKARA: Just as a follow-up to what you said about Iran, Madam Secretary, you said in your speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that more pressure should be applied to Iran. And there are a lot of people in the Middle East wondering if the United States is planning, at any one time, whether before the withdrawal from Iraq or after the withdrawal from Iraq, planning to launch a military attack of one kind or another against Iran.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran. I mean, that is how we see it. We see that the Government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view.

And so, what we are trying to do is to send a message to Iran, a very clear message, that we still would be open to engagement, we still believe that there is a different path for Iran to take. But we want the world united in sending an unequivocal message to Iran that, “We will not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbor, and even beyond.” And we hope to try to influence the decision making within Iran. And that is our goal.

If you don’t believe that no means no, check out the follow-up:

MR. FOUKARA: So, Madam Secretary, now you are saying there is no plan on the part of the United States to launch an attack? Not in the immediate future, not in the middle term, not in the long term?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are interested in changing Iran’s behavior and — now, we will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies. And we will certainly defend countries here in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran. But we have pursued a dual track, not a triple track, but a dual-track approach of engagement and potential pressure, and that is what we’re focused on.

Anyone remember this? “I don’t think the President of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.” — Barack Obama, the New York Times, January 11, 2007

In case you missed it, the Obama administration has unequivocally taken the option of a military strike off the Iran-policy table. Here is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a February 15 Al Jazeera interview:

MR. FOUKARA: Just as a follow-up to what you said about Iran, Madam Secretary, you said in your speech before the U.S.-Islamic World Forum that more pressure should be applied to Iran. And there are a lot of people in the Middle East wondering if the United States is planning, at any one time, whether before the withdrawal from Iraq or after the withdrawal from Iraq, planning to launch a military attack of one kind or another against Iran.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No. We are planning to try to bring the world community together in applying pressure to Iran through sanctions adopted by the United Nations that will be particularly aimed at those enterprises controlled by the Revolutionary Guard which we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran. I mean, that is how we see it. We see that the Government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view.

And so, what we are trying to do is to send a message to Iran, a very clear message, that we still would be open to engagement, we still believe that there is a different path for Iran to take. But we want the world united in sending an unequivocal message to Iran that, “We will not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbor, and even beyond.” And we hope to try to influence the decision making within Iran. And that is our goal.

If you don’t believe that no means no, check out the follow-up:

MR. FOUKARA: So, Madam Secretary, now you are saying there is no plan on the part of the United States to launch an attack? Not in the immediate future, not in the middle term, not in the long term?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are interested in changing Iran’s behavior and — now, we will always defend ourselves, and we will always defend our friends and allies. And we will certainly defend countries here in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate nearby threat from Iran. But we have pursued a dual track, not a triple track, but a dual-track approach of engagement and potential pressure, and that is what we’re focused on.

Anyone remember this? “I don’t think the President of the United States takes military options off the table, but I think that we obviously have to measure costs and benefits in all the decisions that we make.” — Barack Obama, the New York Times, January 11, 2007

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Heavy Meddle in Iran

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

The following is not hyperbole: the U.S. secretary of state has praised the freedom and pluralism of Iran’s Khomeinist revolution. In a lamentation for the passing of the good ol’ days, Hillary Clinton told an audience in Doha, Qatar, that today’s Iran is “a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.”

However, it’s what this praise is offered in service of that’s most reprehensible: the reassertion of centralized power by Tehran’s autocratic clerics and politicians. Clinton has determined that a Revolutionary Guard coup is underway, and she urged the government to “take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.”

Because we know how admirably it wields such authority.

The way the Obama administration sees things, the pre–June 12 mullahgarchy was fine and dandy. Sure, it was “death to America, death to Israel” every day, and there were public child-hangings and other exotic goodies that go with any “great country”; but with a little “mutual respect” and “open-hand” treatment, the mullahs would deal on the nuclear issue. So when hordes of democratic protesters took to the streets to topple Washington’s negotiating partners, the administration would have none of it. President Obama would “bear witness” as the regime broke Iranian skulls and leave things at that. As Reuel Marc Gerecht put it, Obama “gives the distinct impression that he’d rather have a nuclear deal with Khamenei than see the messiness that comes when autocracy gives way to representative government.” A weak argument could be mounted in Obama’s defense if a nuclear deal with Khamenei were even the vaguest possibility.

Meanwhile, Obama fans applauded the president’s prudence and put their faith in, of all things, online social networking to spur regime change in Iran. As we learned from the poor February 11 protest turnout in Iran, it takes more than Twitter to change history.

Iran’s democratic revolution is ailing, yet Hillary Clinton is still worried about weaknesses in the Iranian regime. The Revolutionary Guard, she has decided, has wrested control from clerics and politicians; this cannot stand. Hence, the secretary of State’s confused endorsement.

Among the many points that elude the Obama administration is that the Revolutionary Guard serves as the Praetorian Guard for the very politicians Clinton is now rallying behind. While the internal balance of power of the Iranian regime is fluid, the essential fact remains that a brutal, theocratic machine is engaged in the violent crackdown of a pro-democracy movement. The more disturbing complication here is that America has taken every opportunity to align itself with the former party against the latter. Try to imagine what Iran’s democratic protesters hear when the American administration that gave them no support now urges the regime in Tehran to remain strong.

What a historically tragic test case for “smart power.” Having likely missed the opportunity to support Iran’s democratic revolution before it atomized, the administration now gets behind the Khomeinist Revolution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains strong, the Revolutionary Guard sees to his dirty work, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad keeps the centrifuges spinning. Instead of supporting Khamenei and Ahmadinejad in hopes of negotiation, the U.S. should do everything in its power to turn Iran’s virtual democratic revolution into a real one. But that, alas, constitutes meddling. And we don’t do that anymore. This is how things end. Not with a bang but a Twitter.

