Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Flotsam and Jetsam

Another culture — not American — is where you should look for evil, says one of the savviest conservative observers. Back with a bang, she takes issue with Brent Bozell’s invocation of “Satan” to describe American culture: “I, too, believe in evil, and I’d say Satan’s found a far more mellifluous laughing-ground among the Muslims, who please themselves to bury women up to their heads and stone them to death for ‘adultery,’ murder their own daughters for ‘mingling,’ and practice forms of human sacrifice—selling their sons to Pashtun pedophiles, for one, or celebrating their childrens’ deaths in suicide bombings, for another. To name just a few of the ways Islam holds the Satan laugh hand at the moment. So enough with the wah, wah, wah, Brent. Bad as it may be here at culture-rotten central (or not), it’s worse out there among the practitioners of the culture and religion of peace.”

Another terrible ambassador nominated, this time for Turkey. Elliott Abrams explains: “”Especially in 2005 and 2006, Secretary Rice and the Bush administration significantly increased American pressure for greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy in Egypt. This of course meant pushing the Mubarak regime, arguing with it in private, and sometimes criticizing it in public. In all of this we in Washington found Ambassador [Francis] Ricciardone to be without enthusiasm or energy.” And he was publicly insubordinate.  Other than that, great pick — who can wait in line behind Robert Ford to be confirmed.

Another reason not to take the UN seriously: “When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors. … Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.” But the UN is certain the flotilla incident is all Israel’s fault.

Another inconvenient truth for the left: “The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don’t want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.”

Another awkward moment for Jewish groups. Obama declares that Israelis don’t like him because of his middle name; American Jewish leaders are mute. But Rep. Peter King isn’t: “‘That’s a terrible cheap shot. … And if he wants to get cute about it, King Hussein of Jordan was one of the best allies Israel ever had.’ … But his middle name ‘has nothing to do with it,’ King said. ‘The fact is that his policies from day one have had an anti-Israel overtone. … He has no one to blame but himself. He should forget his name — that’s just a cheap game and he should knock it off.'”

Another reason to dump Michael Steele: Haley Barbour could take over and would do a boffo job.

Another “Huh?” Clinton moment: he is officiating at the wedding of New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and a Hillary aide. Is he really the guy you want to lead the recitation of your wedding vows?

Another sign of the inherent good sense of the American people: Mark Penn, on the result of a survey for the Aspen Festival of Ideas, writes: “The poll suggests that, while the public may be dissatisfied with recent administrations and the partisan political environment, they remain reasonably satisfied with the governmental framework set out in the Constitution. By 64 to 19 they endorse the system of checks and balances as necessary to prevent one branch from dominating the Government. Freedom of speech was seen as far and away the single most important right guaranteed by the Constitution, and, as a corollary, only 28 percent believe the press has too much freedom.” I guess they don’t buy the suggestion that we are “ungovernable.”

Another outburst – and a reminder that the idea of engaging Iran is ludicrous: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday. …  Ahmadinejad had earlier sparked international fury by calling for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East and its relocation to Europe or North America and by describing the murders of 6 million European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime as a ‘fairy tale.’ He said Thursday that the Holocaust was an excuse for Israel and the West to take land away from millions of Palestinians and give it to Israel.” You know the last world leader to argue that the Holocaust was the rationale for creation of the Jewish state was… Barack Obama. Just saying.

Another reason to rethink lifetime Supreme Court appointments: at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “Justice Ginsburg said, ‘I am so glad that Elena is joining us.’ … Calling herself a ‘flaming feminist,’ Ginsburg said, ‘we will never go back’ to the days when abortion was illegal.” Since her mind is closed and her bias is evident, she should recuse herself from gender-discrimination and abortion cases.

Another culture — not American — is where you should look for evil, says one of the savviest conservative observers. Back with a bang, she takes issue with Brent Bozell’s invocation of “Satan” to describe American culture: “I, too, believe in evil, and I’d say Satan’s found a far more mellifluous laughing-ground among the Muslims, who please themselves to bury women up to their heads and stone them to death for ‘adultery,’ murder their own daughters for ‘mingling,’ and practice forms of human sacrifice—selling their sons to Pashtun pedophiles, for one, or celebrating their childrens’ deaths in suicide bombings, for another. To name just a few of the ways Islam holds the Satan laugh hand at the moment. So enough with the wah, wah, wah, Brent. Bad as it may be here at culture-rotten central (or not), it’s worse out there among the practitioners of the culture and religion of peace.”

Another terrible ambassador nominated, this time for Turkey. Elliott Abrams explains: “”Especially in 2005 and 2006, Secretary Rice and the Bush administration significantly increased American pressure for greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy in Egypt. This of course meant pushing the Mubarak regime, arguing with it in private, and sometimes criticizing it in public. In all of this we in Washington found Ambassador [Francis] Ricciardone to be without enthusiasm or energy.” And he was publicly insubordinate.  Other than that, great pick — who can wait in line behind Robert Ford to be confirmed.

Another reason not to take the UN seriously: “When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors. … Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.” But the UN is certain the flotilla incident is all Israel’s fault.

Another inconvenient truth for the left: “The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don’t want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.”

Another awkward moment for Jewish groups. Obama declares that Israelis don’t like him because of his middle name; American Jewish leaders are mute. But Rep. Peter King isn’t: “‘That’s a terrible cheap shot. … And if he wants to get cute about it, King Hussein of Jordan was one of the best allies Israel ever had.’ … But his middle name ‘has nothing to do with it,’ King said. ‘The fact is that his policies from day one have had an anti-Israel overtone. … He has no one to blame but himself. He should forget his name — that’s just a cheap game and he should knock it off.'”

Another reason to dump Michael Steele: Haley Barbour could take over and would do a boffo job.

Another “Huh?” Clinton moment: he is officiating at the wedding of New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and a Hillary aide. Is he really the guy you want to lead the recitation of your wedding vows?

Another sign of the inherent good sense of the American people: Mark Penn, on the result of a survey for the Aspen Festival of Ideas, writes: “The poll suggests that, while the public may be dissatisfied with recent administrations and the partisan political environment, they remain reasonably satisfied with the governmental framework set out in the Constitution. By 64 to 19 they endorse the system of checks and balances as necessary to prevent one branch from dominating the Government. Freedom of speech was seen as far and away the single most important right guaranteed by the Constitution, and, as a corollary, only 28 percent believe the press has too much freedom.” I guess they don’t buy the suggestion that we are “ungovernable.”

Another outburst – and a reminder that the idea of engaging Iran is ludicrous: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday. …  Ahmadinejad had earlier sparked international fury by calling for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East and its relocation to Europe or North America and by describing the murders of 6 million European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime as a ‘fairy tale.’ He said Thursday that the Holocaust was an excuse for Israel and the West to take land away from millions of Palestinians and give it to Israel.” You know the last world leader to argue that the Holocaust was the rationale for creation of the Jewish state was… Barack Obama. Just saying.

Another reason to rethink lifetime Supreme Court appointments: at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “Justice Ginsburg said, ‘I am so glad that Elena is joining us.’ … Calling herself a ‘flaming feminist,’ Ginsburg said, ‘we will never go back’ to the days when abortion was illegal.” Since her mind is closed and her bias is evident, she should recuse herself from gender-discrimination and abortion cases.

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How to Stand with Israel

Not every Jewish organization is taking the path of least resistance in opposing Obama’s approach to Israel. This report explains:

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) declined to meet with a delegation from Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, this week. JINSA views the AKP invitation as an attempt by the Government of Turkey to avoid dealing with the Government of Israel by appealing to the American Jewish community. As such, the effort failed.

JINSA executive director Tom Neumann stated, “The negative trend in Turkish government statements and actions regarding the United States and Israel, however, ultimately has made the AKP an unacceptable interlocutor.” JINSA provides an ample list of Turkish actions to support its decision:

Examples of this negative trend include the Turkish government’s growing closeness with the Iranian government and Turkey’s negative vote in the UN on international sanctions aimed at preventing a nuclear-capable Iran; new military relations with Syria, which is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorism supporting countries; increasing closeness with the Hamas government in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of which are U.S.-designated terrorist organizations; open support for the flotilla that sought a violent confrontation with Israel as it attempted to break the Israeli-Egyptian security cordon designed to prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials to Hamas; and the poisonous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric the AKP has issued over the last several years.

Neumann added that, “JINSA regrets the choices made by the AKP and will not be used to provide political cover for those choices.”

Well, that’s a breath of fresh air — and certainly a far cry from the Woodrow Wilson Center, which is giving the Turkish foreign minister a pat on the back and a prize. There is no shortage of evidence of Turkey’s dangerous turn to the “radical camp,” Elliott Abrams recently wrote:

In the flotilla incident, it not only sided with but also sought to strengthen the terrorist group Hamas—a group that is anathema not just to the United States and Israel, but to the governments of Jordan and Egypt. The recent photo of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad in Damascus is an emblem of this change, and Turkey’s work to undermine U.N. sanctions against Iran shows its substance. Turkey’s U.N. Security Council vote against the newest round of sanctions this past week put it in Iran’s camp against Europe, the United States, Russia, and China. That’s quite a realignment for a NATO ally.

For now, however, most Jewish groups are not doing much at all to call attention to the growing Islamic, and hence anti-Israel, inclinations of the Turkish government. The Pope-Peters letter, for which AIPAC is rounding up support, lightly — almost invisibly — tiptoes around the Turkish connection. The letter has a single sentence on the topic that explains the “sinister element” that infiltrated the flotilla:

Furthermore, as confirmed by the State Department and intelligence agencies around the world, the Turkish aid group that sent out the flotilla … IHH, has met with senior officials of recognized terrorist groups over the last three years.

That’s it.

