Commentary Magazine


Topic: senior official

The PR Geniuses at J Street Are at It Again

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

Apparently J Street is still feeling burned after its last legitimate congressional supporter, Rep. Gary Ackerman, publicly cut ties with the group on Wednesday. The organization sent out an e-mail blast today, calling on its supporters to bombard the congressman with messages deriding him for ending his connection with J Street.

What makes this bad move worse is Ackerman’s prominent position on the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East. He’s probably not the type of person J Street can afford to make an enemy out of. And yet:

We are sad and disappointed that the Congressman lacks the courage of his convictions on this issue. …

It is a failure of leadership when a senior official like Congressman Ackerman chooses to fall back on yesterday’s politics — blaming only the Palestinians for the present impasse, calling those who see it differently names, and questioning our support for Israel.

Click here to tell Congressman Ackerman that Israel needs friends who will speak hard truths and push for a two-state solution now before it’s too late.

The e-mail allows supporters to submit a signature and a personal message that will be added to a petition that denounces Ackerman. It also says that the notes will be forwarded directly to the congressman. However, after reading this blast, I think it’s safe to assume that the only messages Ackerman is going to get are a string of emotionally charged voicemails from Jeremy Ben Ami.

Read Less

Der Spiegel Is Worried About Jewish Revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Never Mind, Forget the KSM Trial

With the midterms in the rearview mirror the Obama administration can now admit the obvious: a public trial for KSM is impossible. The Washington Post reports:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

In other words, all of the attorney general’s assertions regarding the superiority of a public trial have proven faulty, and the administration now looks buffoonish. After excoriating critics and defending their scheme to put KSM on trial in civilian court, they now are forced to concede, “OK, it won’t work.” This was all perfectly apparent at the time to everyone but Eric Holder and the leftist lawyers who populate the Department of Justice (a number of whom represented Guantanamo detainees).

The administration is hard-pressed to explain the utter ineptitude that has characterized its detainee policy and the latest reversal. The best it can muster is this:

The Mohammed case is “a case that has to be addressed, and clearly it’s complicated in ways that weren’t originally foreseen, but as a symbol in some way of a thwarted policy, it is wholly misleading,” the senior official said.

Weren’t foreseen by whom? The hapless attorney general.

The administration has had to countermand Eric Holder twice now — first on the release of the detainee-abuse photos and now on the KSM trial and perhaps on the entire issue of military tribunals. For a constitutional scholar, as the president imagines himself, he certainly hired a second-rate lawyer to run the Justice Department. Holder and his appointees are consumed by ideology and lacking in common sense and legal smarts. If it weren’t for the State Department, DOJ would win hands down the “least effective” Obama  department. The good news is that their advice has a short shelf-life.

With the midterms in the rearview mirror the Obama administration can now admit the obvious: a public trial for KSM is impossible. The Washington Post reports:

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

In other words, all of the attorney general’s assertions regarding the superiority of a public trial have proven faulty, and the administration now looks buffoonish. After excoriating critics and defending their scheme to put KSM on trial in civilian court, they now are forced to concede, “OK, it won’t work.” This was all perfectly apparent at the time to everyone but Eric Holder and the leftist lawyers who populate the Department of Justice (a number of whom represented Guantanamo detainees).

The administration is hard-pressed to explain the utter ineptitude that has characterized its detainee policy and the latest reversal. The best it can muster is this:

The Mohammed case is “a case that has to be addressed, and clearly it’s complicated in ways that weren’t originally foreseen, but as a symbol in some way of a thwarted policy, it is wholly misleading,” the senior official said.

Weren’t foreseen by whom? The hapless attorney general.

The administration has had to countermand Eric Holder twice now — first on the release of the detainee-abuse photos and now on the KSM trial and perhaps on the entire issue of military tribunals. For a constitutional scholar, as the president imagines himself, he certainly hired a second-rate lawyer to run the Justice Department. Holder and his appointees are consumed by ideology and lacking in common sense and legal smarts. If it weren’t for the State Department, DOJ would win hands down the “least effective” Obama  department. The good news is that their advice has a short shelf-life.

Read Less

Obama Pressuring Israel (Still) Not to Hit Iran

The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.

This raises several issues. First, why is this appearing on the front page of the Times? Second, do we imagine that the Israelis were “persuaded”? And finally, is everyone now in agreement that it is one year before the mullahs go nuclear, rather than one to three years, as some in the administration have declared?

The most reasonable answer to the first question is that the administration is getting nervous that the Israelis’ patience to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions is running out and that the Israeli government recognizes that time is not on its side. (“American officials said that Israel was particularly concerned that, over time, Iran’s supreme leader could order that nuclear materials be dispersed to secret locations around the country, making it less likely that an Israeli military strike would significantly cripple the program.”) With news of the Russians’ delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr reactor, the subject of unilateral Israeli action is once again in the air. Hence, the Obami’s need to curb Israel’s intentions and dissuade it from acting. There’s time. No problem. Any action now would be premature. This, one suspects, is the underlying message.

As for whether Israel is “persuaded,” I highly doubt that Bibi is deferring to the Obami’s judgment on much of anything. That the Obama team would use the Times to make this assertion in public reinforces the impression that this story is being used to apply pressure to Israel to refrain from action for now.

On the issue of timing, yes, it seems that the unrealistic spin from the administration that a nuclear-armed Iran might be years in the future is no longer operative. That, as an experienced Israeli hand put it, “is not the headline, but it is the news.”

The real question remains, however, what the administration intends to do when it becomes apparent that sanctions have failed and the mullahs are on the verge of success in their dream of attaining status as a nuclear power. Will the administration think of new excuses for inactivity? What should concern the American people is that the administration uses the Gray Lady to send a message of restraint to our ally rather than as a platform to put forth a message to Iran that we will use force before the year is up. The dog that didn’t bark is also sometimes news.

The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats.

