Commentary Magazine


Topic: Supreme Leader

What Vietnam Should Teach Us About Iran

J.E. Dyer’s excellent post yesterday correctly noted that this week’s talks with Iran, like the previous rounds, will merely buy Tehran more time to advance its nuclear program. That the West would commit such folly shows it has yet to learn a crucial lesson of the Vietnam War: though it sees compromise as the ultimate solution to any conflict, its opponents’ aim is often total victory.

Henry Kissinger, national security adviser and then secretary of state during Vietnam, expounded on this difference at a State Department conference this fall. As Haaretz reported:

The Americans sought a compromise; the North Vietnamese a victory, to replace the regime in the south and to unite the two halves of Vietnam under their rule. When they became stronger militarily, they attacked; when they were blocked, they agreed to bargain; when they signed an agreement, they waited for an opportunity to break it and win.

That same disconnect between the parties’ goals exists today over Iran’s nuclear program. The West repeatedly says its goal is compromise. Even as the UN approved new sanctions against Tehran in June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her ultimate aim was to get Iran “back at the negotiating table.” And when the EU discussed additional sanctions in July, its high representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, insisted that “The purpose of all this is to say, ‘We’re serious, we need to talk.’ … Nothing would dissuade me from the fact that talks should happen.”

Iran, however, isn’t seeking compromise; it’s playing to win. And that explains all its diplomatic twists and turns, like scrapping last year’s deal to send some of its low-enriched uranium abroad immediately after signing it.

Diplomats and journalists, convinced that Iran, too, wants compromise, have espoused strained explanations, like disagreements between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief backer, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But once you realize that Iran’s goal is victory, it’s clear that Tehran never intended to give up its uranium. It merely wanted time to develop its nuclear program further before new sanctions were imposed. The scrapped deal bought it a year: first the months of talks; then more time wasted in efforts to lure Iran back to the deal it walked out of; and finally, months spent negotiating the new sanctions, which weren’t discussed previously for fear of scuttling the chances of a deal.

Now Tehran again feels pressured, so, like Hanoi, it’s agreeing to bargain. It’s no accident that after months of preliminary jockeying, Iran finally set a date for the talks immediately after the WikiLeaks cables made worldwide headlines. The cables’ revelation of an Arab consensus for military action against Tehran gives new ammunition to an incoming Congress already inclined to be tougher on Iran and also facilitates a potential Israeli military strike: who now would believe the inevitable Arab denunciations afterward?

So Iran, cognizant of the West’s weakness, has taken out the perfect insurance policy: as long as it’s talking, feeding the West’s hope for compromise, Western leaders will oppose both new sanctions and military action. And Tehran will be able to continue its march toward victory unimpeded.

J.E. Dyer’s excellent post yesterday correctly noted that this week’s talks with Iran, like the previous rounds, will merely buy Tehran more time to advance its nuclear program. That the West would commit such folly shows it has yet to learn a crucial lesson of the Vietnam War: though it sees compromise as the ultimate solution to any conflict, its opponents’ aim is often total victory.

Henry Kissinger, national security adviser and then secretary of state during Vietnam, expounded on this difference at a State Department conference this fall. As Haaretz reported:

The Americans sought a compromise; the North Vietnamese a victory, to replace the regime in the south and to unite the two halves of Vietnam under their rule. When they became stronger militarily, they attacked; when they were blocked, they agreed to bargain; when they signed an agreement, they waited for an opportunity to break it and win.

That same disconnect between the parties’ goals exists today over Iran’s nuclear program. The West repeatedly says its goal is compromise. Even as the UN approved new sanctions against Tehran in June, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her ultimate aim was to get Iran “back at the negotiating table.” And when the EU discussed additional sanctions in July, its high representative for foreign policy, Catherine Ashton, insisted that “The purpose of all this is to say, ‘We’re serious, we need to talk.’ … Nothing would dissuade me from the fact that talks should happen.”

Iran, however, isn’t seeking compromise; it’s playing to win. And that explains all its diplomatic twists and turns, like scrapping last year’s deal to send some of its low-enriched uranium abroad immediately after signing it.

Diplomats and journalists, convinced that Iran, too, wants compromise, have espoused strained explanations, like disagreements between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his chief backer, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But once you realize that Iran’s goal is victory, it’s clear that Tehran never intended to give up its uranium. It merely wanted time to develop its nuclear program further before new sanctions were imposed. The scrapped deal bought it a year: first the months of talks; then more time wasted in efforts to lure Iran back to the deal it walked out of; and finally, months spent negotiating the new sanctions, which weren’t discussed previously for fear of scuttling the chances of a deal.

Now Tehran again feels pressured, so, like Hanoi, it’s agreeing to bargain. It’s no accident that after months of preliminary jockeying, Iran finally set a date for the talks immediately after the WikiLeaks cables made worldwide headlines. The cables’ revelation of an Arab consensus for military action against Tehran gives new ammunition to an incoming Congress already inclined to be tougher on Iran and also facilitates a potential Israeli military strike: who now would believe the inevitable Arab denunciations afterward?

So Iran, cognizant of the West’s weakness, has taken out the perfect insurance policy: as long as it’s talking, feeding the West’s hope for compromise, Western leaders will oppose both new sanctions and military action. And Tehran will be able to continue its march toward victory unimpeded.

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A More Dangerous World

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

COMMENTARY contributor Bret Stephens identifies the cumulative danger posed by an administration obsessed by multilateralism and possessing many false and bad ideas about international affairs:

Last week, Mr. Obama was so resoundingly rebuffed by other leaders at the G-20 summit in Seoul that even the New York Times noticed: Mr. Obama, the paper wrote, faced “stiff challenges… from the leaders of China, Britain, Germany and Brazil.” His administration has now been chastised or belittled by everyone from the Supreme Leader of Iran to the finance minister of Germany to the president of France to the dictator of Syria. What does it mean for global order when the world figures out that the U.S. president is someone who’s willing to take no for an answer?

The answer is that the United States becomes Europe. Except on a handful of topics, like trade and foreign aid, the foreign policy of the European Union, and that of most of its constituent states, amounts to a kind of diplomatic air guitar: furious motion, considerable imagination, but neither sound nor effect. When a European leader issues a stern demarche toward, say, Burma or Russia, nobody notices. And nobody cares.

And, as Bret points out, the world becomes more chaotic, and the smaller democracies get the shaft as a result of America’s feckless approach:

The small and distant abuses of power, would grow bolder and more frequent. America’s exhortations for restraint or decency would seem cheaper. Multipolarity is a theory that, inevitably, leads to old-fashioned spheres of influence. It has little regard for small states: Taiwan, Mongolia, Israel, Georgia, Latvia, Costa Rica.