There are two approaches Jewish groups might take with regard to Turkey. The JINSA tactic is to call attention to Turkey’s role in the flotilla incident and its increasingly hostile behavior toward the West, thereby applying some pressure on the Obama administration to demand some answers on Turkey’s role in the flotilla and to rethink its policy toward a NATO ally that has turned unmistakably away from the West. The other is to ignore the whole thing and hope the Obama team doesn’t give Turkey a pass on its efforts to assist Hamas (which would thereby embolden the radical camp and undermine the “peace process” of which Obama is so enamored).

It is disturbing that so few groups have decided to follow JINSA. It is yet another failure to stand up to the administration — and stand with Israel.

Not every Jewish organization is taking the path of least resistance in opposing Obama’s approach to Israel. This report explains:

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) declined to meet with a delegation from Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, this week. JINSA views the AKP invitation as an attempt by the Government of Turkey to avoid dealing with the Government of Israel by appealing to the American Jewish community. As such, the effort failed.

JINSA executive director Tom Neumann stated, “The negative trend in Turkish government statements and actions regarding the United States and Israel, however, ultimately has made the AKP an unacceptable interlocutor.” JINSA provides an ample list of Turkish actions to support its decision:

Examples of this negative trend include the Turkish government’s growing closeness with the Iranian government and Turkey’s negative vote in the UN on international sanctions aimed at preventing a nuclear-capable Iran; new military relations with Syria, which is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorism supporting countries; increasing closeness with the Hamas government in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, both of which are U.S.-designated terrorist organizations; open support for the flotilla that sought a violent confrontation with Israel as it attempted to break the Israeli-Egyptian security cordon designed to prevent the smuggling of weapons and materials to Hamas; and the poisonous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric the AKP has issued over the last several years.

Neumann added that, “JINSA regrets the choices made by the AKP and will not be used to provide political cover for those choices.”

Well, that’s a breath of fresh air — and certainly a far cry from the Woodrow Wilson Center, which is giving the Turkish foreign minister a pat on the back and a prize. There is no shortage of evidence of Turkey’s dangerous turn to the “radical camp,” Elliott Abrams recently wrote:

In the flotilla incident, it not only sided with but also sought to strengthen the terrorist group Hamas—a group that is anathema not just to the United States and Israel, but to the governments of Jordan and Egypt. The recent photo of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad in Damascus is an emblem of this change, and Turkey’s work to undermine U.N. sanctions against Iran shows its substance. Turkey’s U.N. Security Council vote against the newest round of sanctions this past week put it in Iran’s camp against Europe, the United States, Russia, and China. That’s quite a realignment for a NATO ally.

For now, however, most Jewish groups are not doing much at all to call attention to the growing Islamic, and hence anti-Israel, inclinations of the Turkish government. The Pope-Peters letter, for which AIPAC is rounding up support, lightly — almost invisibly — tiptoes around the Turkish connection. The letter has a single sentence on the topic that explains the “sinister element” that infiltrated the flotilla:

Furthermore, as confirmed by the State Department and intelligence agencies around the world, the Turkish aid group that sent out the flotilla … IHH, has met with senior officials of recognized terrorist groups over the last three years.

That’s it.

There are two approaches Jewish groups might take with regard to Turkey. The JINSA tactic is to call attention to Turkey’s role in the flotilla incident and its increasingly hostile behavior toward the West, thereby applying some pressure on the Obama administration to demand some answers on Turkey’s role in the flotilla and to rethink its policy toward a NATO ally that has turned unmistakably away from the West. The other is to ignore the whole thing and hope the Obama team doesn’t give Turkey a pass on its efforts to assist Hamas (which would thereby embolden the radical camp and undermine the “peace process” of which Obama is so enamored).

It is disturbing that so few groups have decided to follow JINSA. It is yet another failure to stand up to the administration — and stand with Israel.

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RE: Here’s That Bipartisan Alliance

A complete video of the press conference yesterday on the flotilla can be viewed here. Especially noteworthy are the two Democrats who forcefully rebut the Obama approach to both that incident and the Middle East more generally. Rep. Eliot Engels (D-N.Y.) demanded that we block any UN investigation into the flotilla and reaffirmed that Israel is fully competent to conduct its own investigation. He also revealed that some of the flotilla activists have applied to enter the U.S. to spew their venom, and that he will be presenting a petition signed by thousands of New Yorkers calling for the State Department to block these individuals’ entry. And he implores the administration to keep its eye on the ball — the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The remarks of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) included these observations:

The UN is once again seeking to condemn Israel for defending its citizens against Hamas terrorists. This is the same UN that gives the green light for Israel’s enemies to attack the Jewish state, and then condemns Israel for any retaliation against its terrorist attackers or acts of self-defense to protect its families. It happened last year with the deeply-flawed and disturbingly-biased Goldstone Report, and we are here to say it must not happen again. … Turkey is a perfect example of the blatant hypocrisy on display. While they criticize Israel in the UN, Turkey continues to occupy Cyprus, denies the Armenian Genocide and warmly welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the genocidal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …

All of this is taking place while North Korea goes unpunished in the UN for a flagrant act of war against South Korea. And the Iranian regime stands on the precipice of developing a nuclear weapon. Either of these despotic regimes could kill millions with access to nuclear weapons and murderous ambitions.

Nicely said, Congresswoman! You can’t miss the vast gulf between the language and position of Berkley and Engel, on one hand, and the White House, on the other. It seems there are at least some Democrats who should be signing on to the King resolution, then, right? Or is there something wrong with insisting that the U.S. get out of the Human Rights Council and start reciting a bill of particulars against Iran, Hamas, and Turkey?

Engel and Berkley are among the strongest Democratic supporters of Israel in Congress. They don’t much care about ruffling the White House’s feathers and they don’t put partisan loyalty above principle. It is a standard that Jewish groups should expect of those who fancy themselves as friends of Israel. Instead of making it easier for lawmakers to capitulate to and enable the Obama assault on Israel, Jewish leaders should be making it harder. You don’t do that by dancing on egg shells or praising Obama’s straddling. You do it by being candid and forceful, both in private and in public — and by reminding lawmakers that these days there’s no benefit (either to their own political fortunes or to the U.S.-Israel relationship) to be gained by running interference for this administration.

A complete video of the press conference yesterday on the flotilla can be viewed here. Especially noteworthy are the two Democrats who forcefully rebut the Obama approach to both that incident and the Middle East more generally. Rep. Eliot Engels (D-N.Y.) demanded that we block any UN investigation into the flotilla and reaffirmed that Israel is fully competent to conduct its own investigation. He also revealed that some of the flotilla activists have applied to enter the U.S. to spew their venom, and that he will be presenting a petition signed by thousands of New Yorkers calling for the State Department to block these individuals’ entry. And he implores the administration to keep its eye on the ball — the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The remarks of Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) included these observations:

The UN is once again seeking to condemn Israel for defending its citizens against Hamas terrorists. This is the same UN that gives the green light for Israel’s enemies to attack the Jewish state, and then condemns Israel for any retaliation against its terrorist attackers or acts of self-defense to protect its families. It happened last year with the deeply-flawed and disturbingly-biased Goldstone Report, and we are here to say it must not happen again. … Turkey is a perfect example of the blatant hypocrisy on display. While they criticize Israel in the UN, Turkey continues to occupy Cyprus, denies the Armenian Genocide and warmly welcomes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the genocidal Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …

All of this is taking place while North Korea goes unpunished in the UN for a flagrant act of war against South Korea. And the Iranian regime stands on the precipice of developing a nuclear weapon. Either of these despotic regimes could kill millions with access to nuclear weapons and murderous ambitions.

Nicely said, Congresswoman! You can’t miss the vast gulf between the language and position of Berkley and Engel, on one hand, and the White House, on the other. It seems there are at least some Democrats who should be signing on to the King resolution, then, right? Or is there something wrong with insisting that the U.S. get out of the Human Rights Council and start reciting a bill of particulars against Iran, Hamas, and Turkey?

Engel and Berkley are among the strongest Democratic supporters of Israel in Congress. They don’t much care about ruffling the White House’s feathers and they don’t put partisan loyalty above principle. It is a standard that Jewish groups should expect of those who fancy themselves as friends of Israel. Instead of making it easier for lawmakers to capitulate to and enable the Obama assault on Israel, Jewish leaders should be making it harder. You don’t do that by dancing on egg shells or praising Obama’s straddling. You do it by being candid and forceful, both in private and in public — and by reminding lawmakers that these days there’s no benefit (either to their own political fortunes or to the U.S.-Israel relationship) to be gained by running interference for this administration.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

Not any doubt where Obama’s priorities lie. And thankfully, not everyone is confused as to who’s responsible for the flotilla incident. “Turkey sends a thugs bunch of Jew-baiting Al-Qaeda friendly street-fighters on a floating lynch party and the one party chided by name is … Israel. Well, those pesky facts aren’t too hard to pin down Mr. President–the folks you’ve pinned your peace hopes on are laughing in your face and rolling you like a duck pin.”

Not a good sign when Iran’s assessment is saner than Obama’s: “Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said resolutions such as the one passed by the U.N. Security Council today ‘have no value … it is like a used handkerchief that should be thrown in the waste bin.'”

Not holding my breath: “The main issues inside the conference still include whether and how to meet the Obama administration’s demand for an exemption from new sanctions for countries that are deemed to be ‘cooperating’ with U.S. efforts. Republican lawmakers worry that the White House will use that to broadly exempt some of Iran closest business partners, such as Russia and China. ‘It is clear the president’s policy has failed. It is now time for the Congress to approve the Iran sanctions bill currently in conference committee, without watering it down or plugging it full of loopholes, and then the president should actually use it,’ said Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-AZ.”