This raises several issues. First, why is this appearing on the front page of the Times? Second, do we imagine that the Israelis were “persuaded”? And finally, is everyone now in agreement that it is one year before the mullahs go nuclear, rather than one to three years, as some in the administration have declared?

The most reasonable answer to the first question is that the administration is getting nervous that the Israelis’ patience to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions is running out and that the Israeli government recognizes that time is not on its side. (“American officials said that Israel was particularly concerned that, over time, Iran’s supreme leader could order that nuclear materials be dispersed to secret locations around the country, making it less likely that an Israeli military strike would significantly cripple the program.”) With news of the Russians’ delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr reactor, the subject of unilateral Israeli action is once again in the air. Hence, the Obami’s need to curb Israel’s intentions and dissuade it from acting. There’s time. No problem. Any action now would be premature. This, one suspects, is the underlying message.

As for whether Israel is “persuaded,” I highly doubt that Bibi is deferring to the Obami’s judgment on much of anything. That the Obama team would use the Times to make this assertion in public reinforces the impression that this story is being used to apply pressure to Israel to refrain from action for now.

On the issue of timing, yes, it seems that the unrealistic spin from the administration that a nuclear-armed Iran might be years in the future is no longer operative. That, as an experienced Israeli hand put it, “is not the headline, but it is the news.”

The real question remains, however, what the administration intends to do when it becomes apparent that sanctions have failed and the mullahs are on the verge of success in their dream of attaining status as a nuclear power. Will the administration think of new excuses for inactivity? What should concern the American people is that the administration uses the Gray Lady to send a message of restraint to our ally rather than as a platform to put forth a message to Iran that we will use force before the year is up. The dog that didn’t bark is also sometimes news.

Read Less

Israel Needs to Face Facts About Turkey

Israel’s effort to adjust to the new reality of a hostile Islamist Turkey often seems like “one step forward, two steps back.” This week was a giant step back. Yet even so, progress has been made.

This week’s setback was Israel’s decision to participate in a UN probe of May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Several leading Israeli ministers said the decision was made partly “to restore ties with Turkey.” As one senior official put it, “Hopefully the combination of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and establishing an international investigation will meet the Turkish demands and lead to a restoration of ties.”

This is appeasement of the worst kind. In order to “restore ties” with a government that has made its hostility crystal-clear, Israel for the first time gave its imprimatur to an investigation by one of the world’s most anti-Israel bodies, which has never sought to probe similar incidents in other countries. That sets a dangerous precedent.

Even worse, this decision comes just days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced concern over the new Turkish intelligence chief’s close ties with Iran. Noting that years of military cooperation had left many Israeli secrets in Turkish hands, he worried that Hakan Fidan might pass them to Tehran. What normal country seeks a closer relationship with a government it suspects of sharing its secrets with its worst enemy?

Yet in its soberer moments, the government has, with considerable success, begun reaching out to some of Turkey’s traditional opponents. Last month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou paid an official visit to Israel, becoming the first Greek leader to do so in over 30 years. And in May, the Greek and Israeli air forces conducted joint exercises over the Aegean Sea. Turkey used to be a major venue for such exercises, but lately, it has canceled them repeatedly. And these exercises are vital because they enable pilots to train over longer distances and different terrain than Israel offers.

Ties with Cyprus have also warmed. In May, for instance, Cyprus said it would stop letting Gaza-bound flotillas use its ports, and in June, the Free Gaza movement, which has organized several such flotillas, said this decision had forced it to relocate its headquarters from the island.

But Israel’s schizophrenic behavior is damaging — something even Foreign Ministry professionals, trained to favor diplomacy above all, have recognized. When Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer met Turkey’s foreign minister in June in a bid to mend ties, one senior Foreign Ministry professional told Haaretz (Hebrew only):

The American government is giving Turkey the cold shoulder, Jewish organizations are boycotting it and the whole world is uncomfortable with Turkey’s behavior. Amid all this, we’re the ones who want to embrace them. So how will we be able to object to the world [doing the same] afterward?

This week’s decision shows the damage is only getting worse. It’s time for Jerusalem to face facts: as long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, Turkey will never again be an ally. Better to cut its losses and focus on building other more fruitful relationships.

Israel’s effort to adjust to the new reality of a hostile Islamist Turkey often seems like “one step forward, two steps back.” This week was a giant step back. Yet even so, progress has been made.

This week’s setback was Israel’s decision to participate in a UN probe of May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza. Several leading Israeli ministers said the decision was made partly “to restore ties with Turkey.” As one senior official put it, “Hopefully the combination of lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip and establishing an international investigation will meet the Turkish demands and lead to a restoration of ties.”

This is appeasement of the worst kind. In order to “restore ties” with a government that has made its hostility crystal-clear, Israel for the first time gave its imprimatur to an investigation by one of the world’s most anti-Israel bodies, which has never sought to probe similar incidents in other countries. That sets a dangerous precedent.

Even worse, this decision comes just days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak voiced concern over the new Turkish intelligence chief’s close ties with Iran. Noting that years of military cooperation had left many Israeli secrets in Turkish hands, he worried that Hakan Fidan might pass them to Tehran. What normal country seeks a closer relationship with a government it suspects of sharing its secrets with its worst enemy?

Yet in its soberer moments, the government has, with considerable success, begun reaching out to some of Turkey’s traditional opponents. Last month, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou paid an official visit to Israel, becoming the first Greek leader to do so in over 30 years. And in May, the Greek and Israeli air forces conducted joint exercises over the Aegean Sea. Turkey used to be a major venue for such exercises, but lately, it has canceled them repeatedly. And these exercises are vital because they enable pilots to train over longer distances and different terrain than Israel offers.

Ties with Cyprus have also warmed. In May, for instance, Cyprus said it would stop letting Gaza-bound flotillas use its ports, and in June, the Free Gaza movement, which has organized several such flotillas, said this decision had forced it to relocate its headquarters from the island.