That approach to foreign affairs is also characterized by an inordinate amount of disingenuousness. Obama says he’s in favor of free trade but loses the face-off with South Korea because he is on the side of the auto companies’ efforts to maintain protectionist barriers just a little bit longer. Obama says he’s a grand friend of Israel but continues the lopsided public bullying of Israel. Obama says he’s a great champion of human rights and democracy, but his policy choices are curiously lacking in any meaningful assistance for the oppressed and any real opposition to the oppressors. There is, to be blunt, a collapse of our moral standing and our credibility, which is frittered away in an effort to mask the essential amorality of our policy.

Gradually the bullies and the despots get the idea the U.S. can be played and its allies pushed about. We’ve been down this road before, and the results are never good.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.’” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

It’s about loyalty and persistence: “Fifty-seven years ago, an armistice ended the fighting in Korea — another unpopular conflict, far bloodier than the Iraq war, although shorter. … Yet when the war was over, the United States did not abandon South Korea. We had done so in 1949, when our post-World War II occupation of Korea ended, opening the door to North Korea’s invasion the following year. This time, instead, we kept a substantial military force in South Korea. The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim.”

It’s about the worst-run and worst-prepared campaign this season. The latest on the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat: “Republicans criticized U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak yesterday for requesting an earmark they say would have sent $350,000 to a company, in violation of House rules.”

It’s about the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee throwing millions down a rat hole in a fruitless attempt to save a weak candidate: “Republican candidate Pat Toomey has a 10-point lead over his Democratic rival in the race for a Senate seat in the key swing state of Pennsylvania where worries about the economy dominate, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday. In the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s Democrats could struggle at the November 2 midterm vote, 47 percent of likely voters said they would back Toomey and 37 percent said they favored Democrat Joe Sestak.”

It’s about the enthusiasm: “Americans with the strongest opinions about the country’s most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections. In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama’s work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism.”

It’s about time: “As Obama Struggles, Bush’s Legacy Recovers.”

It’s about the lunacy of Iranian engagement: “An Iranian newspaper with close ties to the country’s supreme leader has responded to a campaign by French celebrities to save the life of an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning by calling its most prominent member, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a ‘prostitute’ who ‘deserves to die.’” By the way, where are American celebrities?

It’s about as far from the “summer of recovery” as you can get: “U.S. auto sales in August probably were the slowest for the month in 28 years as model-year closeout deals failed to entice consumers concerned the economy is worsening and they may lose their jobs.”

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What Bushehr Tells Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

Ouch: Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and handpicked Senate appointee dumps him.

Yikes (for Democrats): “Republican Congressman Mark Kirk has earned a modest pick-up in support, while his Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, appears stalled in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state following the government’s seizure of the failed Broadway Bank, the institution owned by Giannoulias’ family. Kirk now attracts 46% support in Illinois’ race for the U.S. Senate, up from 41% in early April.”

More yikes (for Democrats): “A new poll has businessman Tim Burns (R) leading former Murtha aide Mark Critz (D) 46-40. Republicans appear to have a real opportunity to take over the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.), as another poll shows their candidate in the lead.”

Still: “Iran will never agree to exchange its low-level enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods enriched abroad, a top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.”

Bunk — is the claim that GM has paid back its taxpayer bailout, says Rep. Paul Ryan: “These claims struck me as odd and misleading. The federal government still owns over 60% of this auto company. This so-called repayment is actually a transfer of $6.7 billion from one taxpayer-funded bailout account to another.”

Fine: “Jewish groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president speaks next week at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadenijad’s plans to address the U.N. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference on May 3 makes a mockery of the proceedings, Jewish groups said.” But why don’t they call for the administration to leave the Human Rights Council or the Commission on the Status of Women?

Uh-oh: “The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, grew at an annual rate of 3.2% after climbing 5.6% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That’s not nearly fast enough to bring down stubbornly high unemployment. In addition, threats ranging from turmoil in Europe to the difficulty smaller businesses face in borrowing money are clouding the prospects for continued recovery.”

Yup: “Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist’s failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day – not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

Trouble back home: “Sue Lowden has established herself as the far-ahead GOP front-runner in Nevada’s U.S. Senate race and the Republican most likely to beat Sen. Harry Reid, even with a Tea Party candidate on the Nov. 2 general election ballot, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. … As for Reid, the poll shows the Democratic incumbent’s popularity dipping to a new all-time low with 56 percent of registered Nevada voters saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the senator, while about four in 10 people say they would vote for him on Election Day – not enough to win.”

Trouble for the Democrats’ tax-hike plans: “When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes. Sixty-six percent (66%) believe that America is overtaxed. Only 25% disagree.”

Trouble for Obama and Democrats who will rely on the president’s popularity this November: he’s reached an all-time low in RealClearPolitics’s poll average, at 46.1 percent approval.

Trouble in Iran (and a reminder that delay in use of military force against the mullahs comes with a price): “Ahmad Vahidi said the new Mersad, or Ambush, air defense system would be able to hit modern aircraft at low and medium altitudes. According to a photo released by Iran’s Defense Ministry, the Mersad will launch Iran’s Shahin missiles, a local version of the 1970s-era US-manufactured Hawk missile. The Hawk missile has a range 24 kilometers with a 119-pound warhead and was sold the Iran before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran has been looking to upgrade its air defenses, especially as Israel has refused to rule out an airstrike over concerns that Teheran is developing nuclear weapons — a charge it denies.”

Trouble for those who vouched for or believed the CBO’s scoring on ObamaCare: “White House Budget Director Peter Orszag is arguing that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) underestimates the savings from President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. CBO, the independent agency Orszag ran before he joined the Obama administration, said the legislation will reduce deficits $143 billion in its first decade and by even more — roughly 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product — in its second decade. That would probably amount to more than $1 trillion in savings, but Orszag considers that a lowball estimate.” Hmm. Funny how this didn’t come up before.

Trouble for those who argued with a straight face for “engagement” with Iran: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of making nuclear threats against the Islamic Republic.” But they don’t ever admit error, do they?

Trouble for the “Close Guantanamo!” crowd: “So how’s President Obama’s detainee policy coming along? Slowly. A senior administration official would only say that discussions with Congress — that is, Democrats and Sen. Lindsey Graham — are ‘ongoing’ about a legal framework. But frustration at the lack of public backstop from the White House is pervasive among senior officials at the Departments of Justice, State and Defense, all of whom want the Guantanamo Bay detention camp closed and the prisoners properly dealt with.” Perhaps the White House has finally run out of enthusiasm for an unworkable and politically toxic campaign stunt.