Not even her Washington Post colleagues can stomach Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Bush is a Nazi” rant: “Mengele and his cohorts performed grotesque operations that left his victims with permanent physical, emotional and psychological scars — if they were lucky enough to survive. Most did not. Sometimes death was the objective; he would at times kill his ‘patients’ so that he could get right to the business of dissecting the body. This is monstrous. This is evil incarnate. This is not what the Bush administration did.” Why would the Post editors allow someone who can’t grasp this to write for them? (Really, a single Nation is one too many. Her role in the persecution of a Soviet dissident was covered by COMMENTARY in June 1988.)

Not a day on which this headline is inapt: “Beinart Gets It Wrong Again.” Hard to believe he knows even less about U.S. politics than he does Israeli politics, isn’t it?

Not every Democrat has lost his moral compass: “A member of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s staff, himself a former major and judge advocate in the U.S. Marines, is calling Blumenthal a liar and disgrace to the Marine Corps for representing himself repeatedly as having served in Vietnam.”

Not a friend in sight: “As Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) pivots from her surprise primary victory on Tuesday night to her general election run against Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark), she finds herself deserted both by traditional allies and outside groups that helped her win the nomination.” ( h/t Ben Smith)

Not going to waste time or money on her: “It’s nice for Blanche Lincoln that she won the runoff in Arkansas last night but I hope that no groups that care about getting Democratic Senators elected spend another dollar in the state this year. That doesn’t have anything to do with her ideology — judging her worthwhileness there is not part of my job as a pollster — but there are just a boatload of races where Democrats have a better chance to win this fall and could use their resources more wisely.”

Not winning support: “Though the vast majority of voters remain confident that Elena Kagan will be confirmed by the Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court, the number who oppose her confirmation has risen to its highest level to date. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 33% think Kagan should be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. But 41% do not think she should be confirmed.”

Not a class act: “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday there have been no second thoughts over President Obama’s coarse language directed at oil giant BP earlier in the week. ‘No, I have not heard any regrets about the language,’ Gibbs told reporters in his daily White House briefing.”

Not only Andrew Sullivan is obsessed with Sarah Palin’s breasts.

Not rallying around this character: “Today, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler asked Alvin Greene to withdraw from the race for US Senate. Greene, a resident of Manning S.C., was the apparent winner of the Democratic Party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in yesterday’s primary. Since the election, the Associated Press has revealed that Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity after showing obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student.”

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Annals of Useful Idiocy, Circa 2010

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

As a service to future historians (if they can just find this post) seeking to understand how the moral outrage of the world focused in 2010 on Israel rather than Iran, I offer this excerpt from a Spiegel interview with the well-known Swedish author Henning Mankell, a passenger on one of the smaller boats in the Gaza flotilla:

SPIEGEL: This [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict is complicated enough, but it probably doesn’t even constitute the biggest threat to peace in the region at the moment. That is posed by Iran, with its controversial nuclear program and its prediction that Israel will disappear from the map.

Mankell: I am very concerned, because I don’t trust this president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) and the mullahs. They want to have any weapon that can be used to destroy Israel. Naturally we cannot accept that.

SPIEGEL: But what do you want to do? Campaigns like this one can be directed against a democratic country like Israel. The Iranian government wouldn’t even let things get that far.

Mankell: I had an invitation to a literature festival in Tehran, which I turned down.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Mankell: Because Iran puts writers and intellectuals in prison and makes some of them disappear. I can’t go to a country like that.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you go there and make the repression public?

Mankell: I wouldn’t be able to do what I would like to do. They would misuse me for propaganda purposes.

SPIEGEL: And you didn’t have this concern with the Gaza campaign?

Mankell: I saw what I saw. I felt what I felt. I thought what I thought. I saw what happened to people, and that’s what I want to report on.

Earlier in the interview, Spiegel asked Mankell whether he had ever been to Gaza (“no”), whether he knows the IHH and the Free Gaza movement that organized the flotilla (“not well enough to be able to form an opinion”), whether Hamas was a source of hope for him (“I don’t know enough about the issue”), and why he ignored multiple Israeli warnings that the ship could not proceed to Gaza (“At least they should have let us continue for another two hours, until we were just off the coast”).

In other words, he declined the invitation to go to Iran and speak truth to power, but a safe boat trip to just-off-the-coast of Gaza, in the service of organizations he failed to investigate, to assist an Iranian proxy about whom he is agnostic, appealed to his moral sense. No one, of course, will ever surpass the concision of Woody Allen’s statement of moral idiocy on being asked to explain his affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter: “The heart wants what it wants.” But Henning Mankell’s “I felt what I felt, I thought what I thought” deserves the same place of honor in the literature of useful idiocy. Historians take note.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.'”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.'” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.'”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.'” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

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Iran Threatens War in the Mediterranean

Yesterday, Ali Shirazi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said its naval forces “are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities.” Never mind the cynical use of the words “freedom” and “peace” from a repressive regime that steals votes and cracks heads. Breaking a blockade by force is a declaration of war and could, in this case, easily and instantly spark a region-wide conflagration.

More likely than not, Iran is just posturing. Ever since Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in the 1979 revolution, the Iranian government has been waging a relentless campaign to win over Arab public opinion with apocalyptic anti-Zionism and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. And last week it was upstaged by Turkey and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when howling denunciations of Israel almost everywhere in the world followed the now-infamous battle aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel. Even the president of the United States says Israel’s blockade of Gaza is no longer sustainable, though at least he says it calmly. Not Iran, Syria, Hamas, or Hezbollah, but Turkey has been the toast of the Middle East’s radicals for a week now.

The Turks have been slowly turning away from their alliance with the West since 2003. Erdogan, more recently, has not only been reorienting his country toward the Sunni Muslim world of which it’s a part; he’s also adopting the causes of the Resistance Bloc, led by Iran’s Shia theocracy and the atheist non-Muslim Alawite clan, which rules Syria. He’s been trying for years now to join Tehran and Jerusalem in setting the regional agenda, and he finally and unambiguously succeeded last Monday.

Iran is supposed to lead the “resistance,” however, and I suspect its leaders are trying to seize the region’s attention again. They feel insecure behind all that bombast. As Persians and, especially, Shias, they’re looked upon with suspicion and loathing, despite their hardest of hard lines against Israel. The Turks aren’t Arabs either, and some resentment remains from the imperial Ottoman days; but they’re Sunnis, at least, like most in the Middle East.

So while Erdogan’s Turkey may look in some ways like a de facto Iranian ally from the American and Israeli perspectives, from the point of view of Tehran it’s a convenient, useful, triangulating competitor. Syria’s Bashar Assad is content to be Iran’s junior partner, but Istanbul was once the capital of a powerful Sunni empire that, not long ago, held sway over much of the Mediterranean. As a member of NATO (for now, anyway), it can’t be entirely trusted and won’t likely ever take orders from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ali Khamenei.

Iran needs its mojo back — now — and huffing and puffing and bluffing about the blockade is one way to get it. Still, it would only surprise me a little if Tehran thinks it has a green light from most of the world to proceed. Israel is more isolated than it has been in decades, and this wouldn’t be the first time one of its enemies miscalculated and did something stupid. Now would be a good time for the Obama administration to say, firmly and in no uncertain terms, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Yesterday, Ali Shirazi of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said its naval forces “are fully prepared to escort the peace and freedom convoys to Gaza with all their powers and capabilities.” Never mind the cynical use of the words “freedom” and “peace” from a repressive regime that steals votes and cracks heads. Breaking a blockade by force is a declaration of war and could, in this case, easily and instantly spark a region-wide conflagration.

More likely than not, Iran is just posturing. Ever since Ruhollah Khomeini seized power in the 1979 revolution, the Iranian government has been waging a relentless campaign to win over Arab public opinion with apocalyptic anti-Zionism and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. And last week it was upstaged by Turkey and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when howling denunciations of Israel almost everywhere in the world followed the now-infamous battle aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel. Even the president of the United States says Israel’s blockade of Gaza is no longer sustainable, though at least he says it calmly. Not Iran, Syria, Hamas, or Hezbollah, but Turkey has been the toast of the Middle East’s radicals for a week now.

The Turks have been slowly turning away from their alliance with the West since 2003. Erdogan, more recently, has not only been reorienting his country toward the Sunni Muslim world of which it’s a part; he’s also adopting the causes of the Resistance Bloc, led by Iran’s Shia theocracy and the atheist non-Muslim Alawite clan, which rules Syria. He’s been trying for years now to join Tehran and Jerusalem in setting the regional agenda, and he finally and unambiguously succeeded last Monday.

Iran is supposed to lead the “resistance,” however, and I suspect its leaders are trying to seize the region’s attention again. They feel insecure behind all that bombast. As Persians and, especially, Shias, they’re looked upon with suspicion and loathing, despite their hardest of hard lines against Israel. The Turks aren’t Arabs either, and some resentment remains from the imperial Ottoman days; but they’re Sunnis, at least, like most in the Middle East.

So while Erdogan’s Turkey may look in some ways like a de facto Iranian ally from the American and Israeli perspectives, from the point of view of Tehran it’s a convenient, useful, triangulating competitor. Syria’s Bashar Assad is content to be Iran’s junior partner, but Istanbul was once the capital of a powerful Sunni empire that, not long ago, held sway over much of the Mediterranean. As a member of NATO (for now, anyway), it can’t be entirely trusted and won’t likely ever take orders from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Ali Khamenei.