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The Obami’s Engagement Dead End

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

Hillary Clinton is now decrying the emergence in Iran of a military dictatorship. She declares:

“We see that the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. … I think the trend with this greater and greater military lock on leadership decisions should be disturbing to Iranians, as well as to those of us on the outside,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters as she flew from Qatar to Saudi Arabia.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, Clinton appears to root for the mullahs. Why in the world are we seemingly bemoaning the plight of the Supreme Leader? Could we perhaps take the side of real regime change and root for the democracy protestors? Too much to expect, I think. Even the New York Times notices the cul-de-sac in which this sort of argument puts Clinton: “But in prodding the clerics and politicians to take action, Mrs. Clinton found herself in the awkward position of celebrating the early days of the Islamic Revolution. Iran today, she said, is ‘a far cry from the Islamic republic that had elections and different points of view within the leadership circle.'” So the current regime isn’t as swell as the old regime, but we’re rooting for ‘em anyway. And this is what passes for smart diplomacy.

But there is another problem here. If the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is infesting and manipulating the regime, and if its reach extends to the political apparatus, how are itty-bitty, narrowly focused sanctions going to work? Amir Taheri observes that the IRGC essentially turned “Tehran into a sealed citadel with checkpoints at all points of entry” in response to the Feb. 11 protests. He observes of the IRGC:

Their leaders are more strident than many of the regime’s leaders, vetoing countless attempts by mullahs and politicians to reach a compromise with the portion of the opposition still calling for reform rather than regime change. Revolutionary Guard generals frequently appear on television to call for mass arrests and show trials. A weak and indecisive caliph, Mr. Khamenei has so far refused to endorse the kind of “final solution” the generals demand.

Abroad, the Revolutionary Guard pursues an aggressive policy aimed at “filling the vacuum” the generals hope will be created when the U.S. disengages from Iraq and Afghanistan by funding terrorist groups and their political front organizations. The IRGC has reportedly created a special desk to monitor the coming parliamentary elections in Baghdad and Kabul with the aim of helping pro-Tehran elements win power.

Hmm. But the Obami are going to come up with very narrowly framed sanctions, they keep telling us. This is to avoid impacting the rest of the government and to keep the Iranian population at large – the same population that has already pretty much figured out who the bad guys are – from becoming upset with the U.S. (although they are actually already upset with the U.S. for granting legitimacy to the regime).

You wonder how the Obami, such smart and educated folks, got so tied up in knots. Well, it seems like they had not a clue about whom they were dealing when they headed down the regime road. The New York Times tells us:

Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said administration officials were learning from experience.

“There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other,” Mr. Takeyh said, but “those anticipations discounted the extent how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity.”

Even the Gray Lady can figure it out: “And if Mrs. Clinton is correct that the Revolutionary Guards, not the politicians or the clerics, are becoming the central power in Iran, the prospects for rapprochement can only look worse. Not that Iran’s political and religious leaders, so far, have demonstrated much interest in Mr. Obama’s outreach.”

There is only one reasonable and viable path out of this: regime change. Not mullah boosterism. Not pin-prick sanctions to get the mullahs back to dickering with us in Vienna. There are Iranians dying in the street to displace the regime — mullahs, IRGC, the whole gaggle of thugs — and that is the horse we should be betting on.

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North Korea’s Dilemma

Uncanny events in North Korea this week hint at the fragility of the regime and the effectiveness of sanctions. Though tough to confirm, it’s being reported that two senior members of the government have been canned, and the DRPK has had to backtrack on some of its pet policies, which were targeted at centralizing the economy and choking the black market.

In November, Pyongyang enacted major economic changes. It cracked down on private markets allowed to operate with very limited freedom since 2002. It restricted imports from China. It revalued the currency, replacing old bank notes with new ones and limiting how much money a normal citizen could swap out, introducing the new currency in a way that flagrantly favored corrupt party members and the elite. That policy alone wiped out the savings of many average North Koreans. Reports suggest the price of rice is now 100 times what it was in October, and starvation deaths are on the rise.

This problem is worsened because aid has been cut off. The South Koreans, led by the formidable Lee Myung-bak, have made aid contingent upon North Korean nuclear concessions. And North Korea lost 500,000 tons of food from the United States last year.

Though it’s tough to say exactly what’s going on in North Korea, the food shortage seems to have elicited popular outrage, becoming a turning point for its citizenry. Veterans from the Korean War staged a protest in Danchon, riots have broken out, and citizens have attacked officials patrolling the markets, according to news reports gathered from defectors, smugglers, South Korean news agencies, and off-the-record comments from Seoul officials. The ruthlessly repressive North Korean government appears to be caught off guard by the uprisings.

Now Pyongyang is yielding slightly. The author of the November policies has been fired, as was the government official responsible for ensuring access to foreign currency for Kim Jong-Il, almost certainly because European Union blacklisting. The North Korean government is likely easing some of the November restrictions.

This isn’t the concession the West has been looking for, by any means. But it’s a good sign. The sanctions, paired with North Korea’s own suicidal policies, are inflicting pain – pain that is evoking reaction from ordinary North Koreans, pain that is forcing Pyongyang to make at least some changes against its will. If Obama and his friends are smart, they’ll acknowledge that their sanctions can put Kim Jung-Il’s government in a corner. One of these punches may just be a deadringer.

