Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tehran

Syria Policy in Shambles

The suckuppery by John Kerry was for naught. The effort to send a new ambassador has fizzled. The shuttling by top diplomats was a waste. Sipping frappuccinos with the thugs didn’t help matters. Syria is chummier than ever with the Iranian regime:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assured his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday that their ties were solid — a view unlikely to please Washington which is working to isolate the Islamic state.

“We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the (Iranian Islamic) revolution,” Assad said during a one-day visit to Tehran. Ahmadinejad awarded Assad Iran’s highest medal of honor in recognition of his support for Palestinians and Lebanon and his resistance to “global arrogance” — a term which usually refers to the United States and its allies. “We are two governments and nations which are brothers,” Ahmadinejad said at the televised ceremony where the two presidents smiled and held their hands aloft for the cameras.

Assad said the medal was in appreciation of “the continuing and eternal stance of Syria to be on the side of Iran. … The two countries’ close and continuing contacts are in the interest of the region.”

The United States has tried to improve its relations with Damascus, something analysts say is in part aimed at distancing the country from Iran which Washington sees as a threat to Israel and other countries in the region.

As the U.S. distanced itself from Israel, as provocations (e.g., rearming Hezbollah) went unchecked, and as the Iranian nuclear program moved steadily ahead, Syria cozied up to the mullahs. Could it have been that Bashar al-Assad perceived Iran as the rising power in the region? Could he have interpreted Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness? Hmm.

In its approach to the Middle East, the Obama team has gotten virtually everything wrong. Syria is closer to Iran than ever before. Iran was unmoved by engagement, encouraged by our indifference to the Green Movement, and unaffected by our sanctions. The Israelis and Palestinians are not even talking to each other. Bibi is unmoved by Obama’s publicly released plead-a-thon letter imploring him to return to the non-peace talks. Alienating friends and throwing ourselves at our enemies’ feet turned out not to be “smart” diplomacy at all.

The suckuppery by John Kerry was for naught. The effort to send a new ambassador has fizzled. The shuttling by top diplomats was a waste. Sipping frappuccinos with the thugs didn’t help matters. Syria is chummier than ever with the Iranian regime:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad assured his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday that their ties were solid — a view unlikely to please Washington which is working to isolate the Islamic state.

“We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the (Iranian Islamic) revolution,” Assad said during a one-day visit to Tehran. Ahmadinejad awarded Assad Iran’s highest medal of honor in recognition of his support for Palestinians and Lebanon and his resistance to “global arrogance” — a term which usually refers to the United States and its allies. “We are two governments and nations which are brothers,” Ahmadinejad said at the televised ceremony where the two presidents smiled and held their hands aloft for the cameras.

Assad said the medal was in appreciation of “the continuing and eternal stance of Syria to be on the side of Iran. … The two countries’ close and continuing contacts are in the interest of the region.”

The United States has tried to improve its relations with Damascus, something analysts say is in part aimed at distancing the country from Iran which Washington sees as a threat to Israel and other countries in the region.

As the U.S. distanced itself from Israel, as provocations (e.g., rearming Hezbollah) went unchecked, and as the Iranian nuclear program moved steadily ahead, Syria cozied up to the mullahs. Could it have been that Bashar al-Assad perceived Iran as the rising power in the region? Could he have interpreted Obama’s overtures as a sign of weakness? Hmm.

In its approach to the Middle East, the Obama team has gotten virtually everything wrong. Syria is closer to Iran than ever before. Iran was unmoved by engagement, encouraged by our indifference to the Green Movement, and unaffected by our sanctions. The Israelis and Palestinians are not even talking to each other. Bibi is unmoved by Obama’s publicly released plead-a-thon letter imploring him to return to the non-peace talks. Alienating friends and throwing ourselves at our enemies’ feet turned out not to be “smart” diplomacy at all.

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Lieberman: It’s About American Interests

Sen. Joe Lieberman gave a speech today at the Council on Foreign Relations. It was everything the Obama Middle East policy is not — realistic, attuned to America’s national interests, and bold.

He smartly began describing the nervousness that has greeted the administration’s “smart diplomacy”: “I have been struck as I have traveled in the region in recent months by what seems to me to be a heightened uneasiness about the future of American power there. Behind closed doors, one hears an unmistakable uncertainty about our resolve and staying power.” He enumerates several reasons, but it is clear what the primary problem is:

I believe, the major geopolitical driver for the heightened anxiety about America’s staying power in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran — more specifically, its determined push to become the dominant power in the region and tilt the balance of governance there towards Islamist extremism — and whether the United States has the will to stop that push. The Iranian regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability cannot be separated from its long-term campaign of unconventional warfare, stretching back decades, to destabilize the region and remake it in its own Islamist extremist image.

Or, to put it bluntly, the problem is the administration’s seeming unwillingness or inability to thwart the rise of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. It’s not about Israel; rather, it is about the U.S.: Read More

Sen. Joe Lieberman gave a speech today at the Council on Foreign Relations. It was everything the Obama Middle East policy is not — realistic, attuned to America’s national interests, and bold.

He smartly began describing the nervousness that has greeted the administration’s “smart diplomacy”: “I have been struck as I have traveled in the region in recent months by what seems to me to be a heightened uneasiness about the future of American power there. Behind closed doors, one hears an unmistakable uncertainty about our resolve and staying power.” He enumerates several reasons, but it is clear what the primary problem is:

I believe, the major geopolitical driver for the heightened anxiety about America’s staying power in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran — more specifically, its determined push to become the dominant power in the region and tilt the balance of governance there towards Islamist extremism — and whether the United States has the will to stop that push. The Iranian regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability cannot be separated from its long-term campaign of unconventional warfare, stretching back decades, to destabilize the region and remake it in its own Islamist extremist image.

Or, to put it bluntly, the problem is the administration’s seeming unwillingness or inability to thwart the rise of a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. It’s not about Israel; rather, it is about the U.S.:

If Iran succeeds in acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, it would severely destabilize the Middle East, a region whose stability has been an important long-term American national and economic security goal.

It would also damage America’s ability to sustain the commitments we have made in the Middle East: our commitment, dating back to the Carter and Reagan administrations, to prevent the domination of the Persian Gulf by a revisionist or extremist power; our commitment to secure lasting peace and security between Israel and its neighbors; and our commitment to deter, disrupt, and defeat state-sponsored Islamist extremist groups, who would suddenly be able to wage attacks from under the protection of Iran’s nuclear umbrella. …

That is why the single most important test of American power in the Middle East today is whether we succeed or fail in stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. How we do on that test will significantly affect our standing in the rest of the world.

It is particularly telling that as Lieberman identifies the principle concern in the region (arguably anywhere), the Obami are flitting about trying to get Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table, where nothing much has or will be accomplished.

Lieberman praises the “cascade” of sanctions, but cautions: “Iran’s nuclear efforts are continuing forward. Despite some apparent technical difficulties, Iran’s centrifuges keep spinning, and its stockpile of fissile material continues to grow.” In other words, the sanctions have failed, and we now need to consider other measures.

Sensing that the Obami are excited by the prospect of new talks with the mullahs, he warns: “The test is not whether the Iranian regime is talking, but what the regime is doing.” So what do we do?

Our sanctions effort should therefore increasingly aim not just to add pressure on the existing regime, but to target the fissures that already exist both within the Iranian regime itself and between the regime and Iranian society.

This should include much more robust engagement and support for opposition forces inside Iran, both by the United States and like-minded democratic nations around the world. The Obama administration missed an important opportunity in the wake of last year’s election in Iran. But it is certainly not too late to give strong support to the people in Iran who are courageously standing up against their repressive government.