Iran needs its mojo back — now — and huffing and puffing and bluffing about the blockade is one way to get it. Still, it would only surprise me a little if Tehran thinks it has a green light from most of the world to proceed. Israel is more isolated than it has been in decades, and this wouldn’t be the first time one of its enemies miscalculated and did something stupid. Now would be a good time for the Obama administration to say, firmly and in no uncertain terms, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

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RE: U.S. Chooses International Consensus over Israel

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

As Jen mentioned, the United Nations passed a resolution on Friday demanding a nuclear-free Middle East and singling out Israel as the intransigent party instead of Iran. The Obama administration supports the decision, which makes about as much sense as disarming the Iraqi police right now in the name of a violence-free Baghdad. College sophomores might think these are brilliant ideas, but mature adults shouldn’t, especially not mature adults who make policy for a living and must account for the consequences.

The Israelis have had nuclear weapons longer than I’ve been alive. Never once have they even admitted to having them, let alone used them. While several Arab states say they’ll build or buy nuclear weapons to counter a Persian bomb, no Arab state has ever scrambled for nuclear weapons of its own to counter the Zionist bomb. Even they, as hysterical as they sometimes can be, know perfectly well that Israel does not threaten to nuke anybody and never intends to nuke anybody.

Marty Peretz at the New Republic is contemptuous. “Ostensibly,” he wrote, “this would de-nuclearize the Middle East. A pig’s ass, it would. Tehran wants a bomb, no matter what. And, then, the big Arab states will join the race. To be sure, Saudi Arabia will not make it. It will buy it. There’s more money in the country than brains. There will be a big bomb race in the region… and not because of Israel.”

I am just old enough to remember the Cold War during the years before perestroika and glasnost, when the possibility of nuclear war was real, and it kept me up at night during my childhood. I was worried sick about the potential imminent end of the world. It made an impression that still hasn’t left me and might not ever.

Like President Obama — and unlike Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei — I wish nuclear weapons didn’t exist and that nobody had them. I also wish humans weren’t violent, that war could be dispensed with as some day cancer may be, that police officers did not need to carry guns and sometimes shoot people to keep my neighborhood safe, and that even grown-up countries like the U.S. and Israel did not need an arsenal of the world’s worst weapons to keep the world’s worst people in check, but these wishes are no more realistic than terraforming the sun.

The president acts sometimes like he’s running the country from his dorm room, and it looks increasingly likely that he will not stop until something explodes.

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Brazil’s Iran Deal Alibi: Obama Said It Was Okay

There has been no shortage of foreign-policy disasters in the first year and a half of Barack Obama’s presidency, but nothing has illustrated the administration’s appalling lack of skill in diplomacy more than its amateurish efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The latest indication of incompetence was illustrated when the government of Brazil released the full text of a three-page letter sent by Obama to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in April, in which the American commander in chief gave the Brazilian leader the green light to pursue an agreement in which Iran would transfer part of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Turkey. This startling piece of news was buried toward the bottom of a New York Times report on the latest developments in Iranian diplomacy. The article devoted most of its space to new tensions between Tehran and Moscow.

The Iran/Brazil/Turkey deal was a blatant Iranian attempt to derail faltering American efforts to build an international coalition that supports sanctions against Tehran to pressure the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. It would also not prevent the Iranians from continuing to amass material to build a bomb. This diplomatic freelancing on the part of both Brazil and Turkey was widely seen as a slap in the face to Obama at just the moment that the American president had started to cobble together enough support for a weak sanctions package.

But although both the Brazilians and the Turks deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped on them for allowing Iran’s tyrannical Islamist regime to use them to divert attention away from sanctions efforts, it must be conceded that what they have done isn’t any more foolish than a similar deal that the United States itself tried to make with Iran last fall. That disaster, which came after several months of unsuccessful attempts at engagement with Tehran, fell through after the Iranians embarrassed the administration by reneging on an agreement to transfer uranium. Obama and his foreign-policy team seemingly learned their lesson after this fiasco and finally began to talk about sanctions. To gain tepid Russian support for sanctions, the Obama administration has had to water down its proposals to a point where it is clear that little damage will be done. But after having labored so hard to achieve so little, Washington was clearly outraged by being outflanked by Brazil’s and Turkey’s untimely intervention earlier this month.

But if the mere fact of this new deal wasn’t enough to undermine international support for sanctions, the revelation that Brazil acted with the express written permission of Obama must be seen as a catastrophe for international efforts to restrain Tehran. Why should anyone take American rhetoric about stopping Iran seriously if Obama is now understood to have spent the past few months pushing for sanctions in public while privately encouraging third parties who are trying to appease the Iranians?

What were Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who has spent the last weeks spouting a great deal of tough talk about Iran) thinking when they sent the letter to Lula? Did they take a calculated gamble that the Brazil initiative would fail and that they could make nice with the leftist Lula while not endangering their sanctions campaign? If so, then once again, the wily Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has outwitted Obama and Clinton. Though the Iranians appear to have miscalculated how far they can push their erstwhile Russian allies as they maneuver to buy even more time for their nuclear program, it seems as if they have decided that there is no limit to how far they can push Obama. And after this latest diplomatic embarrassment for the United States, it is hard to argue with them on that point.

There has been no shortage of foreign-policy disasters in the first year and a half of Barack Obama’s presidency, but nothing has illustrated the administration’s appalling lack of skill in diplomacy more than its amateurish efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The latest indication of incompetence was illustrated when the government of Brazil released the full text of a three-page letter sent by Obama to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in April, in which the American commander in chief gave the Brazilian leader the green light to pursue an agreement in which Iran would transfer part of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Turkey. This startling piece of news was buried toward the bottom of a New York Times report on the latest developments in Iranian diplomacy. The article devoted most of its space to new tensions between Tehran and Moscow.

The Iran/Brazil/Turkey deal was a blatant Iranian attempt to derail faltering American efforts to build an international coalition that supports sanctions against Tehran to pressure the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions. It would also not prevent the Iranians from continuing to amass material to build a bomb. This diplomatic freelancing on the part of both Brazil and Turkey was widely seen as a slap in the face to Obama at just the moment that the American president had started to cobble together enough support for a weak sanctions package.

But although both the Brazilians and the Turks deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped on them for allowing Iran’s tyrannical Islamist regime to use them to divert attention away from sanctions efforts, it must be conceded that what they have done isn’t any more foolish than a similar deal that the United States itself tried to make with Iran last fall. That disaster, which came after several months of unsuccessful attempts at engagement with Tehran, fell through after the Iranians embarrassed the administration by reneging on an agreement to transfer uranium. Obama and his foreign-policy team seemingly learned their lesson after this fiasco and finally began to talk about sanctions. To gain tepid Russian support for sanctions, the Obama administration has had to water down its proposals to a point where it is clear that little damage will be done. But after having labored so hard to achieve so little, Washington was clearly outraged by being outflanked by Brazil’s and Turkey’s untimely intervention earlier this month.

But if the mere fact of this new deal wasn’t enough to undermine international support for sanctions, the revelation that Brazil acted with the express written permission of Obama must be seen as a catastrophe for international efforts to restrain Tehran. Why should anyone take American rhetoric about stopping Iran seriously if Obama is now understood to have spent the past few months pushing for sanctions in public while privately encouraging third parties who are trying to appease the Iranians?

What were Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who has spent the last weeks spouting a great deal of tough talk about Iran) thinking when they sent the letter to Lula? Did they take a calculated gamble that the Brazil initiative would fail and that they could make nice with the leftist Lula while not endangering their sanctions campaign? If so, then once again, the wily Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has outwitted Obama and Clinton. Though the Iranians appear to have miscalculated how far they can push their erstwhile Russian allies as they maneuver to buy even more time for their nuclear program, it seems as if they have decided that there is no limit to how far they can push Obama. And after this latest diplomatic embarrassment for the United States, it is hard to argue with them on that point.

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Huffington Post Takes Down the Leveretts

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

I usually don’t tout Huffington Post columns, but a not-to-be missed one by Omid Memarian should be read in full. Bit by bit, Memarian chips away at the facade of intellectual credibility that Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, the mullahs’ favorite mouthpieces, have erected. He begins with this:

The list of foreigners who unconditionally support the Islamic Republic of Iran is short but not unexpected: Omar Albashir of Sudan, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Khalid Mashal of Hamas, and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela might be at the top. Add to this list an unlikely duo: Flynt Leverett and his wife, Hillary Mann Leverett. Notwithstanding over two decades of collective experience working for organizations and entities like the CIA, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the National Security Council, the Leveretts are today America’s most prominent, and abrasive, defenders of the Iranian regime and its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though they cloak their analysis in the guise of strategic thinking and anti-war diplomacy, their writings betray a dangerous lack of understanding of Iran’s internal realities as well as an almost bigoted contempt for the Iranian people.

The particulars of the Leveretts’ misinformation campaign on behalf of the Iranian regime are then laid out in great detail. Well, it’s about time. Others have done an ample job debunking the couple, as do the Leveretts’ own words. But with this, Memarian delivers the knockout blow to the mullahs’ shills.

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So Much for Syrian Engagement

Obama is batting .000 in the engagement-of-despotic-regimes department. Iran, China, Sudan, and Burma have not responded to kind words, bows, or promises of future good relations with the U.S. And now Syria has officially — according to Obama — rebuffed us as well. This report explains:

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he would extend a national state of emergency over Syria for another year, citing the Arab state’s continuing support for terrorists and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama’s decision means that despite Washington’s recent attempts to ease tensions with Damascus, United States economic sanctions against Syria, introduced in May 2004, will remain in force.

“While the Syrian government has made some progress in suppressing networks of foreign fighters bound for Iraq, its actions and policies, including continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Obama said in a statement.

So the administration has now admitted failure — really, how could the Obami do otherwise? Even left-wing Haaretz must concede:

The Obama administration’s strategy of engagement has so far produced disappointing results, with Assad this year hosting Iran’s virulently anti-American President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a high-profile Damascus summit, alongside leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah — both on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

In April tensions soared further following Israeli claims that Syria had supplied Hezbollah militants in Lebanon with advanced Scud missiles capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israel’s major cities – an accusation Damascus denies.