Trouble for Jews: “Anti-Semitic incidents around the world more than doubled in 2009 over the previous year, posting their worst year since monitoring began two decades ago, according to a new survey. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents was 1,129 in 2009, compared to 559 in 2008, according to a report released Sunday by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. The record number of incidents — cases that show clear anti-Semitic content and intention — included 566 incidents of vandalism of Jewish property, which constituted 49 percent of all incidents. Hundreds of incidents against Jewish people and property did not meet the criteria, according to the institute. Incidents also go unreported. In Europe, Britain and France led with the number of incidents, according to the report.”

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The Resistance Bloc Will Not Be Appeased

Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s plan to build 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem might help President Barack Obama understand something that has so far eluded him: the Syrian-Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc will not allow him to appease it.

“The scheme is yet another part of a Judaization campaign,” Hezbollah said in a statement quoted by the Tehran Times, “that targets the holy city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and a provocation of Muslim feeling.” If Obama expected a little appreciation from Israel’s enemies for making the same point with more diplomatic finesse, he was mistaken. “The Zionist plan to construct hundreds of homes in al-Quds,” Hezbollah continued, “truly shows American cover to it.”

So not only is Obama denied credit for standing up to Israel’s government, he is accused of doing precisely the opposite.

Anti-Americanism is ideological oxygen for partisans of the resistance bloc. They will no sooner let it go than they will stop breathing. Their entire worldview and political program would turn to ashes without it, much as Fidel Castro’s would without socialism. When the United States doesn’t follow the script, they just lie.

If we extend a hand in friendship, they’ll bite it and try to chew off a finger. If we take their side once in a while to appear evenhanded, they’ll twist the truth until it looks like a sinister plot, then they’ll bite us again.

A couple of years ago Hezbollah stretched a banner across an overpass near Lebanon’s international airport that said, in English, “All our catastrophes come from America.” Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah would have an awfully hard time climbing down from that high a tree even if his Iranian masters would let him — and they won’t. They’ve been calling Israel the “Little Satan” and the U.S. the “Great Satan” since Jimmy Carter, of all people, was president.

The resistance bloc would remain viciously anti-American even if the United States declared war on Israel and bombed Tel Aviv. Maybe — maybe — that wouldn’t be true if the U.S. were the little Satan instead of the great Satan, but even then it probably wouldn’t matter that much. Resistance-bloc leaders, like anyone else in the world, may enjoy watching their enemies slugging it out with each other, but that doesn’t mean they’ll warm to one or the other all of a sudden because of it.

That’s how the Iran-Iraq war looked to us in the 1980s. It was a “red on red” fight where two regimes we detested bloodied and weakened each other. Henry Kissinger summed up the sentiment on our side: “It’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

And that’s how the American-led invasion of Iraq looked from the point of view of Iran’s rulers in 2003. They had every reason in the world to hate Saddam Hussein more than anyone else in the world. His army killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians in an eight-year war he started less than a year after Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader. (Israel, meanwhile, has never fought a war with Iran and hasn’t killed any Iranians.) Yet the United States earned no points whatsoever for taking out their most dangerous enemy and placing their Shia co-religionists in the saddle in Baghdad.

There are, of course, millions of Arabs and Iranians who detest the Khomeinist-led resistance bloc and feel threatened by it, including about half of Palestinians. Most are less ideologically severe, and some have already made peace with Israel. Perhaps the Obama administration is hoping the U.S. can increase its standing with them by publicly sparring with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if it works, though, it won’t make any difference. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be divorced from the region-wide Arab-Israeli and Iranian-Israeli conflicts. If all the moderates in the whole Arab world were to drop their hostility to the U.S. and Israel and yearn for a peaceful solution, Hamas and Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian backing, could still scotch peace talks and peace treaties with kidnappings, suicide bombings, and missile attacks whenever they felt like it.

Resolving this mother of all quagmires would be excruciatingly difficult even if all four pieces of the resistance bloc were taken off the board yesterday. In the meantime, bruising our alliance with Israel to grease the skids on a peace process to nowhere is gratuitous.

Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s plan to build 1,600 apartments in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem might help President Barack Obama understand something that has so far eluded him: the Syrian-Iranian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc will not allow him to appease it.

“The scheme is yet another part of a Judaization campaign,” Hezbollah said in a statement quoted by the Tehran Times, “that targets the holy city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] and a provocation of Muslim feeling.” If Obama expected a little appreciation from Israel’s enemies for making the same point with more diplomatic finesse, he was mistaken. “The Zionist plan to construct hundreds of homes in al-Quds,” Hezbollah continued, “truly shows American cover to it.”

So not only is Obama denied credit for standing up to Israel’s government, he is accused of doing precisely the opposite.

Anti-Americanism is ideological oxygen for partisans of the resistance bloc. They will no sooner let it go than they will stop breathing. Their entire worldview and political program would turn to ashes without it, much as Fidel Castro’s would without socialism. When the United States doesn’t follow the script, they just lie.

If we extend a hand in friendship, they’ll bite it and try to chew off a finger. If we take their side once in a while to appear evenhanded, they’ll twist the truth until it looks like a sinister plot, then they’ll bite us again.

A couple of years ago Hezbollah stretched a banner across an overpass near Lebanon’s international airport that said, in English, “All our catastrophes come from America.” Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah would have an awfully hard time climbing down from that high a tree even if his Iranian masters would let him — and they won’t. They’ve been calling Israel the “Little Satan” and the U.S. the “Great Satan” since Jimmy Carter, of all people, was president.

The resistance bloc would remain viciously anti-American even if the United States declared war on Israel and bombed Tel Aviv. Maybe — maybe — that wouldn’t be true if the U.S. were the little Satan instead of the great Satan, but even then it probably wouldn’t matter that much. Resistance-bloc leaders, like anyone else in the world, may enjoy watching their enemies slugging it out with each other, but that doesn’t mean they’ll warm to one or the other all of a sudden because of it.

That’s how the Iran-Iraq war looked to us in the 1980s. It was a “red on red” fight where two regimes we detested bloodied and weakened each other. Henry Kissinger summed up the sentiment on our side: “It’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

And that’s how the American-led invasion of Iraq looked from the point of view of Iran’s rulers in 2003. They had every reason in the world to hate Saddam Hussein more than anyone else in the world. His army killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians in an eight-year war he started less than a year after Ayatollah Khomeini became Supreme Leader. (Israel, meanwhile, has never fought a war with Iran and hasn’t killed any Iranians.) Yet the United States earned no points whatsoever for taking out their most dangerous enemy and placing their Shia co-religionists in the saddle in Baghdad.