Uncanny events in North Korea this week hint at the fragility of the regime and the effectiveness of sanctions. Though tough to confirm, it’s being reported that two senior members of the government have been canned, and the DRPK has had to backtrack on some of its pet policies, which were targeted at centralizing the economy and choking the black market.

In November, Pyongyang enacted major economic changes. It cracked down on private markets allowed to operate with very limited freedom since 2002. It restricted imports from China. It revalued the currency, replacing old bank notes with new ones and limiting how much money a normal citizen could swap out, introducing the new currency in a way that flagrantly favored corrupt party members and the elite. That policy alone wiped out the savings of many average North Koreans. Reports suggest the price of rice is now 100 times what it was in October, and starvation deaths are on the rise.

This problem is worsened because aid has been cut off. The South Koreans, led by the formidable Lee Myung-bak, have made aid contingent upon North Korean nuclear concessions. And North Korea lost 500,000 tons of food from the United States last year.

Though it’s tough to say exactly what’s going on in North Korea, the food shortage seems to have elicited popular outrage, becoming a turning point for its citizenry. Veterans from the Korean War staged a protest in Danchon, riots have broken out, and citizens have attacked officials patrolling the markets, according to news reports gathered from defectors, smugglers, South Korean news agencies, and off-the-record comments from Seoul officials. The ruthlessly repressive North Korean government appears to be caught off guard by the uprisings.

Now Pyongyang is yielding slightly. The author of the November policies has been fired, as was the government official responsible for ensuring access to foreign currency for Kim Jong-Il, almost certainly because European Union blacklisting. The North Korean government is likely easing some of the November restrictions.

This isn’t the concession the West has been looking for, by any means. But it’s a good sign. The sanctions, paired with North Korea’s own suicidal policies, are inflicting pain – pain that is evoking reaction from ordinary North Koreans, pain that is forcing Pyongyang to make at least some changes against its will. If Obama and his friends are smart, they’ll acknowledge that their sanctions can put Kim Jung-Il’s government in a corner. One of these punches may just be a deadringer.

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Hillary Clinton Delivers New Year’s Assurances for the Mullahs

Hillary Clinton emerges from her long absence to deliver this blather on Iran:

Now, we’ve avoided using the term “deadline” ourselves. That’s not a term that we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we’ve also made it clear we can’t continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of high-enriched uranium and additional facilities for nuclear power that very likely can be put to dual use.

So we have already begun discussions with our partners and with likeminded nations about pressure and sanctions. I can’t appropriately comment on the details of those discussions now, except to say that our goal is to pressure the Iranian Government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary Iraqis who deserve better than what they currently are receiving.

Iran is going through a very turbulent period in its history. There are many troubling signs of the actions that they are taking. And we want to reiterate that we stand with those Iranians who are peacefully demonstrating. We mourn the loss of innocent life. We condemn the detention and imprisonment, the torture and abuse of people, which seems to be accelerating. And we hope that there will be an opportunity for Iran to reverse course, to begin engaging in a positive way with the international community, respecting the rights of their own citizens. But we’re going to continue on our dual-track approach.

No, the Obami haven’t given up on engagement, nor do those “crippling sanctions” seem to be in the cards. Regime change? You must be joking! All she can muster is the “hope” that Iran will reverse course. Not that we would do much to aid in that effort. We are simply taking notes — isn’t that what “bearing witness” is all about? — as Iranian citizens disappear or are tortured or killed. Now she does express “concerns” and is “disturbed” —  “deeply” disturbed, as her boss expressed, begrudgingly, after the June 12 election was stolen: “So yes, we have concerns about their behavior, we have concerns about their intentions, and we are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear.” That level of concern and “disturbance” does not rise, however, to warning the mullahs of the consequences of their behavior. No, there are none of those in sight. And how genteel is her description that the Iranian people express “viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear.” Yes, the Iranian people would like not to be snatched from their homes or have their children tortured; the regime takes the contrary view. All so polite. All so very Foggy Bottom-ish.

Can you imagine how delighted the Iranian regime must be to hear this unintelligible mush from the Obama team? Clinton has told them that there isn’t really any “deadline” and that they can proceed without fear of any serious consequences for their behavior. For the mullahs, that’s a delightful start for 2010. For the people of Iran? Not so much.

Hillary Clinton emerges from her long absence to deliver this blather on Iran:

Now, we’ve avoided using the term “deadline” ourselves. That’s not a term that we have used because we want to keep the door to dialogue open. But we’ve also made it clear we can’t continue to wait and we cannot continue to stand by when the Iranians themselves talk about increasing their production of high-enriched uranium and additional facilities for nuclear power that very likely can be put to dual use.

So we have already begun discussions with our partners and with likeminded nations about pressure and sanctions. I can’t appropriately comment on the details of those discussions now, except to say that our goal is to pressure the Iranian Government, particularly the Revolutionary Guard elements, without contributing to the suffering of the ordinary Iraqis who deserve better than what they currently are receiving.

Iran is going through a very turbulent period in its history. There are many troubling signs of the actions that they are taking. And we want to reiterate that we stand with those Iranians who are peacefully demonstrating. We mourn the loss of innocent life. We condemn the detention and imprisonment, the torture and abuse of people, which seems to be accelerating. And we hope that there will be an opportunity for Iran to reverse course, to begin engaging in a positive way with the international community, respecting the rights of their own citizens. But we’re going to continue on our dual-track approach.