So what now — will the Obami decide to forget about returning an ambassador to Damascus? That, at least, would make the administration’s stance less incoherent. But the real issue remains — what will we do to replace the failed engagement gambit? Come to think of ,it that’s the dilemma with all the regimes that have slapped the open hand.

Obama is batting .000 in the engagement-of-despotic-regimes department. Iran, China, Sudan, and Burma have not responded to kind words, bows, or promises of future good relations with the U.S. And now Syria has officially — according to Obama — rebuffed us as well. This report explains:

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he would extend a national state of emergency over Syria for another year, citing the Arab state’s continuing support for terrorists and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Obama’s decision means that despite Washington’s recent attempts to ease tensions with Damascus, United States economic sanctions against Syria, introduced in May 2004, will remain in force.

“While the Syrian government has made some progress in suppressing networks of foreign fighters bound for Iraq, its actions and policies, including continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Obama said in a statement.

So the administration has now admitted failure — really, how could the Obami do otherwise? Even left-wing Haaretz must concede:

The Obama administration’s strategy of engagement has so far produced disappointing results, with Assad this year hosting Iran’s virulently anti-American President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a high-profile Damascus summit, alongside leaders of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah — both on the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

In April tensions soared further following Israeli claims that Syria had supplied Hezbollah militants in Lebanon with advanced Scud missiles capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israel’s major cities – an accusation Damascus denies.

So what now — will the Obami decide to forget about returning an ambassador to Damascus? That, at least, would make the administration’s stance less incoherent. But the real issue remains — what will we do to replace the failed engagement gambit? Come to think of ,it that’s the dilemma with all the regimes that have slapped the open hand.

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Iran Disarray: What Happens When Multilateralism Runs Amok

Obama’s fetish for multilateralism and nuclear nonproliferation reached the inevitable and farcical result that any policy which ascribes good motives to evil regimes must. Obama — if we take him at his word — suggests that multilateral institutions like the UN and paper agreements among democratic regimes will have an impact on the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons. But neither those institutions or those scraps of paper are up to the task. Rather, they provide ample room for the mullahs and their genocide-cheering president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to run circles around the Obami. As Bret Stephens notes of the UN:

As for the effect of the administration’s gesture politics, it probably hasn’t been what Mr. Obama envisioned. A biting U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran is nowhere in sight. The regime’s nuclear bids proceed undeterred. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are openly entertaining doubts about U.S. seriousness—while entertaining nuclear futures of their own.

[I]t turns out that when it comes to a U.N. beauty contest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beats Barack Obama every time. Twenty-four countries walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday. Another 168 remained in their seats, including those virtuous Scandinavians.

And of course the administration contributes to the mullahs’ aura of legitimacy and to Israel’s pariah status in that august body by remaining silent as Iran joins UN bodies without U.S. objection and Obama entertains the possibility of an abstention on a resolution that would vilify Israel for building homes in its capital.

When it comes to the NPT, once again, Iran seems to get the better of the deal:

Now Iran, in connivance with the usual Middle Eastern suspects (and their useful idiots in the West), is trying to use the NPT as a cudgel to force Israel to disarm. That makes perfect sense if you subscribe, as Mr. Obama does, to the theology of nuclear disarmament. It makes no sense if you think the distinction that matters when it comes to nuclear weapons is between responsible, democratic states, and reckless, unstable and dictatorial ones. Nobody lies awake at night wondering what David Cameron might do if he gets his finger on the U.K.’s nuclear trigger.

There is no mystery as to why our Iran policy is in disarray. It is what happens when we cast off the instruments of American power, place faith in international bodies that don’t share common interests or values, and assume our adversaries will respond to grand gestures and acts of goodwill.

Obama’s fetish for multilateralism and nuclear nonproliferation reached the inevitable and farcical result that any policy which ascribes good motives to evil regimes must. Obama — if we take him at his word — suggests that multilateral institutions like the UN and paper agreements among democratic regimes will have an impact on the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons. But neither those institutions or those scraps of paper are up to the task. Rather, they provide ample room for the mullahs and their genocide-cheering president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to run circles around the Obami. As Bret Stephens notes of the UN:

As for the effect of the administration’s gesture politics, it probably hasn’t been what Mr. Obama envisioned. A biting U.N. sanctions resolution on Iran is nowhere in sight. The regime’s nuclear bids proceed undeterred. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are openly entertaining doubts about U.S. seriousness—while entertaining nuclear futures of their own.

[I]t turns out that when it comes to a U.N. beauty contest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beats Barack Obama every time. Twenty-four countries walked out of Ahmadinejad’s speech yesterday. Another 168 remained in their seats, including those virtuous Scandinavians.

And of course the administration contributes to the mullahs’ aura of legitimacy and to Israel’s pariah status in that august body by remaining silent as Iran joins UN bodies without U.S. objection and Obama entertains the possibility of an abstention on a resolution that would vilify Israel for building homes in its capital.

When it comes to the NPT, once again, Iran seems to get the better of the deal:

Now Iran, in connivance with the usual Middle Eastern suspects (and their useful idiots in the West), is trying to use the NPT as a cudgel to force Israel to disarm. That makes perfect sense if you subscribe, as Mr. Obama does, to the theology of nuclear disarmament. It makes no sense if you think the distinction that matters when it comes to nuclear weapons is between responsible, democratic states, and reckless, unstable and dictatorial ones. Nobody lies awake at night wondering what David Cameron might do if he gets his finger on the U.K.’s nuclear trigger.

There is no mystery as to why our Iran policy is in disarray. It is what happens when we cast off the instruments of American power, place faith in international bodies that don’t share common interests or values, and assume our adversaries will respond to grand gestures and acts of goodwill.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Among the top 10 places Ahmadinejad won’t be going to in New York: “Down on Houston Street sits Katz’s Deli, a venerable New York institution since 1888. But Ahmadinejad’s punim is unlikely to join the sea of faces smiling out from the walls of the not-quite-kosher deli, which is festooned with pro-Israel signs and a world-famous slogan: ‘Send a salami to your boy in the Army.’ While Ahmadinejad probably won’t be tearing into one of Katz’s juicy triple-decker pastramis any time soon, even a Holocaust-denying would-be genocidist can hardly say no when you throw a knish into the bargain.”

Giving thumbs up to Sarah Palin (“All responsible energy development must be accompanied by strict oversight, but even with the strictest oversight in the world, accidents still happen”), Jonathan Capehart writes: “I won’t join the chorus demanding that off-shore drilling be stopped forever in the U.S. for one simple reason: Until renewable energy sources are more widely available we have no choice. We need the fuel.”

So why isn’t he pressing for regime change or objecting to the administration’s attempt to undercut congressional sanctions? “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be arrested and tried with war crimes while he’s in the United States, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Monday. Ahmadinejad is in New York for the United Nations nuclear summit, and Israel wants to use the opportunity to have the Iranian president taken into custody. ‘Ahmadinejad shouldn’t just be protested in NYC, he should be arrested and tried for incitement to commit genocide,’ Israel said on his Twitter feed.”

Joe Sestak is gaining on Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary race. Maybe the party-switching wasn’t such a great idea. But even if Specter loses in the primary, he could pull a Crist and run as an independent. Hey, he’s not a party man anyway.

Trouble (for Democrats) in paradise: “The White House and top Democratic officials are circulating a new, private poll to suggest that only one of two Democrats splitting votes in a tightly contested Hawaii special election has a chance of winning the race.” This follows another poll showing Republican Charles Djou leading the race.

Hillary is thinking big again: “The United States and the great majority of the nations represented here come to this conference with a much larger agenda: to strengthen a global non-proliferation regime that advances the security of all nations, to advance both our rights and our responsibilities.” How about just stopping Iran’s nuclear program? Really, do the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and the Gulf States really think Israel’s nukes are the problem?

Double-talk from the Obami again: “Herbert M. Allison, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability, told three House Republicans in a recent letter that ‘Treasury has never represented that the loan payment represented a full return of all government assistance.’ … Interestingly, however, the first sentence in the April 21 news release circulated by the Treasury Department said: ‘The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that General Motors (GM) has fully repaid its debt under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)’ So the truth is exactly the opposite of what Treasury’s Allison claimed in this regard.”

Among the top 10 places Ahmadinejad won’t be going to in New York: “Down on Houston Street sits Katz’s Deli, a venerable New York institution since 1888. But Ahmadinejad’s punim is unlikely to join the sea of faces smiling out from the walls of the not-quite-kosher deli, which is festooned with pro-Israel signs and a world-famous slogan: ‘Send a salami to your boy in the Army.’ While Ahmadinejad probably won’t be tearing into one of Katz’s juicy triple-decker pastramis any time soon, even a Holocaust-denying would-be genocidist can hardly say no when you throw a knish into the bargain.”

Giving thumbs up to Sarah Palin (“All responsible energy development must be accompanied by strict oversight, but even with the strictest oversight in the world, accidents still happen”), Jonathan Capehart writes: “I won’t join the chorus demanding that off-shore drilling be stopped forever in the U.S. for one simple reason: Until renewable energy sources are more widely available we have no choice. We need the fuel.”

So why isn’t he pressing for regime change or objecting to the administration’s attempt to undercut congressional sanctions? “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be arrested and tried with war crimes while he’s in the United States, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Monday. Ahmadinejad is in New York for the United Nations nuclear summit, and Israel wants to use the opportunity to have the Iranian president taken into custody. ‘Ahmadinejad shouldn’t just be protested in NYC, he should be arrested and tried for incitement to commit genocide,’ Israel said on his Twitter feed.”