There are, of course, millions of Arabs and Iranians who detest the Khomeinist-led resistance bloc and feel threatened by it, including about half of Palestinians. Most are less ideologically severe, and some have already made peace with Israel. Perhaps the Obama administration is hoping the U.S. can increase its standing with them by publicly sparring with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if it works, though, it won’t make any difference. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can’t be divorced from the region-wide Arab-Israeli and Iranian-Israeli conflicts. If all the moderates in the whole Arab world were to drop their hostility to the U.S. and Israel and yearn for a peaceful solution, Hamas and Hezbollah, with Syrian and Iranian backing, could still scotch peace talks and peace treaties with kidnappings, suicide bombings, and missile attacks whenever they felt like it.

Resolving this mother of all quagmires would be excruciatingly difficult even if all four pieces of the resistance bloc were taken off the board yesterday. In the meantime, bruising our alliance with Israel to grease the skids on a peace process to nowhere is gratuitous.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

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Obama Envoy Vouched for Convicted Terrorist?

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

Fox News – doing what the Obama-approved outlets won’t — takes a look at the newest Obama envoy. The report tells us:

President Obama’s new envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference, Rashad Hussain, is at the center of a controversy over remarks attributed to him defending a man who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a terrorist group.

The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs quoted Hussain in 2004 as calling Sami al-Arian the victim of “politically motivated persecutions” after al-Arian, a university professor, was charged in 2003 with heading U.S. operations of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The United States has designated the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a foreign terrorist group as far back as 1997. At the time of al-Arian’s arrest, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called it “one of the most violent terrorist organizations in the world.”

Al-Arian pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy to aid Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

The White House says the controversial remarks defending al-Arian two years earlier were made by his daughter — not by Hussain. Both were part of a panel discussion at a Muslim Students Association conference, but the reporter covering the event told Fox News she stands by the quotes she attributed to Hussain, who was a Yale Law student and an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Well, this seems like it’s worth looking into. A helpful profile on Al-Arian is here.

And while we’re at that, perhaps it’s worth asking what Hussain’s job description really is. Is he charged with raising issues like human rights and democracy with the “Muslim World”? After all, Hillary Clinton assured us that “at the State Department, though, every week is Human Rights Week.” So I would expect that would top his agenda — honor killings, women’s rights, and such. There’s plenty of work to do in the nations to which he is assigned.

But let’s not be coy here. Hussain is the designated man to continue the suck-uppery to the “Muslim World,” which Obama was personally conducting in Cairo and via his televised addressed to the Iranian Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency. The task here is not so much to engage the “Muslim World” on issues we care about — denying Israel’s right to exist, state sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights atrocities — as to deliver the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear, namely that misunderstanding, American insensitivity, and of course Guantanamo are the causes of much of the problems in our relationship.

So here’s an idea: investigate what Hussain said and whether he is fit to play any role in the administration. And then abolish the post. It’s likely to be unhelpful and counterproductive, regardless of the assigned envoy. And really, do we assign envoys to the Christian World? Or the Hindu World? We have envoys and officials galore in this administration designated to conduct diplomacy with every country in the world. We have a secretary of state and a president (not effective ones, but still). Let them do their jobs and send Hussain packing.

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The Obami’s Engagement Dead End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is Iran’s Choice Between Theocracy and Totalitarianism?

There has been no shortage of commentary trying to dissuade Americans from taking the Iran nuclear threat seriously. The arguments run the gamut from attempts to show that Iran’s leadership is reasonable to attempts to assert that it is the Islamic Republic’s right to develop nukes. But one of the consistent themes we’ve heard in the last year is that the Western emphasis on the statements and ill intentions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is wrongheaded. Time and again, we have been told that, as unpleasant as the Holocaust-denying and Israel-hating Ahmadinejad may be, he is not the real source of power in Iran. Rather, we are reminded, it is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei we should worry about. In the view of apologists for the rogue regime, the focus on the loathsome Ahmadinejad merely demonizes Iran rather than dealing with it.

That argument was undermined by the events of the past summer, when the Islamist government went all out to steal the presidential election for Ahmadinejad. If he were just Khamenei’s errand boy, why would the ayatollahs unleash its religious militia to murder and intimidate the masses of Iranians who took to the streets to protest the stolen election? At the very least, Khamenei’s decision to stand by Ahmadinejad, even at the price of the regime’s internal legitimacy, illustrated that the president is a key part of the ayatollahs’ plan to hold onto power, if not an essential element of the regime, itself.

But now, as President Obama is mounting a half-hearted and belated attempt to enact sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear program, there comes a different point of view about Ahmadinejad’s importance. Jamsheed K. Choksy of Indiana University writes in Newsweek that not only is Ahmadinejad nobody’s errand boy but he has also become an independent power in his own right who may be challenging the ayatollahs.

According to Choksy, Ahmadinejad is regularly defying Khamenei and may have a different view about confronting the West than his alleged master. Choksy claims that Ahmadinejad, who has heretofore been considered an ardent backer of the theocracy, is putting forward a more pragmatic and less dogmatically religious approach to governance, including championing the rights of women. This may sound hopeful to some who would like to think that, even without foreign pressure or support for an internal rebellion, Iran ultimately could be able to reform itself and become a more moderate nation.

But don’t get too excited. The sort of government that Ahmadinejad might be aiming for may actually be more repressive and nationalistic than the current one. For Choksy, an Ahmadinejad victory over the mullahs will not be a victory for liberalism: “Together with the IRGC [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard] and Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group that has attacked opposition protesters), Ahmadinejad and his ilk are turning to totalitarianism, rather than the fundamentalism of Shiite clerics, to suppress the steadily growing democratic aspirations of the Green Movement.”

If Choksy is right, we ought not to be cheering for Ahmadinejad and his violent allies to take control from the clerics. But if this potential conflict is real, and that is far from certain, what it does mean is that there is more reason than ever for the United States to push hard for crippling sanctions on Iran as well as to speak up for the democracy movement. We cannot sit back and wait until we are faced with either a nuclear totalitarian Iran or a nuclear theocratic Iran. Either would be a disaster and a deadly threat to peace.  If there is a real division between the rogues that run Iran, now is the time to put the maximum amount of pressure on these tyrants.