But Israel’s schizophrenic behavior is damaging — something even Foreign Ministry professionals, trained to favor diplomacy above all, have recognized. When Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer met Turkey’s foreign minister in June in a bid to mend ties, one senior Foreign Ministry professional told Haaretz (Hebrew only):

The American government is giving Turkey the cold shoulder, Jewish organizations are boycotting it and the whole world is uncomfortable with Turkey’s behavior. Amid all this, we’re the ones who want to embrace them. So how will we be able to object to the world [doing the same] afterward?

This week’s decision shows the damage is only getting worse. It’s time for Jerusalem to face facts: as long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in power, Turkey will never again be an ally. Better to cut its losses and focus on building other more fruitful relationships.

Read Less

Obama Is Annoyed that Israel Defends Itself

Unmitigated chutzpah is the only way to characterize this, which comes via David Ignatius:

The Obama team recognizes that Israel will act in its interests, but it wants Jerusalem to consider U.S. interests, as well. The administration has communicated at a senior level its fear that the Israelis sometimes “care about their equities, but not about ours.”

Has Israel “condemned” the U.S.? Has Israel sought to reorient itself away from the U.S.? Demanded unilateral concessions by the U.S.? Snuggled up to foes of the U.S.? Or snubbed its president repeatedly?

The arrogance is stunning, even for the Obama crowd. Another doozy: hmmm, side with the Jewish state or the Israel-bashing, Islamic-leaning, Iran-cooing Turks?

The Obama administration, caught between two allies during this week of crisis, has signaled Israel and Turkey that the blockade of Gaza should be loosened to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population there. From the first news early Monday of the Israeli commando attack on a flotilla of Turkish relief ships, the White House has been trying to balance the interests of two prickly friends. The immediate aim, said a senior official, has been to “defuse the electricity of the moment” by freeing the ships’ passengers and passing a U.N. resolution calling (in fuzzy language) for an investigation of the raid.

That Turkey appears to have facilitated the terrorist flotilla goes unremarked upon by the Obama brain trust, which struggles to reconcile its new approach to the Middle East with reality. You see, you can’t side with Israel and those seeking its harm or destruction.You can’t demonstrate loyalty to allies by being disloyal to your closest one. You can’t bring about peace by bullying the party that’s had its peace offers rejected for 60 years. No wonder the Obama team’s feelings are bruised: those “troublesome Jews” just won’t accept “every invitation to national suicide.”

Unmitigated chutzpah is the only way to characterize this, which comes via David Ignatius:

The Obama team recognizes that Israel will act in its interests, but it wants Jerusalem to consider U.S. interests, as well. The administration has communicated at a senior level its fear that the Israelis sometimes “care about their equities, but not about ours.”

Has Israel “condemned” the U.S.? Has Israel sought to reorient itself away from the U.S.? Demanded unilateral concessions by the U.S.? Snuggled up to foes of the U.S.? Or snubbed its president repeatedly?

The arrogance is stunning, even for the Obama crowd. Another doozy: hmmm, side with the Jewish state or the Israel-bashing, Islamic-leaning, Iran-cooing Turks?

The Obama administration, caught between two allies during this week of crisis, has signaled Israel and Turkey that the blockade of Gaza should be loosened to allow more humanitarian aid to reach the Palestinian population there. From the first news early Monday of the Israeli commando attack on a flotilla of Turkish relief ships, the White House has been trying to balance the interests of two prickly friends. The immediate aim, said a senior official, has been to “defuse the electricity of the moment” by freeing the ships’ passengers and passing a U.N. resolution calling (in fuzzy language) for an investigation of the raid.

That Turkey appears to have facilitated the terrorist flotilla goes unremarked upon by the Obama brain trust, which struggles to reconcile its new approach to the Middle East with reality. You see, you can’t side with Israel and those seeking its harm or destruction.You can’t demonstrate loyalty to allies by being disloyal to your closest one. You can’t bring about peace by bullying the party that’s had its peace offers rejected for 60 years. No wonder the Obama team’s feelings are bruised: those “troublesome Jews” just won’t accept “every invitation to national suicide.”

Read Less

Ahmed Wali Karzai — Troublemaker in Afghanistan

The Washington Post has an important article on U.S. strategy in Kandahar, although it buries the biggest news in the middle of the story. Reporter Joshua Partlow begins by describing American attempts to bolster the power of Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa, a largely powerless former academic who spent more than a decade in exile in Canada. It is only in the middle of the story that Partlow notes that U.S. officials have given up on removing Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the provincial council and brother of Afghanistan’s president.

AWK, as U.S. officials describe him in internal deliberations, is the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan’s most important province, and he is rumored to be involved in corruption and drug dealing. Although the charges are widely believed, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have never been able to find any real substantiation. That, combined with AWK’s close relationship with his brother the president, have made him almost impossible to remove. Partlow notes:

Afghan officials and their NATO allies also have failed to confront the network of mafia-like bosses in Kandahar. In fact, NATO forces rely heavily on them, particularly Ahmed Wali Karzai, who benefits from U.S. government contracts and provides intelligence and security for logistics convoys.

Instead of pushing for his removal, U.S. officials want to consult with him more regularly, partly in a bid to limit his power. … In a series of recent meetings, American civilian and military officials told Karzai not to meddle in the work of the Afghan police, interfere with government appointments or rig the upcoming parliamentary elections. Without issuing specific threats, they made clear that, as one senior official put it, “it’s going to be painful” for him if he crosses these red lines.

The question is whether attempts to limit AWK’s power will succeed — and even if they do succeed, whether that will be enough to convince most people in Afghanistan, and indeed in the world, that U.S. forces are making real political progress in the south. Whatever the underlying facts, AWK has become a symbol of the corruption and brutality that too often characterize the government in Afghanistan. The very venality of government officials has been the biggest recruiting tool of the Taliban. It will be very hard for U.S. forces to convince anyone that conditions have truly improved in Kandahar — where a major military offensive is planned for the near future — if AWK remains in power. In fact, such an outcome may very well look to the average Afghan as an indication that U.S. forces are intent on bolstering the power of a corrupt clique associated with the Karzai brothers.