No, the Obami haven’t given up on engagement, nor do those “crippling sanctions” seem to be in the cards. Regime change? You must be joking! All she can muster is the “hope” that Iran will reverse course. Not that we would do much to aid in that effort. We are simply taking notes — isn’t that what “bearing witness” is all about? — as Iranian citizens disappear or are tortured or killed. Now she does express “concerns” and is “disturbed” —  “deeply” disturbed, as her boss expressed, begrudgingly, after the June 12 election was stolen: “So yes, we have concerns about their behavior, we have concerns about their intentions, and we are deeply disturbed by the mounting signs of ruthless repression that they are exercising against those who assemble and express viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear.” That level of concern and “disturbance” does not rise, however, to warning the mullahs of the consequences of their behavior. No, there are none of those in sight. And how genteel is her description that the Iranian people express “viewpoints that are at variance with what the leadership of Iran wants to hear.” Yes, the Iranian people would like not to be snatched from their homes or have their children tortured; the regime takes the contrary view. All so polite. All so very Foggy Bottom-ish.

Can you imagine how delighted the Iranian regime must be to hear this unintelligible mush from the Obama team? Clinton has told them that there isn’t really any “deadline” and that they can proceed without fear of any serious consequences for their behavior. For the mullahs, that’s a delightful start for 2010. For the people of Iran? Not so much.

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No Conceivable Justification for This One

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

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Not Giving up Yet on Iranian Engagement

Good news: the Obama administration is getting ready to impose sanctions on Iran. Bad news: they are doing so in a half-hearted fashion without giving up the pipe dream of re-engaging a barbaric regime murdering its own people. No, really. They don’t want to topple the regime nor inflict much damage, just target those “elements” they think are the really bad guys. The Washington Post reports:

“We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy,” said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation — whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame.”

As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. “Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement,” another senior official said. “Our intention is to keep the door open.”

It is unclear how, exactly, we are going to target only the Revolutionary Guard, for example. And heaven forbid we should appear to aid the protestors. (“But officials insist that sanctions would not be linked to the protests. ‘It is only coincidental that at the same time we reached the deadline, the Iranian government has a bloody crackdown,’ said a third U.S. official. ‘It has only served to highlight the nature of the regime.'”) What is important is that we avoid being too harsh, too effective, or inflict too much damage because then the regime wouldn’t want to come back to the bargaining table:

Administration officials have not given up hope that the deal can be revived — they are encouraging Turkish efforts to bridge the gap — but they say the apparent turmoil it generated within the Iranian leadership is a useful side benefit of engagement. The effort to engage “has had an unsettling effect on people in the regime,” one official said. “It has made it more difficult to demonize the United States and say it has been the root of all evil.”

(Notice the defensive fixation that we must justify our own actions to the Iranian people, who are risking life and limb against a regime they know all to well is evil.) And in defending the engagement strategy, unnamed officials claim they’ve been making progress with China. Well, not exactly progress. The Chinese just “understand the argument but don’t have the sense of urgency that other countries have.” All that bowing and scraping for nothing, it seems.

If this seems ludicrous and full of the same otherwordly thinking that originally spurred the engagement gambit and frittered away a year (while the mullahs proceeded with their nuclear program), you are right. Whatever mumbo-jumbo they are talking about, it is not “crippling sanctions.” The mullahs will be delighted to know there are no serious consequences for their behavior. They will no doubt proceed full speed ahead with their nuclear plans. And for those who imagined that Obama would be tougher and smarter? Well, it was just their imagination.

Good news: the Obama administration is getting ready to impose sanctions on Iran. Bad news: they are doing so in a half-hearted fashion without giving up the pipe dream of re-engaging a barbaric regime murdering its own people. No, really. They don’t want to topple the regime nor inflict much damage, just target those “elements” they think are the really bad guys. The Washington Post reports:

“We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy,” said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We have to be deft at this, because it matters how the Iranian people interpret their isolation — whether they fault the regime or are fooled into thinking we are to blame.”

As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. “Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement,” another senior official said. “Our intention is to keep the door open.”

It is unclear how, exactly, we are going to target only the Revolutionary Guard, for example. And heaven forbid we should appear to aid the protestors. (“But officials insist that sanctions would not be linked to the protests. ‘It is only coincidental that at the same time we reached the deadline, the Iranian government has a bloody crackdown,’ said a third U.S. official. ‘It has only served to highlight the nature of the regime.'”) What is important is that we avoid being too harsh, too effective, or inflict too much damage because then the regime wouldn’t want to come back to the bargaining table:

Administration officials have not given up hope that the deal can be revived — they are encouraging Turkish efforts to bridge the gap — but they say the apparent turmoil it generated within the Iranian leadership is a useful side benefit of engagement. The effort to engage “has had an unsettling effect on people in the regime,” one official said. “It has made it more difficult to demonize the United States and say it has been the root of all evil.”

(Notice the defensive fixation that we must justify our own actions to the Iranian people, who are risking life and limb against a regime they know all to well is evil.) And in defending the engagement strategy, unnamed officials claim they’ve been making progress with China. Well, not exactly progress. The Chinese just “understand the argument but don’t have the sense of urgency that other countries have.” All that bowing and scraping for nothing, it seems.

If this seems ludicrous and full of the same otherwordly thinking that originally spurred the engagement gambit and frittered away a year (while the mullahs proceeded with their nuclear program), you are right. Whatever mumbo-jumbo they are talking about, it is not “crippling sanctions.” The mullahs will be delighted to know there are no serious consequences for their behavior. They will no doubt proceed full speed ahead with their nuclear plans. And for those who imagined that Obama would be tougher and smarter? Well, it was just their imagination.