There has been no shortage of commentary trying to dissuade Americans from taking the Iran nuclear threat seriously. The arguments run the gamut from attempts to show that Iran’s leadership is reasonable to attempts to assert that it is the Islamic Republic’s right to develop nukes. But one of the consistent themes we’ve heard in the last year is that the Western emphasis on the statements and ill intentions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is wrongheaded. Time and again, we have been told that, as unpleasant as the Holocaust-denying and Israel-hating Ahmadinejad may be, he is not the real source of power in Iran. Rather, we are reminded, it is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei we should worry about. In the view of apologists for the rogue regime, the focus on the loathsome Ahmadinejad merely demonizes Iran rather than dealing with it.

That argument was undermined by the events of the past summer, when the Islamist government went all out to steal the presidential election for Ahmadinejad. If he were just Khamenei’s errand boy, why would the ayatollahs unleash its religious militia to murder and intimidate the masses of Iranians who took to the streets to protest the stolen election? At the very least, Khamenei’s decision to stand by Ahmadinejad, even at the price of the regime’s internal legitimacy, illustrated that the president is a key part of the ayatollahs’ plan to hold onto power, if not an essential element of the regime, itself.

But now, as President Obama is mounting a half-hearted and belated attempt to enact sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear program, there comes a different point of view about Ahmadinejad’s importance. Jamsheed K. Choksy of Indiana University writes in Newsweek that not only is Ahmadinejad nobody’s errand boy but he has also become an independent power in his own right who may be challenging the ayatollahs.

According to Choksy, Ahmadinejad is regularly defying Khamenei and may have a different view about confronting the West than his alleged master. Choksy claims that Ahmadinejad, who has heretofore been considered an ardent backer of the theocracy, is putting forward a more pragmatic and less dogmatically religious approach to governance, including championing the rights of women. This may sound hopeful to some who would like to think that, even without foreign pressure or support for an internal rebellion, Iran ultimately could be able to reform itself and become a more moderate nation.

But don’t get too excited. The sort of government that Ahmadinejad might be aiming for may actually be more repressive and nationalistic than the current one. For Choksy, an Ahmadinejad victory over the mullahs will not be a victory for liberalism: “Together with the IRGC [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard] and Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group that has attacked opposition protesters), Ahmadinejad and his ilk are turning to totalitarianism, rather than the fundamentalism of Shiite clerics, to suppress the steadily growing democratic aspirations of the Green Movement.”

If Choksy is right, we ought not to be cheering for Ahmadinejad and his violent allies to take control from the clerics. But if this potential conflict is real, and that is far from certain, what it does mean is that there is more reason than ever for the United States to push hard for crippling sanctions on Iran as well as to speak up for the democracy movement. We cannot sit back and wait until we are faced with either a nuclear totalitarian Iran or a nuclear theocratic Iran. Either would be a disaster and a deadly threat to peace.  If there is a real division between the rogues that run Iran, now is the time to put the maximum amount of pressure on these tyrants.

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Imagine What They Think in Tehran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Letter from President Obama to Kim Jong-il

As Jennifer noted, President Obama has written a letter to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. The exact contents of the letter are unknown, so I decided to just make it all up.

Dear Supreme Leader,

How are you? I am fine. Mrs. Obama is also fine. Our two children are also fine. The Vice President and his wife, too, are fine. Many members of the Cabinet are fine. We’re all fine here. Thank you for asking. Even if it wasn’t out loud but just in your mind.

It’s been some time since we last chatted, although I’m informed that was never. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think I know you somehow, although it may just be that I watched that puppet movie by the South Park guys one too many times.

Word on the street is that your country is different from ours. You have universal health care, for example (but if I’m not mistaken, no one is allowed to take ill in your nation without express written permission). Here, people can get sick whenever they want. For example, a lot of people are getting sick of me. (Just kidding.)

Anyhoo, I hear you guys don’t have a lot in the way of strip malls and basic human rights. I’d like to address that strip-mall business. Wouldn’t a nice Office Depot/Dunkin Donuts/Staples combo look just great in downtown Pyongyang? (Pyongyang does have a downtown, doesn’t it? Or did you have it shot? Kidding again. We laugh a lot in Washington. Sometimes for no apparent reason. Then we take our pills and we’re fine.) Read More

As Jennifer noted, President Obama has written a letter to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. The exact contents of the letter are unknown, so I decided to just make it all up.

Dear Supreme Leader,

How are you? I am fine. Mrs. Obama is also fine. Our two children are also fine. The Vice President and his wife, too, are fine. Many members of the Cabinet are fine. We’re all fine here. Thank you for asking. Even if it wasn’t out loud but just in your mind.

It’s been some time since we last chatted, although I’m informed that was never. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think I know you somehow, although it may just be that I watched that puppet movie by the South Park guys one too many times.

Word on the street is that your country is different from ours. You have universal health care, for example (but if I’m not mistaken, no one is allowed to take ill in your nation without express written permission). Here, people can get sick whenever they want. For example, a lot of people are getting sick of me. (Just kidding.)

Anyhoo, I hear you guys don’t have a lot in the way of strip malls and basic human rights. I’d like to address that strip-mall business. Wouldn’t a nice Office Depot/Dunkin Donuts/Staples combo look just great in downtown Pyongyang? (Pyongyang does have a downtown, doesn’t it? Or did you have it shot? Kidding again. We laugh a lot in Washington. Sometimes for no apparent reason. Then we take our pills and we’re fine.)

I’m looking at your country right now, in that picture the CIA World FactBook supplies. Did you know you’re right next to China? (I don’t know how much information gets to you guys from the outside. Do you Twitter? In the United States, most schoolchildren are taught that we’re next to Canada so an escape route can be drawn early in the event of a draft.)

The United States is on very friendly terms with China. In fact, we owe China lots and lots of money. Wouldn’t you like us to owe you money, too? Isn’t it better when people owe people money than when people threaten people? How does that Barbra Streisand song go? “People-e-e-e-e … people who owe people-e-e-e-e … are the luckiest people-e-e-e-e in the world-d-d-d-d.” Then there’s that one with Donna Summer: “If you’ve had enough, don’t put up with his stuff, don’t you do it-t-t-t. Now, if you’ve had your fill, get the check, pay the bill, you can do it-t-t-t!” Great stuff.

I see that your climate is “temperate with rainfall concentrated in summer.” Temperate. Let’s think about that word for a minute. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “existing as a prophage in infected cells and rarely causing lysis <temperate bacteriophages>.” Not very helpful, I must admit. Perhaps it means something else in North Korean. I do know what intemperate means, as when you threatened to wipe us off the map. If this were an Instant Message, I would insert a frowny-face emoticon right here. (Do you IM? Do you have emoticons? Are you allowed to express emotion in your land? Please write back soon and let me know.)