In addition to regime change, we — not tiny Israel —  must make clear we will use force if need be:

It is time for us to take steps that make clear that if diplomatic and economic strategies continue to fail to change Iran’s nuclear policies, a military strike is not just a remote possibility in the abstract, but a real and credible alternative policy that we and our allies are ready to exercise.

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must. A military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities entails risks and costs, but I am convinced that the risks and costs of allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability are much greater.

There should be no effort to “outsource” this task, Lieberman explains. “We can and should coordinate with our many allies who share our interest in stopping a nuclear Iran, but we cannot delegate our global responsibilities to them.”

This is a powerful, mature speech that, I would suggest, should and can be the basis of a bipartisan policy. The new Congress as well as private citizens and groups concerned about the rise of a nuclear-armed Iran should make every effort to persuade the administration of the wisdom of Lieberman’s approach. There is no substitute for a determined commander in chief, but the president should know that resigning ourselves to a nuclear-armed Iran or another round of fruitless talks are non-options and will garner no public or congressional support. Moreover, Obama should know that the blame for a nuclear-armed Iran will fall on him.

A final note: Lieberman never uttered the word “Israel.” Israel certainly has a greater stake than any nation in disarming Tehran, but what the country and Obama must understand is that America’s national security is the primary issue.

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Scammed Again (Even Without the Dolphin Show)

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy? Read More

Jeffrey Goldberg, fresh from flacking for Fidel Castro, moves on to Castro’s sidekick Hugo Chavez:

One day after I posted Fidel Castro’s condemnation of anti-Semitism on this blog, the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, announced that he too, felt great “love and respect” for Jews, and he invited the leaders of his country’s put-upon Jewish community to meet with him. The meeting took place a short while later. Chavez’s statement, and the meeting that followed, were widely interpreted in Latin America as a signal from Chavez his mentor, Fidel, that he understood that Venezuela was developing a reputation as a hostile place for Jews.

And he relates an e-mail saying how thrilled Argentine Jews were to have the meeting.

There was such a meeting. The group presented Chavez with a dossier on anti-Jewish incidents, which Chavez “promised to read,” but it’s absurd to consider this anything more than a PR stunt. Does Goldberg really imagine his dolphin encounter has spurred Chavez to retreat from his state-sponsored anti-Semitism and voracious anti-Israel foreign policy?

This June report explains:

In the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair, President Chavez cursed Israel as a “terrorist state” and an enemy of the Venezuelan revolution and claimed Israel’s Mossad spy agency was trying to assassinate him.

“Extreme criticism and the de-legitimization of Israel continue to be used by the government of Venezuela as a political tool,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “The atmosphere of extreme anti-Israel criticism and an unsettling focus on the Venezuelan Jewish community’s attitudes creates an environment for anti-Semitism to grow and flourish.  So far this hasn’t translated into attacks against individual Jews or Jewish institutions.  However, we cannot forget that the Jewish community in Venezuela has already witnessed violent anti-Semitic incidents in the past few years.”

In a new online report, the League documents recent anti-Semitic expressions in Venezuela in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident, including those of government and political leaders, conspiracy theories and accusations in the government-run media, and statements on various anti-Israel websites.

In a June 12 interview with the government-owned national television network, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro . . suggested that should a terrorist attack be carried out on Venezuelan soil, a likely culprit would be the “intelligence assassin apparatus of the State of Israel,” the Mossad.

Vilification of Zionism is particularly present in the government-run media and the so-called “alternative” media run by government sympathizers who are intricately intertwined with the government apparatus, according to the ADL.  Media and political leaders seem to take their cues from Chavez, who has in the past few years made his feelings about Israel all-too clear.

Moreover, Chavez’s overeager Atlantic scribe overlooks an inconvenient truth: Chavez has made common cause with Ahmadinejad. As the Washington Post explained last year:

Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.

Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau . . . says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”

Moreover, Benny Avni writes in the New York Sun that Chavez’s mentor — notwithstanding the lovely visit with Goldberg — is behaving as he always does:

On the eve of hearings that had been set to open in the United States Congress on whether to ease the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba, Havana’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, has been taking a hard, even strident line here at the United Nations, very much at odds with the way Fidel Castro is trying to portray Cuba in the American press these days.

It has prompted old hands here at the United Nations to quote another, albeit different kind of, Marxist —  Groucho, who famously asked: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? . . .

Mr. Parrilla, however, was, in his address at the annual General Assembly debate, as rigid as ever, blaming America’s aggression for all the isle’s troubles, saying Israel is behind all that’s wrong in the Middle East, and expressing solidarity with Venezuela’s caudillo, Hugo Chavez.

Avni chastises Goldberg for stunning naivete and relaying Cuba’s business-as-usual rhetoric:

And no, for Cuba the holocaust-denying Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not the aggressor. “As Comrade Fidel has pointed out, powerful and influential forces in the United States and Israel are paving the way to launch a military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr. Parrilla warned, adding that the General Assembly must stop such a plot to commit a “crime against the Iranian people” and such “an assault against international law” in order to prevent a nuclear war.

Mr. Parrilla’s entire speech was an old-style Cuban assault on America and Israel, harking back to the glorious days of the Cold War when the Castros drew as much attention at international fora like the U.N. as is now reserved for Mr. Ahmadinejad or Mr. Chavez.

It’s bad enough that Goldberg was taken in by Soros Street (many liberals were), but he really should stay away from Latin American dictators.

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Ahmadinejad Goes to Yale

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

The U.S. and European delegations walk out on Ahmadinejad at the UN. The president proclaims himself outraged that the perennial Holocaust denier would say awful things. But Ahmadinejad is not without friends in the West. Oh, far from it. Hillary Mann Leverett, one half of the dynamic duo of mullah apologists, invited him to her class at Yale. I kid you not. This account gives you a flavor of what passes for scholarship in the Ivy League:

Leverett said what came across from the meeting was that “he was probably not the stereotype of a crazy irrational figure … He has a strategy for Iran.” She said she also hopes students understand “that it will take a lot more from the U.S. if we want to have a real policy of engagement.”

While Washington has expressed interest in engaging Tehran diplomatically, it has also been using measures to pressure Tehran, such as sanctions.

Leverett’s general approach to U.S.-Iranian relations involves a policy of engagement rather than pressure. Though her views, which differ from those of the previous and current administrations, are controversial, she holds that engagement with Iran and a changing of U.S. attitudes toward the regime is the only way to bring about productive relations with Tehran. …

“The senior advisor [who spoke to the students before the main circus act] was interesting for the students, because he has been a long-time friend of the president,” Leverett said. “He was able to explain to the students in a very interesting unique way, I mean they couldn’t have heard it anywhere else, Ahmedinejad’s personal background.”

No word on whether the bright young minds asked him about the murders, stonings, beatings, Holocaust denial, etc.

Perhaps Leverett next time can arrange for her class a field trip to the dolphin show with him.

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Double-Talk from Moscow on Iran

The White House has been crowing that Russia’s decision last week not to sell advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran represents a big triumph of its attempt to “reset” relationships with Moscow. The reality is somewhat more complicated — and less to our liking.

The fact is that Russia has flirted with selling the S-300 to Iran for years without ever actually going through with the deal, thus suggesting that the Russians were not truly planning to transfer the technology after all — they were simply hoping to get a good payoff from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries alarmed by rising Iranian power. It’s impossible to know exactly what the Russians have gotten in return (such deals tend to be secret), but at a very minimum they managed to convince the Obama administration to scrap plans to put missile interceptors into Poland and the Czech Republic — a move that alarmed those stalwart allies. How much more can we expect from the Russians? Not that much, as indicated by this L.A. Times article:

Even as the White House praised Russia for declining to sell antiaircraft missiles to Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions, Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries this week to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Russia supported weak United Nations sanctions approved in June to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. But it has strongly objected to tougher sanctions added individually by the United States, the European Union and four other countries. It fears those sanctions may end up hurting Russian companies that do business in Iran.