There is little doubt that U.S. and other NATO forces can win a military victory in Kandahar. But do they have a political strategy to match their military might? I am dubious. At the very least a lot more groundwork needs to be laid in the realm of strategic communications to convince the world that the coalition can win a meaningful victory in Kandahar without removing AWK from power.

The Washington Post has an important article on U.S. strategy in Kandahar, although it buries the biggest news in the middle of the story. Reporter Joshua Partlow begins by describing American attempts to bolster the power of Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa, a largely powerless former academic who spent more than a decade in exile in Canada. It is only in the middle of the story that Partlow notes that U.S. officials have given up on removing Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the provincial council and brother of Afghanistan’s president.

AWK, as U.S. officials describe him in internal deliberations, is the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan’s most important province, and he is rumored to be involved in corruption and drug dealing. Although the charges are widely believed, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have never been able to find any real substantiation. That, combined with AWK’s close relationship with his brother the president, have made him almost impossible to remove. Partlow notes:

Afghan officials and their NATO allies also have failed to confront the network of mafia-like bosses in Kandahar. In fact, NATO forces rely heavily on them, particularly Ahmed Wali Karzai, who benefits from U.S. government contracts and provides intelligence and security for logistics convoys.

Instead of pushing for his removal, U.S. officials want to consult with him more regularly, partly in a bid to limit his power. … In a series of recent meetings, American civilian and military officials told Karzai not to meddle in the work of the Afghan police, interfere with government appointments or rig the upcoming parliamentary elections. Without issuing specific threats, they made clear that, as one senior official put it, “it’s going to be painful” for him if he crosses these red lines.

The question is whether attempts to limit AWK’s power will succeed — and even if they do succeed, whether that will be enough to convince most people in Afghanistan, and indeed in the world, that U.S. forces are making real political progress in the south. Whatever the underlying facts, AWK has become a symbol of the corruption and brutality that too often characterize the government in Afghanistan. The very venality of government officials has been the biggest recruiting tool of the Taliban. It will be very hard for U.S. forces to convince anyone that conditions have truly improved in Kandahar — where a major military offensive is planned for the near future — if AWK remains in power. In fact, such an outcome may very well look to the average Afghan as an indication that U.S. forces are intent on bolstering the power of a corrupt clique associated with the Karzai brothers.

There is little doubt that U.S. and other NATO forces can win a military victory in Kandahar. But do they have a political strategy to match their military might? I am dubious. At the very least a lot more groundwork needs to be laid in the realm of strategic communications to convince the world that the coalition can win a meaningful victory in Kandahar without removing AWK from power.

Read Less

Gates: Obama’s Iran Policy Is a Flop

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

The New York Times reports:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document. … One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

There seem to be some, but certainly not all, within the administration who recognize the Obami have failed to come up with a strategy commensurate with the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran or realistic about the nature of the Iranian regime:

In an interview on Friday, General Jones declined to speak about the memorandum. But he said: “On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do.”

But in his memo, Mr. Gates wrote of a variety of concerns, including the absence of an effective strategy should Iran choose the course that many government and outside analysts consider likely: Iran could assemble all the major parts it needs for a nuclear weapon — fuel, designs and detonators — but stop just short of assembling a fully operational weapon.

Really, it’s jaw-dropping that, at this stage, Gates must sound the alarm, reminding everyone that nothing they’ve done so far has or is likely to work. Indeed, it’s hard to see how what the Obami are presently doing won’t impair those military options. After all, Obama is giving the Iranians cover to move ahead with their nuclear program while the UN dithers over negotiations about ineffective sanctions. The problem, we must conclude, is Obama, himself, who seems blissfully unaware of his own inadequate and misguided efforts. (“Some officials said his memo should be viewed in that light: as a warning to a relatively new president that the United States was not adequately prepared. He wrote the memo after Iran had let pass a 2009 deadline set by Mr. Obama to respond to his offers of diplomatic engagement.”)

The Obami seemed unprepared for the failure of engagement last year and are only now working on a sanctions effort; Gates’ memo suggests we are now no more prepared for what is in all likelihood the outcome of the next round of dithering: an Iranian regime undeterred from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. As the Times notes, “Mr. Gates’s memo appears to reflect concerns in the upper echelons of the Pentagon and the military that the White House did not have a well-prepared series of alternatives in place in case all the diplomatic steps finally failed.” There is no greater national-security challenge than the threat of a nuclear-armed, revolutionary Islamic state. And the president is failing to address it, as his defense secretary warns. The American people and history will judge Obama accordingly.

Read Less

Bibi Calls for a Response to Evil

On the eve of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day, Bibi Netanyahu gave a moving and thoughtful speech. It should be read in full. His comments relating the Nazi horror to the current threat posed by Iran were especially noteworthy:

The historic failure of the free societies when faced with the Nazi animal was that they did not stand up against it in time, while there was still a chance to stop it.

And here we are today again witnesses to the fire of the new-old hatred, the hatred of the Jews, that is expressed by organizations and regimes associated with radical Islam, headed by Iran and its proxies.

Iran’s leaders race to develop nuclear weapons and they openly state their desire to destroy Israel.  But in the face of these repeated statements to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the Earth, in the best case we hear a weak protest which is also fading away.

The required firm protest is not heard – not a sharp condemnation, not a cry of warning.

The world continues on as usual and there are even those who direct their criticism at us, against Israel.

Today, 65 years after the Holocaust, we must say in all honesty that what is so upsetting is the lack of any kind of opposition.  The world gradually accepts Iran’s statements of destruction against Israel and we still do not see the necessary international determination to stop Iran from arming itself.