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Re: More Than Words

Ever since his Nobel Speech in Oslo, the president and his supporters have been quoting Oslo as evidence that Obama now is stepping up his human rights rhetoric. Hillary Clinton did it in her December 14 human-rights speech. (“In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize last week, President Obama said that while war is never welcome or good, it will sometimes be right and necessary, because, in his words, “Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can be truly lasting.”) Obama did it again from Hawaii yesterday, observing that, “As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.”

It is an odd tic to quote oneself, but Obama tends to do that a lot — as if to say “Haven’t you been listening?” Or perhaps, and this is more troubling, he is inferring that a speech takes the place of action and is in and of itself proof of his own bona fides on human rights. Words, in his book, should silence all doubters. After all, he said it. In Oslo no less.

But there is a growing recognition that words, spoken to western audiences from a podium, mean not all that much when it comes to Iran. The Washington Post editors join the chorus of critics of Obama’s recent tentative remarks that cheered on (from a safe distance) the Iranian democracy protesters:

Russia and non-Western nations should be pressed to join in condemning the regime’s violence. Sanctions aimed at the Revolutionary Guard and its extensive business and financial network should be accelerated; action must not be delayed by months of haggling at the U.N. Security Council. More should be done, now, to facilitate Iranian use of the Internet for uncensored communication. The State Department continues to drag its feet on using money appropriated by Congress to fund firewall-busting operations and to deny support to groups with a proven record of success, like the Global Internet Freedom Consortium.

In short, words — especially Obama quoting himself — are insufficient. Now they only highlight the lack of any comprehensive effort to aid the protesters. As the editors put it, “It’s time for the United States to do whatever it can, in public and covertly, to help those Iranians fighting for freedom.” For the United States to do — not to say — whatever it can. But the president and his cocoon-sustaining spinners have often confused words with action. Remember how the Cairo Speech “changed everything” in the Middle East? Well, it didn’t. And neither will the president’s “Keep up the good work!” admonitions to the Iranian protesters.

Unfortunately, one suspects that this is the sum total of the president’s efforts to aid the democracy protesters. That it is an improvement over his previous muteness is really not cause for celebration, only for  reflection on just how putrid has been our entire policy of “engagement.”

Ever since his Nobel Speech in Oslo, the president and his supporters have been quoting Oslo as evidence that Obama now is stepping up his human rights rhetoric. Hillary Clinton did it in her December 14 human-rights speech. (“In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize last week, President Obama said that while war is never welcome or good, it will sometimes be right and necessary, because, in his words, “Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can be truly lasting.”) Obama did it again from Hawaii yesterday, observing that, “As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation.”

It is an odd tic to quote oneself, but Obama tends to do that a lot — as if to say “Haven’t you been listening?” Or perhaps, and this is more troubling, he is inferring that a speech takes the place of action and is in and of itself proof of his own bona fides on human rights. Words, in his book, should silence all doubters. After all, he said it. In Oslo no less.

But there is a growing recognition that words, spoken to western audiences from a podium, mean not all that much when it comes to Iran. The Washington Post editors join the chorus of critics of Obama’s recent tentative remarks that cheered on (from a safe distance) the Iranian democracy protesters:

Russia and non-Western nations should be pressed to join in condemning the regime’s violence. Sanctions aimed at the Revolutionary Guard and its extensive business and financial network should be accelerated; action must not be delayed by months of haggling at the U.N. Security Council. More should be done, now, to facilitate Iranian use of the Internet for uncensored communication. The State Department continues to drag its feet on using money appropriated by Congress to fund firewall-busting operations and to deny support to groups with a proven record of success, like the Global Internet Freedom Consortium.

In short, words — especially Obama quoting himself — are insufficient. Now they only highlight the lack of any comprehensive effort to aid the protesters. As the editors put it, “It’s time for the United States to do whatever it can, in public and covertly, to help those Iranians fighting for freedom.” For the United States to do — not to say — whatever it can. But the president and his cocoon-sustaining spinners have often confused words with action. Remember how the Cairo Speech “changed everything” in the Middle East? Well, it didn’t. And neither will the president’s “Keep up the good work!” admonitions to the Iranian protesters.

Unfortunately, one suspects that this is the sum total of the president’s efforts to aid the democracy protesters. That it is an improvement over his previous muteness is really not cause for celebration, only for  reflection on just how putrid has been our entire policy of “engagement.”

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RE: No Risk, They Say?

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

I seldom find myself in disagreement with my colleague Jen Rubin. This is one of those rare occasions. I am not as alarmed as she is by the prospect of moving detainees from Guantanamo to a super-max prison in Illinois. She cites an ABC News report to highlight the dangers but, in fact, I think the ABC report makes the case for the transfer. It notes that ultra-dangerous al-Qaeda prisoners are already being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colordao, including the so-called “20th hijacker” Zacharias Moussaoui, the shoe bomber Richard Reid, the first World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and dirty bomber Jose Padilla. All of them “ have essentially disappeared inside the Colorado facility.” One of their defense attorneys is quoted complaining, “ It’s a bleak and brutal existence that’s defined by, essentially an 8 x 10 rectangle in which they live. There is no socialization whatsoever and the isolation itself is extremely damaging.”

While it may not make a defense attorney happy, that’s exactly the fate that I would like to see befall more terrorists. What about the risks that Jen mentions? It’s true that the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, was able to communicate with his followers via his lawyer but that’s also possible in Guantanamo where the detainees now have access to attorneys. And it’s true that another al-Qaeda terrorist, Mamdouh Salim, who was being held temporarily at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, was able to stab a guard with a sharpened comb in an unsuccessful attempt to escape. But that could happen at Gitmo too. In any case, security is tighter at supermax facilities. No one, as far as I know, has ever escaped from such a facility.