Joe Sestak is gaining on Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Senate primary race. Maybe the party-switching wasn’t such a great idea. But even if Specter loses in the primary, he could pull a Crist and run as an independent. Hey, he’s not a party man anyway.

Trouble (for Democrats) in paradise: “The White House and top Democratic officials are circulating a new, private poll to suggest that only one of two Democrats splitting votes in a tightly contested Hawaii special election has a chance of winning the race.” This follows another poll showing Republican Charles Djou leading the race.

Hillary is thinking big again: “The United States and the great majority of the nations represented here come to this conference with a much larger agenda: to strengthen a global non-proliferation regime that advances the security of all nations, to advance both our rights and our responsibilities.” How about just stopping Iran’s nuclear program? Really, do the Saudis, Jordanians, Egyptians, and the Gulf States really think Israel’s nukes are the problem?

Double-talk from the Obami again: “Herbert M. Allison, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability, told three House Republicans in a recent letter that ‘Treasury has never represented that the loan payment represented a full return of all government assistance.’ … Interestingly, however, the first sentence in the April 21 news release circulated by the Treasury Department said: ‘The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that General Motors (GM) has fully repaid its debt under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)’ So the truth is exactly the opposite of what Treasury’s Allison claimed in this regard.”

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NPT Mischief-Making

Eli Lake details the three-ring circus that is about to open at the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty conference this week. He explains that while the Obmai are marshaling support for their anemic sanctions, Iran — with help from Egypt — is trying to make Israel the focus of the “international community”:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the conference as the head of his country’s delegation. He is expected to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons to deflect attention from Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Iran could have an ally in traditional rival Egypt, whose delegation will be pushing for a resolution that would have the effect of singling out Israel, one of the three countries in the world that has never signed the NPT.

It seems for all our suck-uppery to the Muslim World, Egypt — who Obama has largely accommodated by his reticence on its political thuggery and human-rights abuses — is at the center of the trouble-making:

For 40 years, the United States has been a partner in Israel’s nuclear opacity as well. In a deal fashioned in 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the treaty, which would require the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel, in turn, does not acknowledge it has the weapons.

The Egyptian working paper of March 2010 on the nuclear-free Middle East threatens to upset this secret understanding. Specifically, it would require member states of the NPT to “disclose in their national reports on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East all information available to them on the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.”

This aptly illustrates the many deficiencies with Obama’s Middle East policy and nuclear-proliferation approach. By elevating the non-proliferation gambit, he has given a forum to distract and complicate reasonable measures focused on the only nuclear threat that matters right now — Iran. By ingratiating himself with Arab states and savaging Israel, he has only encouraged the former to do the same. And by taking the nuclear-free Middle East pipe dream seriously, we only encourage further mischief. A case in point:

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said a deal with the Egyptians is within reach.

“The key is for the U.S. administration to quietly let the Egyptians know that at the presidential and vice-presidential level, the United States takes the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East seriously.”

That’s exactly wrong. We should be signaling that we take this not seriously at all and want to focus solely on the Iranian threat. But then the Obami are willing players in the game of misdirection and stalling when it comes to confronting the mullahs, so don’t expect them to take a firm hand with Egypt.

Eli Lake details the three-ring circus that is about to open at the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty conference this week. He explains that while the Obmai are marshaling support for their anemic sanctions, Iran — with help from Egypt — is trying to make Israel the focus of the “international community”:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the conference as the head of his country’s delegation. He is expected to raise the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons to deflect attention from Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Iran could have an ally in traditional rival Egypt, whose delegation will be pushing for a resolution that would have the effect of singling out Israel, one of the three countries in the world that has never signed the NPT.

It seems for all our suck-uppery to the Muslim World, Egypt — who Obama has largely accommodated by his reticence on its political thuggery and human-rights abuses — is at the center of the trouble-making:

For 40 years, the United States has been a partner in Israel’s nuclear opacity as well. In a deal fashioned in 1969 between President Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the United States does not pressure Israel to join the treaty, which would require the Jewish state to give up its nuclear weapons. Israel, in turn, does not acknowledge it has the weapons.

The Egyptian working paper of March 2010 on the nuclear-free Middle East threatens to upset this secret understanding. Specifically, it would require member states of the NPT to “disclose in their national reports on the implementation of the resolution on the Middle East all information available to them on the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel.”

This aptly illustrates the many deficiencies with Obama’s Middle East policy and nuclear-proliferation approach. By elevating the non-proliferation gambit, he has given a forum to distract and complicate reasonable measures focused on the only nuclear threat that matters right now — Iran. By ingratiating himself with Arab states and savaging Israel, he has only encouraged the former to do the same. And by taking the nuclear-free Middle East pipe dream seriously, we only encourage further mischief. A case in point:

David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said a deal with the Egyptians is within reach.

“The key is for the U.S. administration to quietly let the Egyptians know that at the presidential and vice-presidential level, the United States takes the issue of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East seriously.”

That’s exactly wrong. We should be signaling that we take this not seriously at all and want to focus solely on the Iranian threat. But then the Obami are willing players in the game of misdirection and stalling when it comes to confronting the mullahs, so don’t expect them to take a firm hand with Egypt.

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Martin Indyk Tries Out His Israel Bashing

Following the example of Robert Gibbs on how to get kudos from the Obami, Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and presumably a whisperer in George Mitchell’s ear, takes to the mainstream media to bash Israel. It’s Bibi, wacky extremist that he is, who “has made Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel’s existence the central organizing principle of his second term.” (But isn’t a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat?) It is Bibi who stiffed Obama — by not showing up to his summit where everything BUT Iran was the focus of Obama’s attention. No mention is made of Obama’s atrocious treatment of Bibi. Obama meanwhile, Indyk would have us believe, was “persuading China to join in a new round of UN sanctions against Iran.” (Really? The Chinese keep saying they haven’t agreed to anything at all.)

Indyk also repeats the Palestinian talking point, which not surprisingly happens to be Obama’s as well, that “the inability to make progress on the Palestinian issue enables Iran’s leaders to appeal a to the Arab street, claiming they are the real supporters of the Palestinian cause through sponsorship of violence and terrorism and threats to destroy Israel. The tension also gives Iran the opportunity to use Hamas and Hezbollah proxies to provoke conflict with Israel, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seen as the hero.” Really — so if we had a peace accord, Iran would give up its nuclear ambitions? (And what of the Arab leaders who continue to plead in private for the administration to do something about Iran, now?)

And Indyk goes further, repeating the Obami’s spin about the housing blowup:

For Obama, however, Netanyahu’s apology doesn’t begin to address the real problem. His envoy, George Mitchell, had been struggling for nine months to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The day before Biden’s visit, Mitchell had announced agreement with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to commence “proximity talks.” The East Jerusalem building announcement came the next day, rendering those negotiations over before they had even started.

Weren’t proximity talks on the rocks before that? And wasn’t it the Obami who elevated this to a crisis point, rather than quietly handling the matter as the Bush administration had done on a similar Jerusalem builing matter? And on Indyk goes, ignoring the history of Palestinian rejectionism, the conciliatory moves Bibi has already made, the prior Bush agreement with Ariel Sharon on Jerusalem housing, and the continued incitement to violence by the PA. Is this his job application to replace George Mitchell?

Following the example of Robert Gibbs on how to get kudos from the Obami, Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and presumably a whisperer in George Mitchell’s ear, takes to the mainstream media to bash Israel. It’s Bibi, wacky extremist that he is, who “has made Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel’s existence the central organizing principle of his second term.” (But isn’t a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat?) It is Bibi who stiffed Obama — by not showing up to his summit where everything BUT Iran was the focus of Obama’s attention. No mention is made of Obama’s atrocious treatment of Bibi. Obama meanwhile, Indyk would have us believe, was “persuading China to join in a new round of UN sanctions against Iran.” (Really? The Chinese keep saying they haven’t agreed to anything at all.)

Indyk also repeats the Palestinian talking point, which not surprisingly happens to be Obama’s as well, that “the inability to make progress on the Palestinian issue enables Iran’s leaders to appeal a to the Arab street, claiming they are the real supporters of the Palestinian cause through sponsorship of violence and terrorism and threats to destroy Israel. The tension also gives Iran the opportunity to use Hamas and Hezbollah proxies to provoke conflict with Israel, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seen as the hero.” Really — so if we had a peace accord, Iran would give up its nuclear ambitions? (And what of the Arab leaders who continue to plead in private for the administration to do something about Iran, now?)

And Indyk goes further, repeating the Obami’s spin about the housing blowup:

For Obama, however, Netanyahu’s apology doesn’t begin to address the real problem. His envoy, George Mitchell, had been struggling for nine months to launch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The day before Biden’s visit, Mitchell had announced agreement with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to commence “proximity talks.” The East Jerusalem building announcement came the next day, rendering those negotiations over before they had even started.

Weren’t proximity talks on the rocks before that? And wasn’t it the Obami who elevated this to a crisis point, rather than quietly handling the matter as the Bush administration had done on a similar Jerusalem builing matter? And on Indyk goes, ignoring the history of Palestinian rejectionism, the conciliatory moves Bibi has already made, the prior Bush agreement with Ariel Sharon on Jerusalem housing, and the continued incitement to violence by the PA. Is this his job application to replace George Mitchell?

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Strange Herring

Another American hero soiled: The father of our country owes $300,000 in … library fines. And I had the police knocking at my door because I kept Nuclear War: What’s in It for You? an extra day…

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional because it encourages prayer. Hence the name. Closing federal institutions on Christmas also ruled unconstitutional because it encourages

Tea Party crasher cum public school teacher gets failing grade from his union. Apparently silencing political opposition via questionable tactics (“he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers — among other personal identifying information — about as many Tea Party supporters as possible”) risks damaging his credibility. This from his union.