But if we learned anything from the lessons of the Holocaust it is that we must not remain silent and be deterred in the face of evil.

I call on all enlightened countries to rise up and forcefully and firmly condemn Iran’s destructive intentions and to act with genuine determination to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His point is well taken. A serious plan by the U.S. administration to thwart the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons is not all that’s lacking — there is also a lack of moral outrage. I am hard-pressed to recall Obama or any senior official making the connection between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its radical ideological fervor and desire for destruction of the Jewish state. This, of course, is the administration that doesn’t like to bring up such things. But in doing so, it also lessens the urgency and undercuts the moral imperative for preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

And frankly, there is a shocking lack of urgency within the American Jewish community, as well. When the president goes into his que sera, sera stance regarding the crisis in Iran, where is the outrage? Where are the statements and the protests? Entirely lacking. It is not hard to discern the administration’s abject lack of seriousness with regard to stopping the mullahs’ nuclear program, yet the leadership of the American Jewish community has play-acted along with the administration. Oh yes, sanctions are coming. We got very reassuring answers from Hillary. This is what you hear from supposedly serious-minded Jewish activists. Certainly they have read Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pooh-poohing of military action and the news reports of watered-down sanctions. So when do they plan on speaking up? Are we to see a repeat of the 1930s and 40s, when the American Jewish community remained largely mute, wary of raising a fuss as the Nazi menace ravaged European Jewry?

Netanyahu’s speech was a plea for moral seriousness in the West — and also among American Jewish leaders, who are curiously and tragically underwhelming in their advocacy for a more robust response from the administration to Israel’s existential threat. There is grave doubt whether American Jewish leaders will heed his call and do so in a timely and effective manner.

On the eve of Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Memorial Day, Bibi Netanyahu gave a moving and thoughtful speech. It should be read in full. His comments relating the Nazi horror to the current threat posed by Iran were especially noteworthy:

The historic failure of the free societies when faced with the Nazi animal was that they did not stand up against it in time, while there was still a chance to stop it.

And here we are today again witnesses to the fire of the new-old hatred, the hatred of the Jews, that is expressed by organizations and regimes associated with radical Islam, headed by Iran and its proxies.

Iran’s leaders race to develop nuclear weapons and they openly state their desire to destroy Israel.  But in the face of these repeated statements to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the Earth, in the best case we hear a weak protest which is also fading away.

The required firm protest is not heard – not a sharp condemnation, not a cry of warning.

The world continues on as usual and there are even those who direct their criticism at us, against Israel.

Today, 65 years after the Holocaust, we must say in all honesty that what is so upsetting is the lack of any kind of opposition.  The world gradually accepts Iran’s statements of destruction against Israel and we still do not see the necessary international determination to stop Iran from arming itself.

But if we learned anything from the lessons of the Holocaust it is that we must not remain silent and be deterred in the face of evil.

I call on all enlightened countries to rise up and forcefully and firmly condemn Iran’s destructive intentions and to act with genuine determination to stop it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

His point is well taken. A serious plan by the U.S. administration to thwart the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons is not all that’s lacking — there is also a lack of moral outrage. I am hard-pressed to recall Obama or any senior official making the connection between Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its radical ideological fervor and desire for destruction of the Jewish state. This, of course, is the administration that doesn’t like to bring up such things. But in doing so, it also lessens the urgency and undercuts the moral imperative for preventing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

And frankly, there is a shocking lack of urgency within the American Jewish community, as well. When the president goes into his que sera, sera stance regarding the crisis in Iran, where is the outrage? Where are the statements and the protests? Entirely lacking. It is not hard to discern the administration’s abject lack of seriousness with regard to stopping the mullahs’ nuclear program, yet the leadership of the American Jewish community has play-acted along with the administration. Oh yes, sanctions are coming. We got very reassuring answers from Hillary. This is what you hear from supposedly serious-minded Jewish activists. Certainly they have read Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pooh-poohing of military action and the news reports of watered-down sanctions. So when do they plan on speaking up? Are we to see a repeat of the 1930s and 40s, when the American Jewish community remained largely mute, wary of raising a fuss as the Nazi menace ravaged European Jewry?

Netanyahu’s speech was a plea for moral seriousness in the West — and also among American Jewish leaders, who are curiously and tragically underwhelming in their advocacy for a more robust response from the administration to Israel’s existential threat. There is grave doubt whether American Jewish leaders will heed his call and do so in a timely and effective manner.

Read Less

Nuclear-Free? Oh, Except for Iran

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

Jack David of the Hudson Institute writes that while a “world free of nuclear weapons has been the wish of many people of goodwill since the dawn of the nuclear age,” there’s no evidence that pursuit of such a pipe dream will make us any safer. He explains:

Proponents of “nuclear zero” sometimes argue that if the U.S. and Russia eliminated their nuclear arsenals, other nations would follow their lead. But where’s the evidence? Since 1991, the U.S. has unilaterally moved toward nuclear disarmament. It reduced the number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to fewer than 2,200 from 13,000. It ended nuclear testing. It neither produced nor designed new nuclear warheads. It ended production of fissile material for nuclear warheads. But these actions have not persuaded any nuclear countries to follow suit.

So long as countries threaten to use nuclear arms, others will require a nuclear answer. Even suspicion of nuclear blackmail will precipitate demands for a countervailing deterrent. As a senior official of a Middle East country told me in 2006, “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, someone else in the region will become nuclear capable too.”

Nor is enhanced verification a panacea. (“Did the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections thwart covert and illegal programs in North Korea? In Iran? In Iraq? And when illegal nuclear weapons development is discovered, as in Iran, what U.N. or ‘international community’ response will protect the immediately threatened states?”)