In other words, the Russians are up to their old tricks — paying lip service to stopping the Iranian nuclear program while sabotaging efforts to really get tough with Tehran. Beijing is pursuing a similar policy. Their intransigence means that the odds of really cracking down on Iran with international sanctions — the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy — are minimal. Other means, such as computer worms, can and should be used to sabotage and delay the Iranian nuclear program, but in the end the U.S. and Israel cannot avoid the toughest of choices: either act militarily or watch Iran go nuclear.

The White House has been crowing that Russia’s decision last week not to sell advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran represents a big triumph of its attempt to “reset” relationships with Moscow. The reality is somewhat more complicated — and less to our liking.

The fact is that Russia has flirted with selling the S-300 to Iran for years without ever actually going through with the deal, thus suggesting that the Russians were not truly planning to transfer the technology after all — they were simply hoping to get a good payoff from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and other countries alarmed by rising Iranian power. It’s impossible to know exactly what the Russians have gotten in return (such deals tend to be secret), but at a very minimum they managed to convince the Obama administration to scrap plans to put missile interceptors into Poland and the Czech Republic — a move that alarmed those stalwart allies. How much more can we expect from the Russians? Not that much, as indicated by this L.A. Times article:

Even as the White House praised Russia for declining to sell antiaircraft missiles to Iran in violation of U.N. sanctions, Russian diplomats were quietly recruiting other countries this week to undercut tougher penalties imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Russia supported weak United Nations sanctions approved in June to pressure Iran over its nuclear program. But it has strongly objected to tougher sanctions added individually by the United States, the European Union and four other countries. It fears those sanctions may end up hurting Russian companies that do business in Iran.

In other words, the Russians are up to their old tricks — paying lip service to stopping the Iranian nuclear program while sabotaging efforts to really get tough with Tehran. Beijing is pursuing a similar policy. Their intransigence means that the odds of really cracking down on Iran with international sanctions — the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy — are minimal. Other means, such as computer worms, can and should be used to sabotage and delay the Iranian nuclear program, but in the end the U.S. and Israel cannot avoid the toughest of choices: either act militarily or watch Iran go nuclear.

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A Study in Contrast on Iran

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

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After Triumph with Russia on Iran, Obama Signals Return to Appeasement

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

In his 20 months in office, Barack Obama hasn’t had many foreign-policy triumphs to crow about. But yesterday when he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly, for once the president could cite an actual diplomatic achievement for his administration. Russia’s announcement that it will not honor the contract it had signed to sell S-300 missiles to Iran showed that efforts undertaken by Obama to sweet-talk Moscow out of acting as an enabler for the rogue regime in Tehran have not been completely in vain.

Stopping the sale of these weapons had been an urgent issue for both the United States and Israel. Had they been deployed by the Iranians, those missiles would have acted as the centerpiece of an air-defense system that would have posed a formidable obstacle to any effort to knock out the Iranians’ nuclear-weapons program from the air. Russia’s willingness to join in the ban on arms sales to Iran puts some teeth in the otherwise mild sanctions that the international community has placed on Tehran.

But despite this setback, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t be too downhearted about the way things have been going for his despotic regime during the UN jamboree in New York this week. Just when the Russian announcement gave Obama something to brag about, the administration was sending signals that it was prepared to step back from its recent tough talk about bringing Iran to heel.

The New York Times reports that: “At a meeting today with France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, diplomats planned what one senior American official described to reporters as a ‘phased approach’ that would include reviving an earlier proposal to supply Iran with enriched fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in return for Iran’s shipping the bulk of its stockpile of uranium to Russia and France. ‘We’re prepared to engage and see if we can’t produce what would be a confidence-building step,’ said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Thus, just when it seemed as if he were making some real progress on isolating Iran, Obama sends Ahmadinejad a signal that he is in no real trouble after all. Dating back to the Bush administration’s own feckless diplomacy on Iran’s nukes, Tehran has happily exploited the West’s efforts to appease it. Every initiative that sought to cajole or bribe the Islamist tyranny to back away from its nuclear ambitions has been welcomed by the ayatollahs. They were only too happy to string European or American diplomats along to buy more time in order to get closer to the day when they could announce their possession of a nuclear device. Last year, the Iranians agreed to a porous deal that called for the export of their uranium stockpile. But then, when it suited them, they repudiated it, leaving Obama and the rest of his foreign-policy team with egg on their faces. As with the rest of Obama’s pathetic attempt to “engage” Iran, such initiatives only convinced Tehran that the new American president was not to be taken seriously. With non-military trade with Russia still booming and with neighboring Turkey’s Islamic government providing Ahmadinejad with a reliable ally and trading partner, the Iranians understand that the UN sanctions are inconvenient but not crippling. And so long as Obama is still wedded to the absurd idea that he can talk them out of their nuclear plans, the Iranians have to be thinking that it will soon be too late for anyone to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

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Turkish Move More Evidence That Iran Sanctions Are Futile

The Associated Press is reporting that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to “triple” his country’s trade with Iran in the next five years. Erdogan told a Turkish-Iranian business forum in Istanbul today that his nation plans to buy more natural gas from Iran and will help export that commodity to Europe while lowering tariffs and quotas to boost business with Iranian banks. But, lest we think that Erdogan is doing the ayatollahs this service merely for the honor of helping the Islamic Republic, the Iranians are paying a price for the Turks’ help. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Tehran is “donating” a cool $25 million to the re-election fund of Erdogan’s Justice and Development party.

The latter point is certainly bad news for the Turks who see Erdogan’s Islamic party tightening its grip on the reins of power in Ankara and undermining the country’s secular traditions. But it is even worse news for President Obama and others in the West, who insist that sanctions and hard-nosed diplomacy will convince the Iranians to abandon their drive for nuclear capability. With Turkey preparing to act not only as a friend to the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime but also as its business agent, thus circumventing any sanctions by the United Nations and European Union, any hope that economic pressure will convince the Islamist dictatorship to relent must now be seen as utterly futile. So long as neighboring Turkey is prepared to give it an outlet to the world, it will be impossible to isolate Iran.

This means that if Barack Obama is truly serious about his pledge not to allow Iran to go nuclear, he’s going to have to tell the Iranians that the military option is, at the very least, on the table. If not, then Obama is more or less telegraphing Ahmadinejad that he will stand by and watch as Iranian nukes pose an existential threat to Israel and undermine the stability of the entire Middle East.

While Obama wasted a year foolishly trying to “engage” Iran, the Islamist regime brutally repressed domestic critics and forged a strategic alliance with NATO’s only Islamic member nation. Even though Washington has appeared to wake up to the reality of Iran’s ill intentions in the last year, the result of Obama’s feckless diplomacy — whose only tangible result is weak sanctions by the United Nations at which Iran laughs — is a situation where Iran and its terrorist allies Hamas and Hezbollah are stronger than ever.

It may not be too late for the U.S. to implement a tough policy on Iran that could force it to rethink its arrogant stand, if the administration were prepared to draw the proper conclusions from recent events and act accordingly. But Obama has convinced the Iranians that he is a weak leader whose demands and warnings needn’t be heeded. Unfortunately, it’s hard to argue that they are wrong about that.

The Associated Press is reporting that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to “triple” his country’s trade with Iran in the next five years. Erdogan told a Turkish-Iranian business forum in Istanbul today that his nation plans to buy more natural gas from Iran and will help export that commodity to Europe while lowering tariffs and quotas to boost business with Iranian banks. But, lest we think that Erdogan is doing the ayatollahs this service merely for the honor of helping the Islamic Republic, the Iranians are paying a price for the Turks’ help. According to Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Tehran is “donating” a cool $25 million to the re-election fund of Erdogan’s Justice and Development party.