The most compelling argument against transferring the Gitmo detainees isn’t the worry that they will break out or convey forbidden information through their lawyers. Rather, it is that they may gain new legal rights by being brought to U.S. soil. I am not a lawyer, and stand ready to be corrected on this score, but my understanding is that they have already gained a lot of rights even while in Gitmo thanks to Supreme Court rulings. Only if they gain significant new legal protections that make their release more likely should a transfer to the mainland be banned. If they can be held securely in a supermax facility without having to be brought before a civilian court for trial, it makes sense to do so because, essentially, that would be a cosmetic change that would undo some of the public-relations damage wrought to America’s reputation by the Gitmo facility while not compromising our security.

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Not Keeping America Safe

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame (board members of Keep America Safe), Eileen Trotta (the sister of Officer Louis Pepe, a former federal prison guard who was stabbed in the eye by an al-Qaeda terrorist 10 months before 9/11), and former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy held a conference call to discuss the decision to move Guantanamo detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois. Cheney was blunt, declaring that this was further evidence that the Obama administration was “dedicated to turning the clock back” to a failed pre-9/11 approach, which treated terrorism as a criminal-justice matter. Once here, she explained, the detainees will have “all the rights of U.S. citizens” and the opportunity to seek release onto U.S. soil. They will also have the freedom to plan and plot other terrorist activities, as well as to “radicalize the prison population.” She noted that the Obama team has “no stomach” for keeping in place restrictions on terrorists once they’re in U.S. facilities, pointing to the case of shoe bomber Richard Reid, who after a hunger strike and legal complaint got the restrictions on mail, media access, etc. lifted. (Burlingame later added that it was discovered that the 1993 World Trade Center bombers managed to send some 90 letters to terrorist networks, which used them as prime recruiting tools.)

I asked Cheney what the administration hoped to gain by this, since terrorists would still have to be indefinitely detained and we were simply going to have to re-create the Guantanamo facility on U.S. soil. She confessed that it was “impossible to get inside their heads,” but she emphasized that each and every action of the president should be assessed as to whether it would make Americans safer. She said there is simply “no way to argue” that this makes us safer. She deemed the argument that this will create jobs “disgraceful,” reminding those on the call that there was an overpopulation problem in U.S. prisons and that other prisoners could be moved and the Illinois facility enhanced if they wanted to boost local jobs. She reiterated that Guantanamo is both a “safe and just facility” and that there is “no legitimate justification” for moving them.

In response to a similar query from USA Today as to whether this was an administration effort to eliminate Guantanamo as a “recruiting tool,” Cheney said that the media should “challenge them to show evidence” that it was Guantanamo that was responsible for terror recruitment. Terrorists “are not attacking America because of the way they are detained” but, she explained, because of their hateful Islamic fundamentalist ideology. McCarthy added, “A pretext is not a cause.” It is Islamic ideology and signs of American weakness that, he noted, are what spur recruitment, according to terrorists (including the 1993 bombers) who have been debriefed.

I asked McCarthy what Congress could do. Congress has “remedies,” he noted, including the power to decline funding. Congress is also the “master of federal jurisdiction” and can use that power, for example in the KSM trial, to declare U.S. courts off-limits to enemy combatants. It is, he argues, incumbent on Congress to use “the power of the purse … but also to say in resolutions that this is not the way we want to go.”

This is a preview of the debate that will take place, both in Congress and in the 2010 elections. The question remains: do we want to move terrorists to U.S. soil and treat them as U.S. citizens, with all the attendant rights and security risks? The American people overwhelmingly have rejected this idea. But the Obami say they know better. We’ll see who wins the argument.

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An Opportunity Lost

Michael Gerson, unlike the Obami, concedes that our Iran-engagement policy is in a shambles: the regime has consolidated power, its nuclear program is going full steam ahead, and we have been shown to be very foolish: “Obama’s policy of setting deadlines for cooperation that are violated with impunity, and continually extending the hand of engagement after it is slapped again and again, is both weak and irrelevant.” Gerson suggests that some regime change is in order and that it would be wise to now aid the democracy advocates — after having defunded them. He calls it an “untried option.” Actually, it was a rejected option, at the moment at which it might have done some good. When many were calling on the president to lend a hand to the protesters, Obama went mute and turned up the groveling. Gerson holds out hope that:

Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule. Not out of idealism, but realism. It would be a source of leverage on the Iranian regime, at a time when American leverage is limited. And it might hasten the return of civilian control in Iran, so that America would actually have a negotiating partner.

Well, he could, but he shows no interest in doing so, and frankly it’s a little late now. Obama has already bestowed legitimacy on a regime that, as Gerson points out, the Revolutionary Guard now dominates. (“But in reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard’s control has expanded comprehensively. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reorganized Iran’s intelligence services to give the Guard the lead role — clearly fearful that the regular intelligence agencies were unreliable. The Guard has assumed greater power over Iranian media.”) Gerson is right that regime change is smart policy. Unfortunately, our president didn’t realize that when it might have had the greatest impact.

Michael Gerson, unlike the Obami, concedes that our Iran-engagement policy is in a shambles: the regime has consolidated power, its nuclear program is going full steam ahead, and we have been shown to be very foolish: “Obama’s policy of setting deadlines for cooperation that are violated with impunity, and continually extending the hand of engagement after it is slapped again and again, is both weak and irrelevant.” Gerson suggests that some regime change is in order and that it would be wise to now aid the democracy advocates — after having defunded them. He calls it an “untried option.” Actually, it was a rejected option, at the moment at which it might have done some good. When many were calling on the president to lend a hand to the protesters, Obama went mute and turned up the groveling. Gerson holds out hope that:

Obama could try the strategy the Iranian regime most fears: supporting, overtly and covertly, the democratic resistance against military rule. Not out of idealism, but realism. It would be a source of leverage on the Iranian regime, at a time when American leverage is limited. And it might hasten the return of civilian control in Iran, so that America would actually have a negotiating partner.