Indeed there is something strange and otherworldly about the announced START deal with Russia at the very moment at which Iran is said to be building multiple nuclear enrichment sites. Does the administration really suppose we are safer because of the START deal or that the mullahs are impressed with our efforts? It defies logic. But it fills the time and tends to distract the media from the abject failure of the Obami to impede the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. David notes, “Tough action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons would be a welcome replacement for current threats and rhetoric.” But the Obami don’t have tough action, or really any action that might do that. So they continue the blather on about a nuclear-free world, as they water down the proposed sanctions and rule out regime change and dismiss any military action that would halt the “unacceptable” — the day when the revolutionary Islamic state announces it has joined the club of nuclear powers.

Read Less

Frenemies, a Love Story

There is a fluffapalooza of an article in today’s New York Times about the unlikely “alliance” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mark Landler and Helene Cooper read quite a lot into Hillary’s taking a meeting with Obama after she heard of her husband’s recent heart trouble:

But the fact that she first spent 45 minutes plotting Iran strategy with the man who beat her in a divisive primary campaign shows just how far Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have come since the bitter spring of 2008, when he sniped that her foreign-policy credentials consisted of sipping tea with world leaders, and she scoffed that his consisted of living in Indonesia when he was 10.

The tragedy is they were both right. When they joined forces it was like two bad tastes that go bad together.  Over a year into this administration, all we have to show on the diplomacy front is presidential pledges of global empathy and a lot exotic teatime. We have a foreign policy of pure esthetics, no less superficial than the piece in the Times. Landler and Cooper lay it on real thick, describing what sounds like the world’s worst sitcom:

They now joke about their “frenemies” status and have made gestures toward each other’s families. When Mr. Obama learned that Chelsea Clinton had become engaged, he turned to Mrs. Clinton and asked, “Does she want a White House wedding?” a senior official recalled. (Mrs. Clinton declined, saying the offer was “sweet” but would be “inappropriate.”) And when Mrs. Clinton traveled to Honolulu in January, she paid tribute to Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in a speech she gave while looking over a garden dedicated to Ms. Dunham.

“Frenemies” has it about right. That’s what the Will and Grace of international affairs have made of every global player — good and bad: Vladimir Putin? Frenemy. Bibi Netanyahu? He’s a frenemy, too. When you get nicer to your antagonists and rougher on your allies you end up too invested in the former to threaten them and too distanced from the latter to get their cooperation. Well, at least an “alliance” is being forged somewhere.

There is a fluffapalooza of an article in today’s New York Times about the unlikely “alliance” of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Mark Landler and Helene Cooper read quite a lot into Hillary’s taking a meeting with Obama after she heard of her husband’s recent heart trouble:

But the fact that she first spent 45 minutes plotting Iran strategy with the man who beat her in a divisive primary campaign shows just how far Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have come since the bitter spring of 2008, when he sniped that her foreign-policy credentials consisted of sipping tea with world leaders, and she scoffed that his consisted of living in Indonesia when he was 10.

The tragedy is they were both right. When they joined forces it was like two bad tastes that go bad together.  Over a year into this administration, all we have to show on the diplomacy front is presidential pledges of global empathy and a lot exotic teatime. We have a foreign policy of pure esthetics, no less superficial than the piece in the Times. Landler and Cooper lay it on real thick, describing what sounds like the world’s worst sitcom:

They now joke about their “frenemies” status and have made gestures toward each other’s families. When Mr. Obama learned that Chelsea Clinton had become engaged, he turned to Mrs. Clinton and asked, “Does she want a White House wedding?” a senior official recalled. (Mrs. Clinton declined, saying the offer was “sweet” but would be “inappropriate.”) And when Mrs. Clinton traveled to Honolulu in January, she paid tribute to Mr. Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in a speech she gave while looking over a garden dedicated to Ms. Dunham.

“Frenemies” has it about right. That’s what the Will and Grace of international affairs have made of every global player — good and bad: Vladimir Putin? Frenemy. Bibi Netanyahu? He’s a frenemy, too. When you get nicer to your antagonists and rougher on your allies you end up too invested in the former to threaten them and too distanced from the latter to get their cooperation. Well, at least an “alliance” is being forged somewhere.

Read Less

Obama’s Strategy Is to Weaken or Remove Bibi

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

The Obama administration seeks to recover from the stagnation it imposed on the peace process a year ago by doubling down on its strategy of making impossible demands on the Israelis, hoping that this time they will cave.

The administration thought it had discovered a way forward in the form of proximity talks, in which the U.S. would serve as mediator in indirect negotiations between the two sides, being that the Palestinians are refusing direct talks (this ongoing Palestinian refusal, of course, earns zero criticism from the White House).

But now the administration is attaching new demands to the commencement of the talks:

to reverse last week’s approval of 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians, and publicly declare that all of the “core issues” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of Jerusalem, be included in upcoming talks.

It should be obvious, at this point, that Obama is trying to manufacture an immense political dilemma for Netanyahu by forcing him to choose between two crises — one with the United States should he accept the demands, the other with his coalition partners and the Israeli public should he reject them. For Netanyahu, this is a no-win situation. The only choice is between less damaging options.

Netanyahu should reject the new demands, because they are not made in good faith, they are a reversal of previous Obama commitments, and, most important, the proximity talks themselves are a trap.

Obama has demonstrated very clearly that he is not an “honest broker” — he is instead behaving as a lawyer for the Palestinians. The danger of proximity talks in which all the “core issues” of the conflict would be on the table is that the U.S. would act not as mediator but in tandem with the Palestinians to pressure Israel into making dangerous and unprecedented concessions. As Haaretz reported two weeks ago,

According to a senior official in the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration has promised Abbas that if either side fails to live up to expectations, the United States will not conceal its disappointment, nor will it hesitate to take steps to remove the obstacle. In addition, the PA was promised that the United States would not be satisfied with playing the role of messenger. According to what the official read to me, the Obama administration will present its own proposals in an effort to bridge the gaps.