I guess I should get to my point. In November, when meeting with Mr. Lee, I urged you to just please stop doing whatever it is you’re doing. Have you gotten around to that yet? Have you stopped? Why don’t you stop? Please stop. Did you stop? Should I stop asking you to stop? Will you stop then? Please don’t stop stopping. OK, I’m going to stop now. See, I stopped. Did you? Did you stop? Please stop.

Well I have to go now. I have six TV interviews, two cover shoots, a single I’m cutting with Lady GaGa and Cornel West, and a supermarket opening to get to today. As I’m sure you understand, being a messianic figure to your people is a grind and a half. Work work work.

I know you’re an atheist Marxist dictatorship and all and don’t celebrate Christmas. We’re trying to cut back here, too. I wish there were just one generic holiday we could all enjoy and that didn’t mean anything so no one would get offended. Because when you mean things, then that only means that things are meaningful. And where does that get you? Someone has to interpret what the meaning means — and then someone disagrees with that interpretation. And then you’re offering graduate degrees in the meaning of meaning and racking up huge student-loan bills that you can only pay off by acting as a drug mule for a South American drug kingpin. And all you wanted was for someone to get you Season Two of The Big Bang Theory and leave it under the tree. Life is strange.

In any event, may the new year (do you have new years in North Korea? Or does the same year just go on and on until you just want to kill yourself?) bring our two great nations closer together, even though China keeps getting in the way.

Very best regards,

Supreme Leader Barack Obama

P.S. Under separate cover, I’m sending you a little gift. It’s a collection of great American movies on DVD. (Do you have movies over there? I believe you do, and that you’re a big fan. I read somewhere that you have 20,000 in your collection. No food but plenty of movies. Sounds like college!) I hope you don’t have these films. Meet Me in St. Louis is a wowser — tell me that isn’t a brilliant use of Technicolor. Did you know that Judy Garland almost didn’t do the film because she thought Margaret O’Brien would steal the picture? I’m also including Midway. That damn Joe Lieberman made me throw it in. What a nudge!

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Big Six Meeting on Iran Produces Less than Nothing

Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany met today to discuss the fact that Iran is making fools out of them. But the results of this meeting will give no comfort to a world worried about Tehran’s march toward nuclear capability. According to the Associated Press, the West is “disappointed” about Iran’s decision to renege on a UN-brokered deal that could have defused the crisis. But despite the clear signals from the rogue Islamist regime that it has absolutely no interest in re-negotiating the pact even under more terms still more favorable to them, “no new sanctions were discussed during the meeting, according to an EU source.”

The anonymous EU official said that “there was no mention of imposing further sanctions against Iran at the meeting. These things are a matter of timing, and this was not the right time for it.”

When will be the right time? “The Western officials said they would hold a follow-up meeting around Christmas.”

And for those wondering whether the UN’s chief nuclear watchdog was doing his bit to raise the alarm about this imminent threat, how about this:

“In Berlin, Mohamed El-Baradei, the UN nuclear watchdog agency chief, pressed Iran to work with the international community. ‘I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions,’ El-Baradei said. ‘Because sanctions, at the end of the day … really don’t resolve issues.’”

No, they don’t. Especially when they aren’t actually being agreed upon or implemented.

Right now, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing themselves silly at this toothless response from the West. While President Obama circles the globe in a fruitless effort to find support for the sort of sanctions that might force the Iranians to reconsider their position, the Islamist regime continues to delay even the hope of negotiations to buy more time for their program. Obama’s feckless campaign of “engagement” has rightly earned their scorn. After this performance, who could blame the Iranians for believing that the West isn’t serious about stopping them?

Representatives of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany met today to discuss the fact that Iran is making fools out of them. But the results of this meeting will give no comfort to a world worried about Tehran’s march toward nuclear capability. According to the Associated Press, the West is “disappointed” about Iran’s decision to renege on a UN-brokered deal that could have defused the crisis. But despite the clear signals from the rogue Islamist regime that it has absolutely no interest in re-negotiating the pact even under more terms still more favorable to them, “no new sanctions were discussed during the meeting, according to an EU source.”

The anonymous EU official said that “there was no mention of imposing further sanctions against Iran at the meeting. These things are a matter of timing, and this was not the right time for it.”

When will be the right time? “The Western officials said they would hold a follow-up meeting around Christmas.”

And for those wondering whether the UN’s chief nuclear watchdog was doing his bit to raise the alarm about this imminent threat, how about this:

“In Berlin, Mohamed El-Baradei, the UN nuclear watchdog agency chief, pressed Iran to work with the international community. ‘I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions,’ El-Baradei said. ‘Because sanctions, at the end of the day … really don’t resolve issues.’”

No, they don’t. Especially when they aren’t actually being agreed upon or implemented.

Right now, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be laughing themselves silly at this toothless response from the West. While President Obama circles the globe in a fruitless effort to find support for the sort of sanctions that might force the Iranians to reconsider their position, the Islamist regime continues to delay even the hope of negotiations to buy more time for their program. Obama’s feckless campaign of “engagement” has rightly earned their scorn. After this performance, who could blame the Iranians for believing that the West isn’t serious about stopping them?

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China on Bended Knee

The New York Times reports:

Whether by White House design or Chinese insistence, President Obama has steered clear of public meetings with Chinese liberals, free press advocates and even ordinary Chinese during his first visit to China, showing deference to the Chinese leadership’s aversions to such interactions that is unusual for a visiting American president.

Mr. Obama held a “town hall” meeting with students on Monday. But they were carefully vetted and prepped for the event by the government, participants said.

And we are reminded that in contrast to his predecessors’ far less cringey performances, Obama has bent over backward to be innocuous. “Bland” and “rather humble” is how Chinese students described him. The Times explained that “Mr. Obama’s nuanced references to rights have shied from citing China’s spotty record, even when offered the chance. Asked Monday in Shanghai to discuss China’s censorship of the Internet, the president replied by talking about America’s robust political debates.” And worse yet, it seems that the Obami have snubbed democracy dissidents (“the administration rejected proposals for brief meetings in Beijing with Chinese political activists, and then with lawyers”) for fear of annoying their hosts.