Speaking of escaped inmates, dressing like a sheep should always be Plan A.

Watching 3-D TV may be hazardous to your health. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, and Avatar: The Director’s Cut. Not necessarily in that order.

Back in January, Secretary of Defense Gates warned the White House that its Iran policy stinked. The White House denies that the memo had any effect in its decision-making of late. “We are impervious to criticism,” said one insider who agreed to speak with me on promise of anonymity and $11. “Facts are just the lazy man’s excuse not to dream. Yes, dream … the impossible dream. To fight … the unbeatable foe … to bea-a-a-r-r … with unbearable sorro-o-o-o-w … to–”

Holocaust-denying loony-bin attendant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is convinced that he and Obama make a great team. Like Juan and Eva Peron. Or Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. Without Ollie.

So Apple has decided that banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist’s iPhone app for satirizing public figures may have been a mistake. Someone at the Apple store needs an anti-depressant. Or a dictionary.

Nude models shocked, shocked, that people grope them in MoMA exhibitionist exhibition. Where’s Fiorello LaGuardia when you need him?

If you’re an alcoholic, eat more chocolate. On the other hand, if you’re a diabetic, you’re … but this is a family blog.

You know he’s faking, don’t you?

Phoenix has a musical-instrument museum. (Well, it had to do something, what with Camp Verde getting all that attention with its Wicker Wonderland.)

Nicholas Cage wants to be buried beneath a pyramid, as opposed to a mountain of debts. Good call, good call.

Your pets are trying to kill you, no doubt in an effort to assume the reins of power and reduce what’s left of humankind to chattel slavery. Just like in those monkey-planet movies. Remember this the next time you’re mulling over Science Diet fare versus that sandwich that’s been in your knapsack since Wednesday.

A 20-year-old woman has been barred — from every single bar in the United Kingdom. When they say “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” they mean it over there.

Think twice before naming your baby Apple or Dweezil or Pope Alexander VI. You may live to regret it.

And finally, Tracy City, Tennessee, has elected a dead man mayor. Accusations of corruption immediately followed.

And that’s news you can use. I’ll be back next week. Unless the laws change.

Another American hero soiled: The father of our country owes $300,000 in … library fines. And I had the police knocking at my door because I kept Nuclear War: What’s in It for You? an extra day…

National Day of Prayer ruled unconstitutional because it encourages prayer. Hence the name. Closing federal institutions on Christmas also ruled unconstitutional because it encourages

Tea Party crasher cum public school teacher gets failing grade from his union. Apparently silencing political opposition via questionable tactics (“he called on his supporters to collect the Social Security numbers — among other personal identifying information — about as many Tea Party supporters as possible”) risks damaging his credibility. This from his union.

Speaking of escaped inmates, dressing like a sheep should always be Plan A.

Watching 3-D TV may be hazardous to your health. Side effects include dizziness, nausea, and Avatar: The Director’s Cut. Not necessarily in that order.

Back in January, Secretary of Defense Gates warned the White House that its Iran policy stinked. The White House denies that the memo had any effect in its decision-making of late. “We are impervious to criticism,” said one insider who agreed to speak with me on promise of anonymity and $11. “Facts are just the lazy man’s excuse not to dream. Yes, dream … the impossible dream. To fight … the unbeatable foe … to bea-a-a-r-r … with unbearable sorro-o-o-o-w … to–”

Holocaust-denying loony-bin attendant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is convinced that he and Obama make a great team. Like Juan and Eva Peron. Or Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. Without Ollie.

So Apple has decided that banning a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist’s iPhone app for satirizing public figures may have been a mistake. Someone at the Apple store needs an anti-depressant. Or a dictionary.

Nude models shocked, shocked, that people grope them in MoMA exhibitionist exhibition. Where’s Fiorello LaGuardia when you need him?

If you’re an alcoholic, eat more chocolate. On the other hand, if you’re a diabetic, you’re … but this is a family blog.

You know he’s faking, don’t you?

Phoenix has a musical-instrument museum. (Well, it had to do something, what with Camp Verde getting all that attention with its Wicker Wonderland.)

Nicholas Cage wants to be buried beneath a pyramid, as opposed to a mountain of debts. Good call, good call.

Your pets are trying to kill you, no doubt in an effort to assume the reins of power and reduce what’s left of humankind to chattel slavery. Just like in those monkey-planet movies. Remember this the next time you’re mulling over Science Diet fare versus that sandwich that’s been in your knapsack since Wednesday.

A 20-year-old woman has been barred — from every single bar in the United Kingdom. When they say “No shirt, no shoes, no service,” they mean it over there.

Think twice before naming your baby Apple or Dweezil or Pope Alexander VI. You may live to regret it.

And finally, Tracy City, Tennessee, has elected a dead man mayor. Accusations of corruption immediately followed.

And that’s news you can use. I’ll be back next week. Unless the laws change.

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Let Them Meet Steel

As Noah pointed out yesterday, Syria is now being credibly accused of shipping Scud missiles with a range of more than 430 miles to Hezbollah, placing Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Dimona nuclear power plant inside the kill zone. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been forced under duress to visit Damascus and make amends with his father’s assassins, as has Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, effectively terminating whatever independence Lebanon scratched out for itself in 2005. At the same time, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad contemptuously taunts the president of the United States, whom he clearly perceives as a pushover. “American officials bigger than you,” he said of President Obama’s attempts to talk him out of developing nuclear weapons, “more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you.”

Yet the Obama administration still seems to think engagement with Syria and the suggestion of possible sanctions against Iran may keep the Middle East from boiling over.

President George W. Bush lost a lot of credibility when the civil war and insurgency in Iraq made a hash of his policy there. It was eventually obvious to just about everyone that something different needed to happen, and fast. Replacing the top brass in the field with General David Petraeus and his like-minded war critics just barely saved Iraq and American interests from total disaster. The president himself never fully recovered.

If Obama’s squishy policies are misguided, as I think they are, it’s less obvious. The Middle East isn’t on fire as it was circa 2005. But it should be apparent that, at some point, all the pressure that’s building up will have to go somewhere. When and how is anyone’s guess, but there’s little chance it’s just going to dissipate or be slowly released during peace talks.

The Iranian-led resistance bloc is becoming better armed and more belligerent by the month. And the next round of conflict could tear up as many as six regions at the same time if everyone pulls out the stops. A missile war sparked between Hezbollah and Israel, for instance, could easily spread to Gaza, Syria, Iran, and even Iraq.

Even if it’s only half as bad as all that, we should still brace ourselves for more mayhem and bloodshed than we saw during the recent wars in Gaza and Lebanon. Israelis may show a lot less restraint if skyscrapers in Tel Aviv are exploding. Iran might even fire off some of its own if the leadership thinks Israel lacks the resources or strength to fight on too many fronts. The United States could be drawn in kicking and screaming, but resistance-bloc leaders have every reason to believe it won’t happen, that the U.S. is more likely to zip flex cuffs on Jerusalem.

I’m speculating, of course. The future is forever unknowable, and none of this is inevitable. An unexpected event — such as the overthrow of Ali Khamenei in Tehran — could change everything. A real-world conflict would take on a life of its own anyway that no one could predict or control.

What is clear, however, is that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are hurtling ever closer to the brink. They’re acting as though they’re figuratively following Vladimir Lenin’s advice: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”

I doubt most residents of South Lebanon believe in their bones that they won the war against Israel in 2006. I’ve been down there several times since. Entire neighborhoods were utterly pulverized. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, though, has touted his own “divine victory” so many times he may have convinced himself. Even if he knows he lost the last round, he has dug in with a much more formidable arsenal for the next one. As scholar Jonathan Spyer wrote not long ago, Hezbollah is “in a state of rude health. It is brushing aside local foes, marching through the institutions, as tactically agile as it is strategically deluded.”

It is also utterly unhinged ideologically. Let’s not forget what Christopher Hitchens saw at a rally last year in the suburbs south of Beirut commemorating its slain commander Imad Mugniyeh. “A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene,” he wrote, “with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT!”

The Israelis may well decide they’d rather fight a bad war now than a worse one later. Their enemies can afford to lose wars because Israel isn’t out to destroy their countries. No Israeli believes Syria or Iran shouldn’t exist. Israel, meanwhile, can barely afford to lose small wars. And the resistance bloc is boldly threatening and preparing for one of the most ambitious and destructive wars yet.

There’s only so much President Obama can do about this, but he’s lucky, even so, in a small way. The Middle East isn’t burning right now as it was during the Bush years. He can change course without having to pay a butcher’s bill first if he starts thinking seriously about deterrence as well as engagement. Let the resistance bloc see glints of steel once in a while instead of just mush — and not only for the sake of the people who live there. Our own national interests are at stake, and so is his political hide. Iran’s leaders would savor few things more than a second Democratic president’s scalp.

As Noah pointed out yesterday, Syria is now being credibly accused of shipping Scud missiles with a range of more than 430 miles to Hezbollah, placing Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Dimona nuclear power plant inside the kill zone. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been forced under duress to visit Damascus and make amends with his father’s assassins, as has Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, effectively terminating whatever independence Lebanon scratched out for itself in 2005. At the same time, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad contemptuously taunts the president of the United States, whom he clearly perceives as a pushover. “American officials bigger than you,” he said of President Obama’s attempts to talk him out of developing nuclear weapons, “more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you.”

Yet the Obama administration still seems to think engagement with Syria and the suggestion of possible sanctions against Iran may keep the Middle East from boiling over.

President George W. Bush lost a lot of credibility when the civil war and insurgency in Iraq made a hash of his policy there. It was eventually obvious to just about everyone that something different needed to happen, and fast. Replacing the top brass in the field with General David Petraeus and his like-minded war critics just barely saved Iraq and American interests from total disaster. The president himself never fully recovered.