Obama has shown very clearly that, as on health care, he is personally passionate, emotionally invested, and possessed of the belief that he has the power to push through sweeping changes. The proximity talks would give Obama just the opening he needs to subject Netanyahu to an escalating series of demands and punishments — confronting him with the same dilemma he faces right now, only even more severe. Danger lies ahead.

Read Less

RE: Annals of Smart Diplomacy

Rick, in addition to omitting a text and timetable, the Obami are omitting China from their Iran sanction plans, to the consternation of our allies:

The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said. . .

But the administration’s lobbying for a Chinese exemption has raised eyebrows in Congress and angered several allies, most notably South Korea and Japan, which would not be exempted under the administration’s plan.

“We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said one senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?” Japan and South Korea, which are U.S. allies, have raised the issue with the Obama administration.

What has China done? They balked and hollered, and the Obami have no means of corralling their support, so they will simply give China a pass, making a mockery of the entire exercise. This has not gone unnoticed: “One foreign official complained that the administration’s efforts would encourage China to water down U.N. sanctions on Iran as much as possible and then push Chinese firms — should the U.S. law pass — to invest more in Iran’s oil and gas sector.” We also know that Turkey and Brazil are balking at sanctions.

So where’s the evidence of Obama’s charismatic power to move our allies? Where’s the evidence that engagement enabled us to gather international support for crippling sanctions? There isn’t any. Nor is there any game plan to deter the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons. We are headed for what candidate Barack Obama declared unacceptable: a Revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. Perhaps Joe Biden can explain to the Israelis on his visit why they should refrain from acting unilaterally to defend themselves against an existential threat to the Jewish state in light of the abject failure of the Obami’s Iran policy.

Rick, in addition to omitting a text and timetable, the Obami are omitting China from their Iran sanction plans, to the consternation of our allies:

The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said. . .

But the administration’s lobbying for a Chinese exemption has raised eyebrows in Congress and angered several allies, most notably South Korea and Japan, which would not be exempted under the administration’s plan.

“We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said one senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?” Japan and South Korea, which are U.S. allies, have raised the issue with the Obama administration.

What has China done? They balked and hollered, and the Obami have no means of corralling their support, so they will simply give China a pass, making a mockery of the entire exercise. This has not gone unnoticed: “One foreign official complained that the administration’s efforts would encourage China to water down U.N. sanctions on Iran as much as possible and then push Chinese firms — should the U.S. law pass — to invest more in Iran’s oil and gas sector.” We also know that Turkey and Brazil are balking at sanctions.

So where’s the evidence of Obama’s charismatic power to move our allies? Where’s the evidence that engagement enabled us to gather international support for crippling sanctions? There isn’t any. Nor is there any game plan to deter the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons. We are headed for what candidate Barack Obama declared unacceptable: a Revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. Perhaps Joe Biden can explain to the Israelis on his visit why they should refrain from acting unilaterally to defend themselves against an existential threat to the Jewish state in light of the abject failure of the Obami’s Iran policy.

Read Less

The Dubai Hit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Cut the Gordion Knot, Already

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

Read Less

Obama Makes Excuses to Do Nothing About Iran

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

Read Less

Reversing Obama’s Worst Decision Yet?

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

Michael Isikoff reports:

Top administration officials are getting nervous that they may not be able to proceed with one of their most controversial national-security moves: trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused 9/11 conspirators in federal court in New York City. Last November Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. portrayed the trial as a way to showcase the American justice system to the world — and to accelerate President Obama’s stalled plans to shut down the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. But because of shifting political winds in Congress, the trial is now “potentially in jeopardy,” a senior official, who did not want to be named talking about a sensitive situation, tells Newsweek. The chief concern: that Republicans will renew attempts to strip funding for the trial and, in the aftermath of the bombing attempt aboard Northwest Flight 253, pick up enough support from moderate Democrats to prevail.

It seems that Sen. Lindsay Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf will try to force votes in Congress to cut off funding for the trial. And one additional issue: the more than $200 million price tag for each year of the trial. The kicker: “If Holder’s plans are thwarted, though, one top administration official, who also didn’t want to be named talking about delicate issues, notes there is a Plan B — reviving the case against the alleged 9/11 conspirators before a military tribunal, just as the Bush administration tried to do.”

This would be a stunning turnaround, an admission of Holder’s irresponsibility and of the Justice Department’s loony leftism. But this, of course, was part and parcel of Obama’s personal vision and his “not-Bush” approach to the war against Islamic fascists. Obama spent his campaign and the first year of his presidency eschewing the Bush anti-terror policies — employing enhanced interrogation techniques, maintaining Guantanamo, using military tribunals to prosecute terrorists — and pronouncing that they represented a betrayal of “our values.” He told us we’d rack up credit with … with whom was never quite clear, but we’d rack up credit. Those who sought to incinerate innocents or who were attracted to the words of Major Hassan’s favorite imam (or was it the European elites who give out prizes for such foolishness?) would, presumably, be impressed. And we’d lure the butchers of children and women out of their mindset by impressing them with the wonders of the federal criminal procedure.

But alas, that proved to be politically untenable and logistically difficult. We had three domestic terror attacks. The president was hammered for his clueless reserve and the Keystone Kops response to the Christmas Day bombing. So now being “not Bush” doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It was born of arrogance and from a distorted view of the nature of our enemy. If Obama retreats on both this and Guantanamo, it will be a bitter pill for the Left and sweet vindication for those who kept us safe for seven and a half years after 9/11. But more important, it will be a step toward sanity in the administration’s national security policies. And should Obama and Holder feel the sting of humiliation if forced to abandon their plans to shutter Guantanamo and give KSM a propagandistic platform, the White House may find that a small price to pay to sync up its anti-terror policies with both reality and public opinion.

Read Less

Not Giving up Yet on Iranian Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

Bush on Iran

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney plan on bombing Iran before the end of Bush’s term. “[A] senior official” claims that while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been hesitant to come on board, Hezbollah’s advances in Lebanon have demonstrated Iran’s increasing influence and thus hastened a potential American attack.