Since the video love letter to the Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency, we have seen a string of signals and actions designed to make America appear more contrite and more accommodating to the world’s despots. This visit is not the only shabby and embarrassing display of timidity by this president, nor I suspect will it be the last. Obama’s unwillingness to assert with strength and conviction American interests and to challenge the atrocious human-rights records of thuggish regimes around the world has not gone unnoticed by his Chinese hosts and, no doubt, by other nations noting how they, too, might receive such kid-glove treatment. The Obami are convinced that this is the way to endear ourselves to our adversaries. History teaches us that the world doesn’t work that way.

The New York Times reports:

Whether by White House design or Chinese insistence, President Obama has steered clear of public meetings with Chinese liberals, free press advocates and even ordinary Chinese during his first visit to China, showing deference to the Chinese leadership’s aversions to such interactions that is unusual for a visiting American president.

Mr. Obama held a “town hall” meeting with students on Monday. But they were carefully vetted and prepped for the event by the government, participants said.

And we are reminded that in contrast to his predecessors’ far less cringey performances, Obama has bent over backward to be innocuous. “Bland” and “rather humble” is how Chinese students described him. The Times explained that “Mr. Obama’s nuanced references to rights have shied from citing China’s spotty record, even when offered the chance. Asked Monday in Shanghai to discuss China’s censorship of the Internet, the president replied by talking about America’s robust political debates.” And worse yet, it seems that the Obami have snubbed democracy dissidents (“the administration rejected proposals for brief meetings in Beijing with Chinese political activists, and then with lawyers”) for fear of annoying their hosts.

Since the video love letter to the Supreme Leader at the start of his presidency, we have seen a string of signals and actions designed to make America appear more contrite and more accommodating to the world’s despots. This visit is not the only shabby and embarrassing display of timidity by this president, nor I suspect will it be the last. Obama’s unwillingness to assert with strength and conviction American interests and to challenge the atrocious human-rights records of thuggish regimes around the world has not gone unnoticed by his Chinese hosts and, no doubt, by other nations noting how they, too, might receive such kid-glove treatment. The Obami are convinced that this is the way to endear ourselves to our adversaries. History teaches us that the world doesn’t work that way.

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McCain on Iran

In his AIPAC speech this morning, John McCain talked tough on Iran:

[W]e hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. Yet it’s hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability. Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I am proud to have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. Over a year ago I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On the subject of Iraq he did not mince words:

It’s worth recalling that America’s progress in Iraq is the direct result of the new strategy that Senator Obama opposed. It was the strategy he predicted would fail, when he voted cut off funds for our forces in Iraq. He now says he intends to withdraw combat troops from Iraq – one to two brigades per month until they are all removed. He will do so regardless of the conditions in Iraq, regardless of the consequences for our national security, regardless of Israel’s security, and in disregard of the best advice of our commanders on the ground. This course would surely result in a catastrophe. If our troops are ordered to make a forced retreat, we risk all-out civil war, genocide, and a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. Al Qaeda terrorists would rejoice in the defeat of the United States. Allowing a potential terrorist sanctuary would profoundly affect the security of the United States, Israel, and our other friends, and would invite further intervention from Iraq’s neighbors, including an emboldened Iran. We must not let this happen. We must not leave the region to suffer chaos, terrorist violence and a wider war.

But the speech was more than a series of public policy pronouncements. It was in many ways a tender, heart-filled tribute to Israel. He concludes:

If there are ties between America and Israel that critics of our alliance have never understood, perhaps that is because they do not fully understand the love of liberty and the pursuit of justice. But they should know those ties cannot be broken. We were brought together by shared ideals and by shared adversity. We have been comrades in struggle, and trusted partners in the quest for peace. We are the most natural of allies. And, like Israel itself, that alliance is forever.

If there has been a sweeter public expression of affection for and solidarity with Israel I would be hard pressed to recollect it.

In his AIPAC speech this morning, John McCain talked tough on Iran:

[W]e hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. Yet it’s hard to see what such a summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain, except an earful of anti-Semitic rants, and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents, as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability. Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian president or supreme leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the real-world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path they are on. Essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council, which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I am proud to have been a leader on these issues for years, having coauthored the 1992 Iran-Iraq Arms Non-Proliferation Act. Over a year ago I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create immediate pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons.

On the subject of Iraq he did not mince words:

It’s worth recalling that America’s progress in Iraq is the direct result of the new strategy that Senator Obama opposed. It was the strategy he predicted would fail, when he voted cut off funds for our forces in Iraq. He now says he intends to withdraw combat troops from Iraq – one to two brigades per month until they are all removed. He will do so regardless of the conditions in Iraq, regardless of the consequences for our national security, regardless of Israel’s security, and in disregard of the best advice of our commanders on the ground. This course would surely result in a catastrophe. If our troops are ordered to make a forced retreat, we risk all-out civil war, genocide, and a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. Al Qaeda terrorists would rejoice in the defeat of the United States. Allowing a potential terrorist sanctuary would profoundly affect the security of the United States, Israel, and our other friends, and would invite further intervention from Iraq’s neighbors, including an emboldened Iran. We must not let this happen. We must not leave the region to suffer chaos, terrorist violence and a wider war.

But the speech was more than a series of public policy pronouncements. It was in many ways a tender, heart-filled tribute to Israel. He concludes:

If there are ties between America and Israel that critics of our alliance have never understood, perhaps that is because they do not fully understand the love of liberty and the pursuit of justice. But they should know those ties cannot be broken. We were brought together by shared ideals and by shared adversity. We have been comrades in struggle, and trusted partners in the quest for peace. We are the most natural of allies. And, like Israel itself, that alliance is forever.

If there has been a sweeter public expression of affection for and solidarity with Israel I would be hard pressed to recollect it.

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A New Iranian Leader, A More Dangerous Iran

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

Yesterday, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In his new perch, the country’s former chief nuclear negotiator is bound to cause grief for his old rival, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The vote on Wednesday was not even close: Larijani walked away with all but 31 of the 263 votes cast as he defeated the incumbent, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. The margin of victory signals that the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supported Larijani, and with the backing of the clerics, the new speaker will be able to remake the political landscape in Tehran. So expect a period of turbulence in the internal workings of the Islamic Republic. There is already widespread discontent with Ahmadinejad’s policies–especially the economic ones–and Larijani now has the means to stir up trouble. The country, at this moment, has two strong operators pitted against each other in the run up to next June’s presidential elections.

What does this mean for us? The new speaker is by far the more pragmatic of the pair. His emergence, however, is not good for the international community. Larijani’s election is bound to result in added pressure on Washington–coming from Russia, China, and Europe, not to mention the “nonaligned” states–to begin new diplomatic initiatives to see if the Iranians will stop their enrichment of uranium. Yet Larijani is just as hardline as Ahmadinejad when it comes to this issue (just moments after his swearing in, he threatened to cut back Tehran’s cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency).