The latter point is certainly bad news for the Turks who see Erdogan’s Islamic party tightening its grip on the reins of power in Ankara and undermining the country’s secular traditions. But it is even worse news for President Obama and others in the West, who insist that sanctions and hard-nosed diplomacy will convince the Iranians to abandon their drive for nuclear capability. With Turkey preparing to act not only as a friend to the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime but also as its business agent, thus circumventing any sanctions by the United Nations and European Union, any hope that economic pressure will convince the Islamist dictatorship to relent must now be seen as utterly futile. So long as neighboring Turkey is prepared to give it an outlet to the world, it will be impossible to isolate Iran.

This means that if Barack Obama is truly serious about his pledge not to allow Iran to go nuclear, he’s going to have to tell the Iranians that the military option is, at the very least, on the table. If not, then Obama is more or less telegraphing Ahmadinejad that he will stand by and watch as Iranian nukes pose an existential threat to Israel and undermine the stability of the entire Middle East.

While Obama wasted a year foolishly trying to “engage” Iran, the Islamist regime brutally repressed domestic critics and forged a strategic alliance with NATO’s only Islamic member nation. Even though Washington has appeared to wake up to the reality of Iran’s ill intentions in the last year, the result of Obama’s feckless diplomacy — whose only tangible result is weak sanctions by the United Nations at which Iran laughs — is a situation where Iran and its terrorist allies Hamas and Hezbollah are stronger than ever.

It may not be too late for the U.S. to implement a tough policy on Iran that could force it to rethink its arrogant stand, if the administration were prepared to draw the proper conclusions from recent events and act accordingly. But Obama has convinced the Iranians that he is a weak leader whose demands and warnings needn’t be heeded. Unfortunately, it’s hard to argue that they are wrong about that.

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Keep Our Eye on the Ball — Iran

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

One of the objections to the “peace process” — in addition to the uptick in murders of Jews attendant thereto — is that it is a giant and dangerous distraction. The administration and much of the media have lost track of what’s important: Iran and the mounting evidence that the sanctions have been, as conservatives predicted, useless. The New York Post, to its credit, has not dropped the ball. In this sharp op-ed, the Post reminds us:

In June, the administration prodded the UN into issuing what President Obama called the “toughest sanctions ever.” But the words “United Nations” and “tough” don’t belong in the same sentence, and that’s a fact Iran has been quick to notice.

According to the UN report, Iran has barred two senior inspectors from their nuclear sites, said it “underestimated” the amount of uranium it has enriched, is developing secret nuke facilities far from prying eyes, and “accidentally” broke the seals on several pieces of equipment that the IAEA had shut down.

(And a dissident Iranian group, the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, charged last week that extensive tunneling near Tehran is connected to the production of weapons-grade plutonium.)

The “solution” to this, of course, is yet another round of Israel bashing. We aren’t making zero progress with Iran? So the UN turns to the Jewish state:

Handcuffed, tongue tied and generally bamboozled by the mullahs, the UN is instead focusing on a much easier target: Israel, the very country in Iran’s nuclear crosshairs.

The IAEA voted to censure Israel last year at its annual forum in Vienna, while refusing to even mention Iran. And it dialed up the pressure on Israel last month with a personal visit from the head of the IAEA, pushing Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty and accept UN inspectors at its nuclear sites.

We note, without surprise, that the IAEA chief has yet to visit Iran. Why, after all, would he bother?

The UN has given Iran and other bad actors the kid-gloves treatment for years, reserving its bare-knuckled fury for the Jewish state. And the IAEA is a mirror image of the UN at large — impotent in the face of tyrants, deadly serious on one front alone: in its attempts to deliver a knockout blow to Israel.

So much for multilateralism. The UN is, in a real sense, the perfect partner for Obama. It provides the patina of seriousness, a paper-thin coating to conceal the feckless attempts to disarm Iran, and it throws in some Israel-bashing for good measure. No wonder Obama loves the place.

Meanwhile, it might be a good idea for Jewish organizations to show the same focus as the Post. Forget the “peace process” sideshow and give up the fantasy that the UN or the IAEA will solve our national-security problem for us. The options boil down to : 1) The U.S. uses force; 2.) Israel uses force; or 3.) the Iranians get the bomb. The first is the best of the disagreeable options. It would be swell if American Jewish leaders started making that point.

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Iran Sanctions Are ‘Biting’ Obama’s Pride, Not Tehran

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been obsessing about the Israeli-Palestinian talks they have orchestrated, the collapse of their feckless Iran policy is becoming more apparent. A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency released on Monday disclosed the fact that the Iranians have again barred inspectors from their nuclear sites and refused to answer questions and hand over data about their program.

For anyone who has been following the Iranian drive for nuclear capability, this is hardly a surprise. Tehran has been stonewalling the international community for years about nukes. But the latest refusals apparently came only weeks after the United Nations Security Council passed its latest sanctions against the regime. These measures were, we were told by the administration, the “harshest” punishments yet enacted. What’s more, as the New York Times helpfully reminds us, “For several weeks the Obama administration has argued that the sanctions are beginning to bite.”

Yet while the Iranians have faced more restrictions on their commerce as a result of the UN sanctions, though not nearly as much as they would if the international community were serious about stopping Iran, the only thing they have proved is that the Iranians are still convinced that the West is bluffing. And one can hardly blame them for thinking that.

Washington spent a year pretending that Obama’s desire to “engage” with the Iranian regime was working. But the administration was forced to concede in 2010 that the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime was making a fool of the president and his envoys. But while the chastened Obama has talked tough — at least for him — about Iran, his credibility on the issue is lacking. After appeasing both Russia and China on other issues, the best that the administration could do in terms of an international consensus on sanctions were the lukewarm measures passed by the UN Security Council. Knowing the herculean effort required to get even those minimal proposals passed, the Iranians understand that ratcheting up the sanctions even further simply is beyond the administration’s powers. And since everything Obama has said and done in his 20 months in office has led most observers (except the most determined of optimists) to believe that the military option is definitely off the table, why should Tehran think it couldn’t build a nuclear weapon with impunity?

Despite the lip service the administration has paid to the threat from Iran, there’s little doubt that it is reluctant to confront that threat in a serious manner. Instead, it has devoted most of its foreign policy energy to the Sisyphean task of bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table even though it is readily apparent that the Palestinian leadership hasn’t the authority to conclude peace and make it stick even if the Israelis were to concede every conceivable point of contention. Obama has placed all of his, and his negotiating partner’s, chips on the current talks. Which means that after they fail — and it is almost inevitable that they will — the only winner will be Hamas and its Iranian patrons.

Though Washington has tried to convince Israel that being more forthcoming with the Palestinians will make it easier to get the rest of the West to take the Iranian dilemma more seriously, the scenario that is rapidly unfolding is one that is designed to weaken the already meager international support for harsher sanctions on Tehran while doing nothing to increase the chances of peace. Despite the administration’s bravado, the only thing the sanctions they worked so hard to pass are “biting” is the president’s pride.

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been obsessing about the Israeli-Palestinian talks they have orchestrated, the collapse of their feckless Iran policy is becoming more apparent. A report from the International Atomic Energy Agency released on Monday disclosed the fact that the Iranians have again barred inspectors from their nuclear sites and refused to answer questions and hand over data about their program.

For anyone who has been following the Iranian drive for nuclear capability, this is hardly a surprise. Tehran has been stonewalling the international community for years about nukes. But the latest refusals apparently came only weeks after the United Nations Security Council passed its latest sanctions against the regime. These measures were, we were told by the administration, the “harshest” punishments yet enacted. What’s more, as the New York Times helpfully reminds us, “For several weeks the Obama administration has argued that the sanctions are beginning to bite.”