Well, he could, but he shows no interest in doing so, and frankly it’s a little late now. Obama has already bestowed legitimacy on a regime that, as Gerson points out, the Revolutionary Guard now dominates. (“But in reaction to mass protests after the fraudulent presidential election in June, the Guard’s control has expanded comprehensively. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reorganized Iran’s intelligence services to give the Guard the lead role — clearly fearful that the regular intelligence agencies were unreliable. The Guard has assumed greater power over Iranian media.”) Gerson is right that regime change is smart policy. Unfortunately, our president didn’t realize that when it might have had the greatest impact.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Multilateralism flops again: “President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement at a global climate conference scheduled for next month, agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific ‘politically binding’ agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future.” Apparently, Obama has once again not been able, by the mere force of his presence, to move other nations to do what they’d rather not.

In case you thought U.S. prisons were a good place for terrorists: “Ten months before Al Qaeda in 2001 struck a deathblow in the heart lower Manhattan, one of the terrorist group’s founding members plunged a sharpened comb through [Louis] Pepe’s left eye and into his brain, blinding the 42-year-old prison guard and causing severe brain injuries that plague him to this day. Pepe told FoxNews.com he worries that sending Mohammed and four of his alleged fellow 9/11 conspirators to New York could compromise the safety of the guards at the MCC prison.”

Lynn Sweet: “About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama’s election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.”

Another potential consequence of PelosiCare: “By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation. Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010. … ‘There could be political repercussions in the election. It could be harder for the Democrats to keep those Catholics voters they gained and they may put some of their members at risk,’ said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.”

Chris Caldwell: “The public is increasingly certain that the killings are a case of terrorism. Government and military leaders argue that we must not leap to conclusions, and that we are just as likely to be dealing with a variety of mental illness. A lot hinges on whether we think of Maj. Hasan as a mental case or a soldier of jihad.” It seems that the public is less inclined than the chattering class to buy the psycho-babble explanation.

David Axelrod takes a shot at Mitt Romney for taking a shot at Obama’s inability to make a decision. The White House seems a tad defensive on the topic these days, as well they should be.

James Pinkerton reminds us that we have gotten precious little from the Russians since the “reset,” explaining that “the Russians are not following through on their promise to allow America to establish an aerial supply corridor into Afghanistan. Back in July, they promised to allow up to 4500 flights a year from their territory, to facilitate American logistics for the war effort. So four months later, how many flights have there been? Zero.”

And on his Asia trip, Obama is “confronting the limits of engagement and personal charm.” Not a single foreign-policy success to come from all the smart diplomacy, it seems.

The first of many perhaps: “The family of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl expressed disappointment with the Obama administration’s decision to try the professed killer of their son, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court. … ‘We are respectful of the legal process, but believe that giving confessed terrorists a worldwide platform to publicize their ideology sends the wrong message to potential terrorists, inviting them, in essence, to resort to violence and cruelty in order to gain publicity.'”

Rep. Pete Hoesktra on the decision to try KSM in New York: “This is ideology run wild. We’re going to go back into New York City, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We’re now going to rip that wound wide open and it’s going to stay open for, what, two, three, four years as we go through the circus of a trial in New York City?” Yup. He explains that we have an alternative: “I would have put him through the military tribunal process. We started that process. They pled guilty. Why won’t the president take guilty for an answer and say now let’s go on to the sentencing phase?”

Multilateralism flops again: “President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement at a global climate conference scheduled for next month, agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific ‘politically binding’ agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future.” Apparently, Obama has once again not been able, by the mere force of his presence, to move other nations to do what they’d rather not.

In case you thought U.S. prisons were a good place for terrorists: “Ten months before Al Qaeda in 2001 struck a deathblow in the heart lower Manhattan, one of the terrorist group’s founding members plunged a sharpened comb through [Louis] Pepe’s left eye and into his brain, blinding the 42-year-old prison guard and causing severe brain injuries that plague him to this day. Pepe told FoxNews.com he worries that sending Mohammed and four of his alleged fellow 9/11 conspirators to New York could compromise the safety of the guards at the MCC prison.”

Lynn Sweet: “About a year ago, thousands jammed Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate Barack Obama’s election to the White House, a communal civic defining moment. But those giddy days are long gone as Democrats in Illinois face the potential of losing the Senate seat President Obama once held next November.”

Another potential consequence of PelosiCare: “By teeing up a public battle over abortion in the health care bill now before the Senate, congressional Democrats could be risking more than just the fate of the legislation. Hanging in the balance are millions of Catholic swing voters who moved decisively to the Democrats in 2008 and who could shift away just as readily in 2010. … ‘There could be political repercussions in the election. It could be harder for the Democrats to keep those Catholics voters they gained and they may put some of their members at risk,’ said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.”

Chris Caldwell: “The public is increasingly certain that the killings are a case of terrorism. Government and military leaders argue that we must not leap to conclusions, and that we are just as likely to be dealing with a variety of mental illness. A lot hinges on whether we think of Maj. Hasan as a mental case or a soldier of jihad.” It seems that the public is less inclined than the chattering class to buy the psycho-babble explanation.

David Axelrod takes a shot at Mitt Romney for taking a shot at Obama’s inability to make a decision. The White House seems a tad defensive on the topic these days, as well they should be.