Global leaders cannot agree that Iran poses a threat even when its president continually speaks about worldwide conflagration and the destruction of the “stinking corpse” that is Israel. There will certainly be even less unity now that it appears that Khamenei has endorsed a more moderate-sounding politician. Iran is still the threat today that it was in the beginning of this week. The only thing that is different is that at this time, with a more capable leader asserting himself, the country will be better able to achieve dangerous goals.

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A Recount in Iran

Yesterday, opposition reformists asked for a vote recount in Iran’s parliamentary elections, which took place Friday. Earlier in the week they had challenged the fairness of the vote.

Despite enjoying relatively strong support in Tehran, the reformists failed to win any of the 30 seats there. Allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, won 19 of the contests in the capital. Reformists have a chance to pick up seats in Tehran in runoff elections to be conducted either next month or in May. In the meantime, they called on the Interior Ministry to release vote counts from each of the polling sites in the capital. The Guardian Council, Iran’s constitutional watchdog, said that a full recount was not possible, but it promised a “random” recounting of ballot boxes. The government maintains that the election was fair.

Umm, no. Reformists were crippled before a single ballot was cast. The Guardian Council disqualified about 1,700 reformist candidates, with the result that reformists could contest only half the 290 seats at stake. Even so, Ahmadinejad seems to have lost support: the election was widely seen as a referendum on his policies.

In one sense, the president’s setback does not matter: he retains the confidence of the cleric who sits atop the theocracy, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet Ahmadinejad will now face a stronger opposition in parliament. Rigged political systems, like Iran’s, run on signals, and the signals from this election show that Ahmadinejad has lost popularity during his tenure, which could undermine his chances should he run for re-election next year.

Fortunately for the fiery president, many Iranians have simply tuned out of politics. Turnout in Tehran, for instance, appears to have been half the national rate of 60 percent announced by the Interior Ministry. And even in the conservative outlying areas there is fundamental discontent: polling shows that about 90 percent of Iranians want the right to choose—and remove—the supreme leader. That will never happen as long as the theocracy exists, however. The ayatollahs maintain their limited political system so that they can gauge shifts in public mood and react accordingly. So far, despite widespread popular dissatisfaction, the system has worked to keep the clerics in power.

Fortunately for us, limited systems like Iran’s do not stand the test of time. People either take elections seriously and push for real power or they ignore government institutions and force change from the streets. Iranians placed faith in reformers and were disappointed during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor. The real test for the ayatollahs will be the protests that will inevitably come.

Yesterday, opposition reformists asked for a vote recount in Iran’s parliamentary elections, which took place Friday. Earlier in the week they had challenged the fairness of the vote.

Despite enjoying relatively strong support in Tehran, the reformists failed to win any of the 30 seats there. Allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, won 19 of the contests in the capital. Reformists have a chance to pick up seats in Tehran in runoff elections to be conducted either next month or in May. In the meantime, they called on the Interior Ministry to release vote counts from each of the polling sites in the capital. The Guardian Council, Iran’s constitutional watchdog, said that a full recount was not possible, but it promised a “random” recounting of ballot boxes. The government maintains that the election was fair.

Umm, no. Reformists were crippled before a single ballot was cast. The Guardian Council disqualified about 1,700 reformist candidates, with the result that reformists could contest only half the 290 seats at stake. Even so, Ahmadinejad seems to have lost support: the election was widely seen as a referendum on his policies.

In one sense, the president’s setback does not matter: he retains the confidence of the cleric who sits atop the theocracy, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Yet Ahmadinejad will now face a stronger opposition in parliament. Rigged political systems, like Iran’s, run on signals, and the signals from this election show that Ahmadinejad has lost popularity during his tenure, which could undermine his chances should he run for re-election next year.

Fortunately for the fiery president, many Iranians have simply tuned out of politics. Turnout in Tehran, for instance, appears to have been half the national rate of 60 percent announced by the Interior Ministry. And even in the conservative outlying areas there is fundamental discontent: polling shows that about 90 percent of Iranians want the right to choose—and remove—the supreme leader. That will never happen as long as the theocracy exists, however. The ayatollahs maintain their limited political system so that they can gauge shifts in public mood and react accordingly. So far, despite widespread popular dissatisfaction, the system has worked to keep the clerics in power.

Fortunately for us, limited systems like Iran’s do not stand the test of time. People either take elections seriously and push for real power or they ignore government institutions and force change from the streets. Iranians placed faith in reformers and were disappointed during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor. The real test for the ayatollahs will be the protests that will inevitably come.

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Iran’s Grand Strategy

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

This week China and Russia unexpectedly dropped their opposition to a third set of U.N. sanctions on Iran for continuing its enrichment of uranium. Why did they do so? This could be a concerted effort to assist Tehran in its campaign to avoid Security Council involvement in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the United States may be acquiescing in a course of action that will permit the “atomic ayatollahs” to keep their centrifuges.

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov explained that the draft resolution does not contain “any harsh sanctions.” Instead, the draft, which has not yet been released, merely asks nations to be vigilant about transferring prohibited nuclear material. The terms of the new resolution, Lavrov explained, “will be enforced until the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns are resolved.”

This statement was certainly music to the ears of the mullahs. On the 12th of this month Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with, and lectured, Mohamed ElBaradei. “There is no justification for Iran’s nuclear dossier to remain at the U.N. Security Council,” Iran’s supreme leader told the head of the IAEA. At the same time Iran pledged to cooperate with ElBaradei’s agency and wrap up all remaining questions within weeks. In a sign of cooperation, Iran allowed ElBaradei and one of his chief deputies to walk around the site where it is developing its advanced P-2 centrifuge. Yesterday, Reuters reported that the IAEA was close to finishing its years-long inquiry on Iran.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice, after failing to get Russia and China to agree to tougher sanctions, adopted a conciliatory tone and offered the prospect of better relations with Tehran. “We could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship—one defined not by fear and mistrust, but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful management of our differences,” said the secretary of state, speaking from Davos yesterday. “This problem can and should be resolved through diplomacy.”

I admire her optimism. On the day she signaled compromise, both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili ruled it out. Rice of course insisted that Iran stop enrichment, but the direction of her remarks revealed that the United States had given up confronting the intransigent Iranians.

So, it appears that the IAEA will certify that Iran is not trying to weaponize the atom, the Russians and Chinese will insist that the Security Council end its oversight of Iran, and the United States will meekly go along.

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