Without much else to go on, it’s helpful to look at George W. Bush’s language when speaking about the Iranian threat. There are some startling similarities between the words he used while addressing the Knesset last week and the anti-terrorism declarations he made before the Iraq War.

From last week’s Knesset address:

Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

From Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address:

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.

Does the excerpt from last week’s address signal a Bush’s re-commitment to his 2002 pledge? Only time will tell. With continued military and political gains in Iraq, the U.S. is in a better position to weigh its options with regard to Iran. Which is why we may see an increased Iranian effort to derail progress in Mesopotamia. All the more reason to keep in mind that now, as in 2002, “time is not on our side.”

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney plan on bombing Iran before the end of Bush’s term. “[A] senior official” claims that while Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have been hesitant to come on board, Hezbollah’s advances in Lebanon have demonstrated Iran’s increasing influence and thus hastened a potential American attack.

Without much else to go on, it’s helpful to look at George W. Bush’s language when speaking about the Iranian threat. There are some startling similarities between the words he used while addressing the Knesset last week and the anti-terrorism declarations he made before the Iraq War.

From last week’s Knesset address:

Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

From Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address:

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.

Does the excerpt from last week’s address signal a Bush’s re-commitment to his 2002 pledge? Only time will tell. With continued military and political gains in Iraq, the U.S. is in a better position to weigh its options with regard to Iran. Which is why we may see an increased Iranian effort to derail progress in Mesopotamia. All the more reason to keep in mind that now, as in 2002, “time is not on our side.”

Read Less

The Meaning of KAMD

Will South Korea reverse long-standing policy and participate in Washington’s missile defense shield for Asia? Reports this week confirm that on January 8 the Ministry of National Defense briefed the transition team of incoming President Lee Myung-bak on Seoul’s options. It now appears that the new administration is interested in joining the effort.

Up to now, outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun, hoping to build bridges to Pyongyang and Beijing, has shunned missile defense cooperation with the Pentagon. South Korea has taken tentative steps to build what it calls KAMD, the Korean low-altitude air and missile network, but Lee looks like he will accelerate scheduled purchases of equipment and integrate his nation’s system with America’s and Japan’s high-altitude one. For instance, South Korea might provide missile-launch or radar sites, join in research and development, or share costs. As one senior official in South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking anonymously, said, “The bottom line is that we will go in a direction toward developing our low-altitude intercept shield into an extended missile defense system.”

Nonetheless, enhanced cooperation with Washington will proceed cautiously due to several factors. First, despite Lee’s landslide win over the so-called “progressive” forces last month, South Korea’s electorate remains almost evenly divided. Any move to sign up for Washington’s missile defense network will undoubtedly cause an uproar in a highly partisan electorate. Moreover, few South Koreans want to go out of their way to upset the Chinese, who are dead set against America’s missile shield plans. Although the defensive system is meant to counter North Korea, Beijing correctly views such plans as a threat to its offensive capabilities as well. And there is also the issue of cost.

Yet active consideration of missile defense in Seoul is an indication of a change in the country’s mood. South Korea is beginning to align its policies with America’s because there is an underlying sense that the North Korea-friendly Sunshine Policy of President Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, is not working.

The larger point is that, as the pendulum swings back, South Korea is moving closer to the United States and American influence in North Asia is growing. Washington does not need to recognize Chinese ascendance there, as Jason Shaplen and James Laney, writing in Foreign Affairs at the end of last year, seem to think. In short, North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear weapons—evidenced by Pyongyang’s failure to meet its year-end obligations—is alienating Seoul and causing more heartburn for Beijing than Washington. After a few difficult years, the initiative is now with the democracies of North Asia, not China.

Will South Korea reverse long-standing policy and participate in Washington’s missile defense shield for Asia? Reports this week confirm that on January 8 the Ministry of National Defense briefed the transition team of incoming President Lee Myung-bak on Seoul’s options. It now appears that the new administration is interested in joining the effort.

Up to now, outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun, hoping to build bridges to Pyongyang and Beijing, has shunned missile defense cooperation with the Pentagon. South Korea has taken tentative steps to build what it calls KAMD, the Korean low-altitude air and missile network, but Lee looks like he will accelerate scheduled purchases of equipment and integrate his nation’s system with America’s and Japan’s high-altitude one. For instance, South Korea might provide missile-launch or radar sites, join in research and development, or share costs. As one senior official in South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking anonymously, said, “The bottom line is that we will go in a direction toward developing our low-altitude intercept shield into an extended missile defense system.”

Nonetheless, enhanced cooperation with Washington will proceed cautiously due to several factors. First, despite Lee’s landslide win over the so-called “progressive” forces last month, South Korea’s electorate remains almost evenly divided. Any move to sign up for Washington’s missile defense network will undoubtedly cause an uproar in a highly partisan electorate. Moreover, few South Koreans want to go out of their way to upset the Chinese, who are dead set against America’s missile shield plans. Although the defensive system is meant to counter North Korea, Beijing correctly views such plans as a threat to its offensive capabilities as well. And there is also the issue of cost.

Yet active consideration of missile defense in Seoul is an indication of a change in the country’s mood. South Korea is beginning to align its policies with America’s because there is an underlying sense that the North Korea-friendly Sunshine Policy of President Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae Jung, is not working.

The larger point is that, as the pendulum swings back, South Korea is moving closer to the United States and American influence in North Asia is growing. Washington does not need to recognize Chinese ascendance there, as Jason Shaplen and James Laney, writing in Foreign Affairs at the end of last year, seem to think. In short, North Korea’s refusal to give up its nuclear weapons—evidenced by Pyongyang’s failure to meet its year-end obligations—is alienating Seoul and causing more heartburn for Beijing than Washington. After a few difficult years, the initiative is now with the democracies of North Asia, not China.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.