Yet while the Iranians have faced more restrictions on their commerce as a result of the UN sanctions, though not nearly as much as they would if the international community were serious about stopping Iran, the only thing they have proved is that the Iranians are still convinced that the West is bluffing. And one can hardly blame them for thinking that.

Washington spent a year pretending that Obama’s desire to “engage” with the Iranian regime was working. But the administration was forced to concede in 2010 that the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime was making a fool of the president and his envoys. But while the chastened Obama has talked tough — at least for him — about Iran, his credibility on the issue is lacking. After appeasing both Russia and China on other issues, the best that the administration could do in terms of an international consensus on sanctions were the lukewarm measures passed by the UN Security Council. Knowing the herculean effort required to get even those minimal proposals passed, the Iranians understand that ratcheting up the sanctions even further simply is beyond the administration’s powers. And since everything Obama has said and done in his 20 months in office has led most observers (except the most determined of optimists) to believe that the military option is definitely off the table, why should Tehran think it couldn’t build a nuclear weapon with impunity?

Despite the lip service the administration has paid to the threat from Iran, there’s little doubt that it is reluctant to confront that threat in a serious manner. Instead, it has devoted most of its foreign policy energy to the Sisyphean task of bringing Israel and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table even though it is readily apparent that the Palestinian leadership hasn’t the authority to conclude peace and make it stick even if the Israelis were to concede every conceivable point of contention. Obama has placed all of his, and his negotiating partner’s, chips on the current talks. Which means that after they fail — and it is almost inevitable that they will — the only winner will be Hamas and its Iranian patrons.

Though Washington has tried to convince Israel that being more forthcoming with the Palestinians will make it easier to get the rest of the West to take the Iranian dilemma more seriously, the scenario that is rapidly unfolding is one that is designed to weaken the already meager international support for harsher sanctions on Tehran while doing nothing to increase the chances of peace. Despite the administration’s bravado, the only thing the sanctions they worked so hard to pass are “biting” is the president’s pride.

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The Key to Middle East Peace Is in Tehran

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Scott Brown makes a cogent (and too infrequently made) argument:

The fact that Palestinians finally agreed to direct negotiations, without preconditions, is a positive step. But let’s not delude ourselves: There can never be peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.

He confirms what many observers have already reported: moderate Arab states care far less about the “peace process” than they do about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. (“[I]n all my meetings in Israel and Jordan, what weighed most on the minds of security officials and political leaders was the prospect of a nuclear Iran.”) He explains:

It is not hard to imagine the terror that would be unleashed if Hezbollah and Hamas—emboldened by the protective watch of their benefactor—stepped up their campaign of hate against Israel. This would, in turn, embolden extremists around the globe.

But of course, an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, even without nuclear weapons, is largely responsible for the ongoing terror directed against Israel. This is the real barrier to peace (sorry, Peter Beinart et. al, it’s not the settlements). Hamas killed five Israelis this week, but what country supports and funds Hamas? Iran. Abbas can’t make a peace deal even if he wanted to (a very big “if”), because he cannot give Israel what it wants — an end to violence. That will only come when terrorist groups (including Hezbollah on its northern boarder) are defanged. And that requires regime change and/or a decisive blow to their patrons in Tehran.

From the start of his presidency, Obama has had linkage backward — making the unsupportable claim that Iran can be disarmed only in the aftermath of a successful peace process. It is actually the reverse — toppling the mullahs would be the best encouragement (other than the Palestinians’ renunciation of violence and a one-state solution) to a true peace process. Ironically, doing what Obama loathes (attacking Iran, adopting regime change as our official policy) may be the only way for him to get what he desperately wants but cannot achieve (resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict).

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Scott Brown makes a cogent (and too infrequently made) argument:

The fact that Palestinians finally agreed to direct negotiations, without preconditions, is a positive step. But let’s not delude ourselves: There can never be peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.

He confirms what many observers have already reported: moderate Arab states care far less about the “peace process” than they do about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. (“[I]n all my meetings in Israel and Jordan, what weighed most on the minds of security officials and political leaders was the prospect of a nuclear Iran.”) He explains:

It is not hard to imagine the terror that would be unleashed if Hezbollah and Hamas—emboldened by the protective watch of their benefactor—stepped up their campaign of hate against Israel. This would, in turn, embolden extremists around the globe.

But of course, an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, even without nuclear weapons, is largely responsible for the ongoing terror directed against Israel. This is the real barrier to peace (sorry, Peter Beinart et. al, it’s not the settlements). Hamas killed five Israelis this week, but what country supports and funds Hamas? Iran. Abbas can’t make a peace deal even if he wanted to (a very big “if”), because he cannot give Israel what it wants — an end to violence. That will only come when terrorist groups (including Hezbollah on its northern boarder) are defanged. And that requires regime change and/or a decisive blow to their patrons in Tehran.

From the start of his presidency, Obama has had linkage backward — making the unsupportable claim that Iran can be disarmed only in the aftermath of a successful peace process. It is actually the reverse — toppling the mullahs would be the best encouragement (other than the Palestinians’ renunciation of violence and a one-state solution) to a true peace process. Ironically, doing what Obama loathes (attacking Iran, adopting regime change as our official policy) may be the only way for him to get what he desperately wants but cannot achieve (resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict).

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The Un-Peace Talks

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

It would be bad enough if these talks were merely unproductive. But five people (I refuse to adopt the Obami’s counting system, which denies the death of the pregnant woman’s child) have died at the hands of terrorists. Should the talks break down (a strong possibility if Israel does not knuckle under to the demand for the settlement-moratorium extension), the potential for widespread violence is great. Neither in the short or long term do the peace talks offer a realistic chance for peace; quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, efforts to delegitimize Israel continue apace in international bodies. As Eli Lake reports, Israel is bracing for “Black September”:

To start, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to release a report on the Memorial Day flotilla incident in which nine pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Turkish aid ship seeking to break a blockade of Gaza were killed in a battle with Israeli commandos. Activists in Lebanon have said they are trying to launch another flotilla to challenge the Gaza sea embargo in the coming weeks.

Then the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council is expected to issue a follow-up on a report issued in 2009 by Judge Richard Goldstone regarding the Gaza war in late 2008 and early 2009. . . On top of all of this, Turkey — whose foreign minister said Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla last spring was his country’s Sept. 11 — takes its spot as the rotating chairman of the United Nations Security Council.

At the International Atomic Energy Agency later in September, Arab states are expected to press their case for Israel to publicly acknowledge its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

The peace talks afford Obama personally something, but what is Israel getting out of this? Precious little. And meanwhile, the centrifuges are whirling in Tehran.

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Crocker on Iraq

The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is too modest to mention his own invaluable role in averting disaster in Iraq. He was, along with Gen. David Petraeus, responsible for the remarkable turnaround in the war and in staving off congressional calls in September 2007 to bug out. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he explains:

The difficulty and delays we have seen since the March elections illustrate the fundamental truth that everything in Iraq is hard and is likely to continue being hard. When the next government is in place, it will have to wrestle with the tough issues that have been shelved since the elections and their aftermath. …

The threat of al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorism persists in Iraq, as recent attacks have made clear. Iraq’s relations with its neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, remain difficult amid signs that Tehran is waiting for a U.S. exit to ramp up its efforts at destabilization and reclaiming the ground it has lost in Iraq the past several years. Other challenges include the rising popular impatience over economic stagnation and the lack of basic services; refugees; widespread corruption; and a growing imbalance between Iraqi military and civilian governance capacities.

He is not predicting doom, but rather urging patience and persistence:

It is not a record of failure but an illustration of the enormity of the challenges in Iraq. How successfully Iraqis deal with these challenges has a great deal to do with the level of U.S. engagement going forward, including the process of government formation. . . Our lack of strategic patience is something that, over time, our adversaries have come to count on and our allies to fear — in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Like others who have urged continued American involvement, Crocker points to the Strategic Framework Agreement and the possibility that the Iraqis may ask that our troops remain beyond 2011. (“If so, I hope we will listen carefully.”)