If Obama’s squishy policies are misguided, as I think they are, it’s less obvious. The Middle East isn’t on fire as it was circa 2005. But it should be apparent that, at some point, all the pressure that’s building up will have to go somewhere. When and how is anyone’s guess, but there’s little chance it’s just going to dissipate or be slowly released during peace talks.

The Iranian-led resistance bloc is becoming better armed and more belligerent by the month. And the next round of conflict could tear up as many as six regions at the same time if everyone pulls out the stops. A missile war sparked between Hezbollah and Israel, for instance, could easily spread to Gaza, Syria, Iran, and even Iraq.

Even if it’s only half as bad as all that, we should still brace ourselves for more mayhem and bloodshed than we saw during the recent wars in Gaza and Lebanon. Israelis may show a lot less restraint if skyscrapers in Tel Aviv are exploding. Iran might even fire off some of its own if the leadership thinks Israel lacks the resources or strength to fight on too many fronts. The United States could be drawn in kicking and screaming, but resistance-bloc leaders have every reason to believe it won’t happen, that the U.S. is more likely to zip flex cuffs on Jerusalem.

I’m speculating, of course. The future is forever unknowable, and none of this is inevitable. An unexpected event — such as the overthrow of Ali Khamenei in Tehran — could change everything. A real-world conflict would take on a life of its own anyway that no one could predict or control.

What is clear, however, is that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are hurtling ever closer to the brink. They’re acting as though they’re figuratively following Vladimir Lenin’s advice: “Probe with a bayonet. If you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”

I doubt most residents of South Lebanon believe in their bones that they won the war against Israel in 2006. I’ve been down there several times since. Entire neighborhoods were utterly pulverized. Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, though, has touted his own “divine victory” so many times he may have convinced himself. Even if he knows he lost the last round, he has dug in with a much more formidable arsenal for the next one. As scholar Jonathan Spyer wrote not long ago, Hezbollah is “in a state of rude health. It is brushing aside local foes, marching through the institutions, as tactically agile as it is strategically deluded.”

It is also utterly unhinged ideologically. Let’s not forget what Christopher Hitchens saw at a rally last year in the suburbs south of Beirut commemorating its slain commander Imad Mugniyeh. “A huge poster of a nuclear mushroom cloud surmounts the scene,” he wrote, “with the inscription OH ZIONISTS, IF YOU WANT THIS TYPE OF WAR THEN SO BE IT!”

The Israelis may well decide they’d rather fight a bad war now than a worse one later. Their enemies can afford to lose wars because Israel isn’t out to destroy their countries. No Israeli believes Syria or Iran shouldn’t exist. Israel, meanwhile, can barely afford to lose small wars. And the resistance bloc is boldly threatening and preparing for one of the most ambitious and destructive wars yet.

There’s only so much President Obama can do about this, but he’s lucky, even so, in a small way. The Middle East isn’t burning right now as it was during the Bush years. He can change course without having to pay a butcher’s bill first if he starts thinking seriously about deterrence as well as engagement. Let the resistance bloc see glints of steel once in a while instead of just mush — and not only for the sake of the people who live there. Our own national interests are at stake, and so is his political hide. Iran’s leaders would savor few things more than a second Democratic president’s scalp.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: If You Shoot at a King You Must Kill Him

Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name “Wally” inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He wrote a terrific book about his experience as an American agent called A Time to Betray, and today he’s issuing a serious warning about his former Iranian masters: they mean what they say, and the West had better start taking them seriously.

He thinks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei fully intend to use nuclear weapons if they acquire them, either by exploding them in enemy cities or holding the Middle East and the world’s energy resources hostage. It’s hard, to be sure, for even a well-placed expert to know this for certain. Perhaps not even the leadership knows exactly what it will do with the bomb once it gets the chance. (Either way, a nuclear-armed Iran won’t suddenly play well with others.) What happens in the region over the next couple of years may depend in large part on whether the Israelis are willing to chance it.

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

Last week I spoke with Reza Kahlili, a man who during the 1980s and 1990s worked for the CIA under the code name “Wally” inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. He wrote a terrific book about his experience as an American agent called A Time to Betray, and today he’s issuing a serious warning about his former Iranian masters: they mean what they say, and the West had better start taking them seriously.

He thinks President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei fully intend to use nuclear weapons if they acquire them, either by exploding them in enemy cities or holding the Middle East and the world’s energy resources hostage. It’s hard, to be sure, for even a well-placed expert to know this for certain. Perhaps not even the leadership knows exactly what it will do with the bomb once it gets the chance. (Either way, a nuclear-armed Iran won’t suddenly play well with others.) What happens in the region over the next couple of years may depend in large part on whether the Israelis are willing to chance it.

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

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What Ahmadinejad Has Right

Robert Gates says the new Nuclear Posture Review — which specifically says that the U.S. reserves the right to nuke countries in violation of non-proliferation treaties — is designed to send a “strong message” to Iran and North Korea:

“If you’re going to play by the rules … then we will undertake certain obligations to you,” [Gates] said. “But if you’re not going to play by the rules, if you’re going to be proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.”

All options on the table? Really? Does anyone think that the Obama administration will use force — much less nuclear force — against Iran? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly doesn’t, to judge by his reaction to the Nuclear Posture Review. He is hardly acting like the leader of a country under threat of annihilation by the world’s sole superpower. Here is what he had to say:

“American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.

“Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended,” Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.

Ahmadinejad said Obama “is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists” and vowed Iran would not be pushed around. “(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you,” he said, addressing Obama.

That sums up the Iranian mindset quite nicely, and for once, I think Ahmadinejad has a point. He’s right that previous American politicians — presumably the bullying line is a reference to Dubya — didn’t “do a damn thing” about the Iranian nuclear program. Given that reality, what chance is there that Obama will do something? The odds are pretty much nil, which is why the threat continued in the Nuclear Posture Review is so hollow.

Robert Gates says the new Nuclear Posture Review — which specifically says that the U.S. reserves the right to nuke countries in violation of non-proliferation treaties — is designed to send a “strong message” to Iran and North Korea:

“If you’re going to play by the rules … then we will undertake certain obligations to you,” [Gates] said. “But if you’re not going to play by the rules, if you’re going to be proliferator, then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.”

All options on the table? Really? Does anyone think that the Obama administration will use force — much less nuclear force — against Iran? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad certainly doesn’t, to judge by his reaction to the Nuclear Posture Review. He is hardly acting like the leader of a country under threat of annihilation by the world’s sole superpower. Here is what he had to say:

“American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech before a crowd of several thousand in northwestern Iran.

“Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended,” Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV.

Ahmadinejad said Obama “is under the pressure of capitalists and the Zionists” and vowed Iran would not be pushed around. “(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn’t do a damn thing, let alone you,” he said, addressing Obama.

That sums up the Iranian mindset quite nicely, and for once, I think Ahmadinejad has a point. He’s right that previous American politicians — presumably the bullying line is a reference to Dubya — didn’t “do a damn thing” about the Iranian nuclear program. Given that reality, what chance is there that Obama will do something? The odds are pretty much nil, which is why the threat continued in the Nuclear Posture Review is so hollow.

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An Unusual Alignment of Interests

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear.

Last week, he said his country is fully committed to peace in the Middle East, though he worries the Israel government isn’t. He knows this is what bien pensants in the West like to believe. He knows they find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran’s Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.

He also knows how to talk like the right kind of hardliner. Yesterday, he condemned the double suicide-bombing in Moscow’s underground metro and urged the international community to “fight terror around the globe.”

It’s no wonder, then, that some in Washington, Paris, and even Jerusalem think he’s a man they can do business with. All they have to do is convince him that his alliance with Iran is counterproductive, that it runs contrary to his self-evident interests and public pronouncements.

Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran. Assad doesn’t even try to keep up the pretense when he isn’t preening before peace processors. Last week, he said Israel only understands force — a statement perfectly in line with his behavior. And just two days ago, he and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi urged the Palestinian Authority to scrap negotiations with Israel and return to its terrorist roots.

It’s hard to say if Western diplomats and foreign policy makers are actually suckered in by his act or if they’re just playing along because doing so suits them. Either way, they’d be wise to ignore him even when he makes the right noises and pay a little more heed to what other Arab leaders are saying instead. Their interests are far more in line with ours than Assad’s are.

Over the weekend, all, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, rejected Syria’s and Libya’s calls for armed attacks against Israel. Most aren’t interested in signing a treaty with Benjamin Netanyahu any time soon, but at least they don’t yearn for another Operation Cast Lead or a Third Lebanon War. The status quo ultimately isn’t sustainable, but it’s mostly non-violent right now. There’s nothing urgent about it as long as the Syrian- and Iranian-led resistance bloc isn’t fueling its missiles.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two most influential of the Sunni Arab regimes, flatly reject the idea of dialogue with Tehran while publicly supporting the peace process theater. Even if they’re no more sincere about the latter than Bashar al-Assad, as long as their rhetoric matches their immobility and conflict aversion, who cares?

Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last. Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed. The Saudis are profoundly relieved, and the rest of the Arabs outside Syria surely are, too.

So what we have here, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the resistance instead — which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It’s an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic. Iran’s Khomeinist regime has been gunning for Arabs in the Middle East since it came to power — and not just in Lebanon and Iraq but also in the Gulf and North Africa.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are unreliable allies (and that’s being generous), but their interests really do overlap with our own and even with Israel’s once in a while. Assad, at the same time, can’t always be bothered even to pretend he shares interests with the U.S. and Israel. His government has been sanctioned and stigmatized for a reason, and it’s not because he’s misguided or misunderstood.

President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn’t have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel. Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there. The present alignment may only come round once in a century, so we best not blow it.

Read Less




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