James Pinkerton reminds us that we have gotten precious little from the Russians since the “reset,” explaining that “the Russians are not following through on their promise to allow America to establish an aerial supply corridor into Afghanistan. Back in July, they promised to allow up to 4500 flights a year from their territory, to facilitate American logistics for the war effort. So four months later, how many flights have there been? Zero.”

And on his Asia trip, Obama is “confronting the limits of engagement and personal charm.” Not a single foreign-policy success to come from all the smart diplomacy, it seems.

The first of many perhaps: “The family of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl expressed disappointment with the Obama administration’s decision to try the professed killer of their son, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court. … ‘We are respectful of the legal process, but believe that giving confessed terrorists a worldwide platform to publicize their ideology sends the wrong message to potential terrorists, inviting them, in essence, to resort to violence and cruelty in order to gain publicity.'”

Rep. Pete Hoesktra on the decision to try KSM in New York: “This is ideology run wild. We’re going to go back into New York City, the scene of the tragedy on 9/11. We’re now going to rip that wound wide open and it’s going to stay open for, what, two, three, four years as we go through the circus of a trial in New York City?” Yup. He explains that we have an alternative: “I would have put him through the military tribunal process. We started that process. They pled guilty. Why won’t the president take guilty for an answer and say now let’s go on to the sentencing phase?”

Read Less

“Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

Read More

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the “elimination” of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant “Death to Israel, Death to America!” That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that “the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.” And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.

The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.

That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel’s founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world’s great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved — a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today’s oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists’ vision and the injustice of their cause.

Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn’t mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.

This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America’s closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.

Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.

Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel’s independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar — the key to the Zion Gate — and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, “Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day.” Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: “I accept this key in the name of my people.”

Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless.

Read Less

Hamas Loses

Despite initial denials from officials of both sides, sources are now indicating that an Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza is imminent. According to Ha’aretz, the deal will put Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa, Kerem Shalom, Erez, and Rafah border crossings, thereby fulfilling agreements that the U.S., Palestinian Authority, and Israel had reached prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Hamas will play a secondary role nearby some of these crossings, monitoring the movement of civilians–though not goods–in and out of the strip.

This should be interpreted as the first major setback for Hamas since the party won the parliamentary elections over two years ago. At the very least, permitting Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard to assume control of border crossings represents a major political concession. If the Guard succeeds in stemming weapons smuggling, it will severely hamper Hamas’s military capabilities. Moreover, the ceasefire requires as a first step that Hamas stop firing rockets, which suggests that Israel’s recent operation in Gaza was highly effective in targeting key Hamas personnel and infrastructure.

Of course, the ceasefire also implies an Israeli concession, insofar as it shatters the hope that Hamas will be dislodged from Gaza by force. After all, the truce requires that Israel curtail its military operations entirely, including its targeting of Hamas officials. Still, Israel has located an opening for slowly chipping away at Hamas’s domestic power, with Abbas able to declare victory for having brokered an agreement that finally opens the border crossings-an accomplishment that Hamas’s rockets have decisively failed to achieve.

For the truce to succeed in the long run, bolstering the commitment and capabilities of the Presidential Guard must be a top priority. History should be a guide in this: last June, Hamas seized Gaza largely thanks to an ill-equipped and unmotivated Fatah force. Although the Bush administration has steered clear of the ceasefire negotiations, it should view the conditions of the Presidential Guard as critical to the peace process, which Vice-President Dick Cheney will address when he visits the region next week. Indeed, any breakdown in the Presidential Guard’s ability to control the borders would represent the final nail in the coffin for the still-nascent Annapolis “process.”

Despite initial denials from officials of both sides, sources are now indicating that an Israel-Hamas ceasefire in Gaza is imminent. According to Ha’aretz, the deal will put Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa, Kerem Shalom, Erez, and Rafah border crossings, thereby fulfilling agreements that the U.S., Palestinian Authority, and Israel had reached prior to the 2005 Gaza disengagement. Hamas will play a secondary role nearby some of these crossings, monitoring the movement of civilians–though not goods–in and out of the strip.

This should be interpreted as the first major setback for Hamas since the party won the parliamentary elections over two years ago. At the very least, permitting Mahmoud Abbas’s Presidential Guard to assume control of border crossings represents a major political concession. If the Guard succeeds in stemming weapons smuggling, it will severely hamper Hamas’s military capabilities. Moreover, the ceasefire requires as a first step that Hamas stop firing rockets, which suggests that Israel’s recent operation in Gaza was highly effective in targeting key Hamas personnel and infrastructure.

Of course, the ceasefire also implies an Israeli concession, insofar as it shatters the hope that Hamas will be dislodged from Gaza by force. After all, the truce requires that Israel curtail its military operations entirely, including its targeting of Hamas officials. Still, Israel has located an opening for slowly chipping away at Hamas’s domestic power, with Abbas able to declare victory for having brokered an agreement that finally opens the border crossings-an accomplishment that Hamas’s rockets have decisively failed to achieve.

For the truce to succeed in the long run, bolstering the commitment and capabilities of the Presidential Guard must be a top priority. History should be a guide in this: last June, Hamas seized Gaza largely thanks to an ill-equipped and unmotivated Fatah force. Although the Bush administration has steered clear of the ceasefire negotiations, it should view the conditions of the Presidential Guard as critical to the peace process, which Vice-President Dick Cheney will address when he visits the region next week. Indeed, any breakdown in the Presidential Guard’s ability to control the borders would represent the final nail in the coffin for the still-nascent Annapolis “process.”

Read Less




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