Here’s an idea: if Obama really wants to preserve our gains, why not send Crocker back to Iraq for a couple of more years? That would be a signal of support that the Iraqis would surely appreciate. And it would indicate that the president finally understands the strategic smarts of the Bush team, which snatched Iraq from the jaws of defeat.

The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is too modest to mention his own invaluable role in averting disaster in Iraq. He was, along with Gen. David Petraeus, responsible for the remarkable turnaround in the war and in staving off congressional calls in September 2007 to bug out. In an op-ed in the Washington Post, he explains:

The difficulty and delays we have seen since the March elections illustrate the fundamental truth that everything in Iraq is hard and is likely to continue being hard. When the next government is in place, it will have to wrestle with the tough issues that have been shelved since the elections and their aftermath. …

The threat of al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorism persists in Iraq, as recent attacks have made clear. Iraq’s relations with its neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, remain difficult amid signs that Tehran is waiting for a U.S. exit to ramp up its efforts at destabilization and reclaiming the ground it has lost in Iraq the past several years. Other challenges include the rising popular impatience over economic stagnation and the lack of basic services; refugees; widespread corruption; and a growing imbalance between Iraqi military and civilian governance capacities.

He is not predicting doom, but rather urging patience and persistence:

It is not a record of failure but an illustration of the enormity of the challenges in Iraq. How successfully Iraqis deal with these challenges has a great deal to do with the level of U.S. engagement going forward, including the process of government formation. . . Our lack of strategic patience is something that, over time, our adversaries have come to count on and our allies to fear — in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Like others who have urged continued American involvement, Crocker points to the Strategic Framework Agreement and the possibility that the Iraqis may ask that our troops remain beyond 2011. (“If so, I hope we will listen carefully.”)

Here’s an idea: if Obama really wants to preserve our gains, why not send Crocker back to Iraq for a couple of more years? That would be a signal of support that the Iraqis would surely appreciate. And it would indicate that the president finally understands the strategic smarts of the Bush team, which snatched Iraq from the jaws of defeat.

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Can You Imagine?

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

In a fascinating interview with former UN Ambassador John C. Bolton, the Daily Caller tosses an interesting proposition into the ring: why not a Bolton GOP presidential run? That’d sure shake up things in Tehran. Bolton offers this on Obama:

“I’d call him the first post-American president and by that I mean – certainly in contemporary times – his view of America and its role in the world is different from the line of presidents since Franklin Roosevelt,” Bolton explained, when asked exactly why he finds the president’s foreign policy so offensive. “He doesn’t see himself effectively as a real advocate for America’s interest. He doesn’t see the world as a particularly challenging place. And, frankly, I just don’t think he cares that much about foreign policy.”

Well, yeah.

What about Israel?

“I think the risk of this obsession with the ‘peace process’ is that the inevitable failure of these talks coming up leave the United States in a worse position in the region and around the world than if we had never undertaken it to begin with,” he said. “Given there is no interlocutor on the Palestinian side that can make difficult commitments and then carry through on them, given the extent of the gaps in the positions of the two parties, failure seems to me to be inevitable. And when you combine that with many other things going on in the region – our failure to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons plan, our withdrawal from Iraq, our commitment to withdrawal from Afghanistan – it just gives a broad impression of American weakness that our adversaries will take advantage of and our friends will be concerned about.”

Well, yes, that’s right.

But what about domestic policy — he doesn’t have much to say about that, right? Umm, actually:

“I think this is the most radical president we have ever had,” he said, before naming the health care bill, the auto industry bailout, and financial regulation as examples of this radicalism. “I think this is the dream of leftwing America come true and the only good news is I really think this is their high water mark. Anything they don’t get now they are never going to get. If we do this right, we can roll a lot of it back and begin the task of reducing the scope of federal government activities in our economy.” …

“I’ve never attended any Tea Party functions,” he said. But, he added, if the movement is, as he understands it, “a true grassroots movement of people who are absolutely outraged at the extent that the Obama administration has bungled its economic policy, overspent dramatically, risked creating a deficit that will burden us for generations” than he thinks “it is pointed in exactly the right direction” and he is “all in favor of” it.

And just to confound the left, he says he has no problem repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and thinks gay marriage should be left up to the states.

Bolton has shown no signs of organizing a campaign and doesn’t downplay the difficulty for a non-politician to run for the presidency, but neither does he rule it out. It sure would make for some lively primary debates, wouldn’t it?

This is a reminder that more than two years before the 2012 election, there are many intriguing possible candidates out there. As for Bolton, if he doesn’t run, any Republican who does would be very wise to bring him on board. His advice would be invaluable.

Read Less

What Obama’s Iran Policy Has Wrought

Obama’s gross miscalculation on Iran — that the mullahs could be cajoled out of their nuclear ambitions — and his failure to come up with a timely, viable plan for depriving the regime of nukes have had two tragic consequences. First, we are either on the brink of a nuclear-armed Revolutionary Islamic state or of war, carried out, most likely, by a tiny country (while the U.S. frets about “destabilizing” the region) to prevent the unimaginable from occurring. And second, we have, in a futile effort to ingratiate ourselves with a despotic reign of terror — as brutal as any on the planet — abandoned the people of Iran.

A heart-wrenching example of the latter is spelled out by Michael Weiss. He explains the fate of Shiva Nazar Ahari, an activist for democracy and human rights, who has been in and out of (mostly in) the Iranian hell-hole, Evin prison, since June of 2009. Looking at her lovely picture, one can’t help wondering what her present health and appearance must be. She has, as Weiss describes, endured the wrath of her jailers:

In 2006, after she became the spokeswoman for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was kicked out of university, whereupon her troubles really began.

She was re-arrested in June 2009 and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she spent 33 days in solitary confinement. The cells are so small that a short person can’t even stretch her arms or legs. One informed observer has described them to me as “human coffins.” Despite being verbally threatened by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s prosecutor general, who told her she’d be murdered if she didn’t stop working on human rights campaigns in Iran, Ahari persevered. She was released in September 2009 on $200,000 bail and promptly resumed her defense of political prisoners. …

In December of last year, Ahari was arrested yet again, along with two other activists, while en route to the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a man considered to be the clerical inspiration behind much of the Green Revolution. Ahari went on hunger strike for two days, then fell ill and was taken to Evin’s prison hospital.

And so it is for her and many other Iranians. She now stands accused of “anti-regime propaganda” and “acts against the state.” But that is not the worst of it: “the most serious charge against Ahari is ‘mohareb’ (rebellion against God), which carries with it the death penalty.”

Where is the Obama administration, for God’s sake? They have been mute. Averting their eyes. They long ago gave up on the Green Revolution and cast their lot with Ahari’s inquisitors, banking on our ability to do business with them. To make an issue out of Ahari, to label and ostracize the Iranian dictatorship in the international community as a genocidal regime and human-rights abuser, to be a clarion voice for freedom — these are not only beyond the ability of this president, but beyond his imagination.

Obama missed the window of time to both forestall a nuclear-armed, jihadist state and to help uproot an evil regime. The world and the Iranian people will pay a heavy price for it.

Obama’s gross miscalculation on Iran — that the mullahs could be cajoled out of their nuclear ambitions — and his failure to come up with a timely, viable plan for depriving the regime of nukes have had two tragic consequences. First, we are either on the brink of a nuclear-armed Revolutionary Islamic state or of war, carried out, most likely, by a tiny country (while the U.S. frets about “destabilizing” the region) to prevent the unimaginable from occurring. And second, we have, in a futile effort to ingratiate ourselves with a despotic reign of terror — as brutal as any on the planet — abandoned the people of Iran.

A heart-wrenching example of the latter is spelled out by Michael Weiss. He explains the fate of Shiva Nazar Ahari, an activist for democracy and human rights, who has been in and out of (mostly in) the Iranian hell-hole, Evin prison, since June of 2009. Looking at her lovely picture, one can’t help wondering what her present health and appearance must be. She has, as Weiss describes, endured the wrath of her jailers:

In 2006, after she became the spokeswoman for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was kicked out of university, whereupon her troubles really began.

She was re-arrested in June 2009 and sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she spent 33 days in solitary confinement. The cells are so small that a short person can’t even stretch her arms or legs. One informed observer has described them to me as “human coffins.” Despite being verbally threatened by Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s prosecutor general, who told her she’d be murdered if she didn’t stop working on human rights campaigns in Iran, Ahari persevered. She was released in September 2009 on $200,000 bail and promptly resumed her defense of political prisoners. …

In December of last year, Ahari was arrested yet again, along with two other activists, while en route to the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a man considered to be the clerical inspiration behind much of the Green Revolution. Ahari went on hunger strike for two days, then fell ill and was taken to Evin’s prison hospital.

And so it is for her and many other Iranians. She now stands accused of “anti-regime propaganda” and “acts against the state.” But that is not the worst of it: “the most serious charge against Ahari is ‘mohareb’ (rebellion against God), which carries with it the death penalty.”

Where is the Obama administration, for God’s sake? They have been mute. Averting their eyes. They long ago gave up on the Green Revolution and cast their lot with Ahari’s inquisitors, banking on our ability to do business with them. To make an issue out of Ahari, to label and ostracize the Iranian dictatorship in the international community as a genocidal regime and human-rights abuser, to be a clarion voice for freedom — these are not only beyond the ability of this president, but beyond his imagination.

Obama missed the window of time to both forestall a nuclear-armed, jihadist state and to help uproot an evil regime. The world and the Iranian people will pay a heavy price for it.

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The West Is in Denial over Turkey

Last week, I criticized Israel’s schizophrenia toward Turkey. But Israel is far ahead the rest of the West, where outright denial still reigns. Three reports this week highlighted Turkey’s growing role as an international problem child, yet Western governments seem oblivious.

One, which Jennifer cited yesterday, is the news that Turkey is deliberately undermining new sanctions on Iran by boosting its own gasoline exports to the mullahs. As this report notes, the sanctions were actually having an impact: “Iran’s gasoline imports fell 50 percent last month as sanctions spurred traders to halt supplies, according to Energy Market Consultants Ltd.” But Turkey moved quickly to fill the breach and has already become one of Iran’s top two suppliers (the other being China).

Western countries have repeatedly asserted that a nuclear Iran would be disastrous, but so would military action against Tehran. That means they have a vital interest in the success of sanctions because they have no Plan B. Yet Turkey has now openly pledged to do its best to make sanctions fail — and the Western response has been a deafening silence.
Then there is Corriere della Serra’s report that Turkey plans to ship arms to Hezbollah. This, too, directly undercuts a professed Western interest, that of preventing another Mideast war. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the better armed Hezbollah is, the more confident it will feel about launching military assaults on Israel — and eventually, Israel will have to respond.

Moreover, aside from the quantitative boost they would give Hezbollah, Turkish arms could provide a major qualitative boost, as Turkey has access to all the most sophisticated NATO weaponry. This means that any new Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more devastating than the last because Israel would be forced to use more of its own capabilities to counter Hezbollah’s bigger, more sophisticated arsenal.

Western intelligence agencies reportedly “view the Turkish-Iranian plot with concern.” But Western governments haven’t uttered a peep.

Finally, there is Der Spiegel’s report that the Turks have used chemical weapons against the Kurds. German experts have deemed the evidence credible, and some German politicians, to their credit, are demanding an international investigation. Yet the German government has declined to take any diplomatic action, and other Western countries have been similarly mute.

Given the West’s professed concern for human rights, one might think it would be bothered by a NATO member adopting Saddam Hussein’s tactics. But where Turkey is concerned, it would apparently rather shut its eyes.

The accumulating evidence all points to the same conclusion: Turkey has switched its allegiance from the West to the radical axis led by Iran. And it seems doubtful that any Western action could reverse this shift totally. But because Turkey still needs the West in many ways, a strong Western response probably could at least moderate its behavior.
Instead, Ankara has able to undermine Western interests ever more blatantly without the West exacting any penalties whatsoever. And as long as Turkey can keep spurning the West cost-free, its slide toward Iran will only accelerate.

Last week, I criticized Israel’s schizophrenia toward Turkey. But Israel is far ahead the rest of the West, where outright denial still reigns. Three reports this week highlighted Turkey’s growing role as an international problem child, yet Western governments seem oblivious.

One, which Jennifer cited yesterday, is the news that Turkey is deliberately undermining new sanctions on Iran by boosting its own gasoline exports to the mullahs. As this report notes, the sanctions were actually having an impact: “Iran’s gasoline imports fell 50 percent last month as sanctions spurred traders to halt supplies, according to Energy Market Consultants Ltd.” But Turkey moved quickly to fill the breach and has already become one of Iran’s top two suppliers (the other being China).

Western countries have repeatedly asserted that a nuclear Iran would be disastrous, but so would military action against Tehran. That means they have a vital interest in the success of sanctions because they have no Plan B. Yet Turkey has now openly pledged to do its best to make sanctions fail — and the Western response has been a deafening silence.
Then there is Corriere della Serra’s report that Turkey plans to ship arms to Hezbollah. This, too, directly undercuts a professed Western interest, that of preventing another Mideast war. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the better armed Hezbollah is, the more confident it will feel about launching military assaults on Israel — and eventually, Israel will have to respond.

Moreover, aside from the quantitative boost they would give Hezbollah, Turkish arms could provide a major qualitative boost, as Turkey has access to all the most sophisticated NATO weaponry. This means that any new Israel-Hezbollah war would be far more devastating than the last because Israel would be forced to use more of its own capabilities to counter Hezbollah’s bigger, more sophisticated arsenal.

Western intelligence agencies reportedly “view the Turkish-Iranian plot with concern.” But Western governments haven’t uttered a peep.

Finally, there is Der Spiegel’s report that the Turks have used chemical weapons against the Kurds. German experts have deemed the evidence credible, and some German politicians, to their credit, are demanding an international investigation. Yet the German government has declined to take any diplomatic action, and other Western countries have been similarly mute.

Given the West’s professed concern for human rights, one might think it would be bothered by a NATO member adopting Saddam Hussein’s tactics. But where Turkey is concerned, it would apparently rather shut its eyes.

The accumulating evidence all points to the same conclusion: Turkey has switched its allegiance from the West to the radical axis led by Iran. And it seems doubtful that any Western action could reverse this shift totally. But because Turkey still needs the West in many ways, a strong Western response probably could at least moderate its behavior.
Instead, Ankara has able to undermine Western interests ever more blatantly without the West exacting any penalties whatsoever. And as long as Turkey can keep spurning the West cost-free, its slide toward Iran will only accelerate.

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Sanctions: A Hole Big Enough to Drive Anything Through

Many in the West think of sanctions on Iran as potentially involving a naval embargo — imposed in the Persian Gulf — or cargo inspections at sea. For a lot of people, there’s a mental picture of naval action in or near the Strait of Hormuz provoking an Iranian backlash against world shipping. But that image is largely outdated. From a much broader geographic perspective, the sanctions on Iran are porous to an absurd degree: a fact nicely demonstrated by a cargo-transit path emerging this month, which features America’s NATO ally Turkey.

I’ve written here and here about the options afforded Iran by its new continuous rail link with Turkey and Pakistan. Today, Aug. 12, is the day announced by the three nations’ railway officials for the freight line’s first commercial run.

There can be no pretense now that it’s possible to enforce sanctions in the absence of Turkey’s cooperation. The newly capable cargo-transit option through Turkey changes everything about the problem for the West’s would-be enforcers. Turkey’s ports are wide open and will remain so. There is no will within NATO to do more than complain gently to this increasingly troublesome ally. Turkey also has robust and growing trade with every nation that might act as a waypoint for sanctioned shipments to Iran. Brazil, meanwhile — Turkey’s partner in brokering a nuclear deal with Iran — has ramped up trade dramatically in the last year with North Korea. These factors make it easier to hide sanctioned shipments among the unremarkable ones.

Iran’s long borders and multiple trade corridors were always going to make enforcing commercial sanctions a very difficult proposition, even with the cooperation of nations like Russia, China, and Turkey. We don’t have that cooperation, however. There is no way to clamp down on Russian gasoline shipments to Iran (which may well go across the Caspian Sea, outside our naval reach). We would assuredly try to intercept prohibited weapons or nuclear-related cargo heading by ship to Bandar Abbas — but there is no longer a logistic need to ship them through the Persian Gulf, nor does refined gasoline have to take that route. It doesn’t matter which route is cheaper; what matters is that Iran has options we can’t close off.

One counterproductive feature of the sanctions on Iran is that they amplify the reasons for all the Asian actors in this drama to leverage each other. The Turks would be happy to gain influence over Iranian strategy with their growing role in Tehran’s access to global trade. Naturally, Iran doesn’t want to be that dependent on Turkey and will probably seek transit alternatives with Pakistan and the other Persian Gulf nations. China will shape its own opportunities from that Iranian outreach. Similar calculations enliven the strategic debate in every capital in the region. Obama’s unenforceable sanctions won’t have their intended effect, but their unintended effects are likely to reverberate for decades. Such are the consequences of using soft power for soft power’s sake.

Many in the West think of sanctions on Iran as potentially involving a naval embargo — imposed in the Persian Gulf — or cargo inspections at sea. For a lot of people, there’s a mental picture of naval action in or near the Strait of Hormuz provoking an Iranian backlash against world shipping. But that image is largely outdated. From a much broader geographic perspective, the sanctions on Iran are porous to an absurd degree: a fact nicely demonstrated by a cargo-transit path emerging this month, which features America’s NATO ally Turkey.

I’ve written here and here about the options afforded Iran by its new continuous rail link with Turkey and Pakistan. Today, Aug. 12, is the day announced by the three nations’ railway officials for the freight line’s first commercial run.

There can be no pretense now that it’s possible to enforce sanctions in the absence of Turkey’s cooperation. The newly capable cargo-transit option through Turkey changes everything about the problem for the West’s would-be enforcers. Turkey’s ports are wide open and will remain so. There is no will within NATO to do more than complain gently to this increasingly troublesome ally. Turkey also has robust and growing trade with every nation that might act as a waypoint for sanctioned shipments to Iran. Brazil, meanwhile — Turkey’s partner in brokering a nuclear deal with Iran — has ramped up trade dramatically in the last year with North Korea. These factors make it easier to hide sanctioned shipments among the unremarkable ones.

Iran’s long borders and multiple trade corridors were always going to make enforcing commercial sanctions a very difficult proposition, even with the cooperation of nations like Russia, China, and Turkey. We don’t have that cooperation, however. There is no way to clamp down on Russian gasoline shipments to Iran (which may well go across the Caspian Sea, outside our naval reach). We would assuredly try to intercept prohibited weapons or nuclear-related cargo heading by ship to Bandar Abbas — but there is no longer a logistic need to ship them through the Persian Gulf, nor does refined gasoline have to take that route. It doesn’t matter which route is cheaper; what matters is that Iran has options we can’t close off.

One counterproductive feature of the sanctions on Iran is that they amplify the reasons for all the Asian actors in this drama to leverage each other. The Turks would be happy to gain influence over Iranian strategy with their growing role in Tehran’s access to global trade. Naturally, Iran doesn’t want to be that dependent on Turkey and will probably seek transit alternatives with Pakistan and the other Persian Gulf nations. China will shape its own opportunities from that Iranian outreach. Similar calculations enliven the strategic debate in every capital in the region. Obama’s unenforceable sanctions won’t have their intended effect, but their unintended effects are likely to reverberate for decades. Such are the consequences of using soft power for soft power’s sake.

Read Less

Speculation About Israel Attacking Iran Misses the Point

Jeffrey Goldberg takes nearly 10,000 words in the current Atlantic to ruminate about whether Israel or the United States will ever use force to stop the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons. His answer is that if the United States doesn’t act, sooner or later, the Israelis will. No surprise there.

As for whether the Obama administration is capable of launching a strike to forestall Iran from going nuclear, Goldberg professes he is closer to believing that it is possible. That was certainly the intent of many of those in the administration who discussed it with him. But, like much of the spin being delivered by both American and Israeli sources quoted by Goldberg, that strikes me just as likely to be disinformation as not.

Much of the piece centers on whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be forced by circumstances or by his father, the 100-year-old, formidable scholar Benzion Netanyahu, to pull the trigger on Iran. For all of his considerable knowledge of Israel, Goldberg is still stuck on the trope of figuring out how right-wing Bibi is, even though this issue transcends the right/left divide of Israeli politics because it is literally a matter of life and death.

More to the point, the endless speculation about an Israeli strike is at the same time both unhelpful and misleading.

It is unhelpful because, as Shimon Peres seems to be telling Goldberg in the conclusion to his essay, dealing with Iran is America’s responsibility, not Israel’s. The consequences of an Iranian bomb are enormous for Israel, but they are no less scary for the United States. A nuclear Iran would destabilize the Middle East, start a chain-reaction of nuclear proliferation among other countries in the region, and empower Islamist terrorists. If America stands by and meekly attempts to contain Tehran once it has the bomb, it won’t be just international law that won’t mean a thing, as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out. America’s credibility as a great power will be shredded. Putting the onus on Israel to act to save the day also has the unfortunate side effect of lessening the pressure on Obama to face his responsibilities.

Even worse, the impulse to let the Israelis do the dirty work — while the United States and its moderate Arab allies stand by tut-tutting about Likud hardliners as they reap the benefits of a preemptive strike — also creates the illusion that Israel can do just as good a job as America in terms of achieving the military objective. We should not shortchange the Israeli Defense Forces. As history has shown, the Israeli military can do amazing things. But there is simply no comparison between its capabilities and those of the armed forces of the United States. Knocking out or significantly damaging Iran’s nuclear facilities is a job for the Americans, not the Israelis.

And for all the bravado that emanates from Israel about its military, not everyone there is all that confident about the IDF’s ability to perform such a task. As one Israeli friend pointed out, it is more than optimistic — it is probably delusional — to expect this of a country whose intelligence agencies weren’t able to coordinate their efforts to deal effectively with a flotilla of small ships on their way to Hamas-run Gaza; that isn’t able to locate and rescue Gilad Shalit in a Hamas hideout only kilometers away from IDF bases; that didn’t make mincemeat out of the Lebanese army after it participated in a cross-border murder of an Israeli soldier last week; and whose top army command could go to a general who hired a political consultant to help him campaign for the job. Under these circumstances, many Israelis rightly see America as the world’s only hope for preventing the nightmare of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who run that tyrannical regime acquiring a nuclear option.

Rather than wasting time worrying about whether Netanyahu’s daddy will shame him into preventing another Holocaust, as Goldberg has done, what is needed now is focusing all our attention on whether Barack Obama has the wisdom — and the guts — to do what needs to be done about Iran.

Jeffrey Goldberg takes nearly 10,000 words in the current Atlantic to ruminate about whether Israel or the United States will ever use force to stop the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons. His answer is that if the United States doesn’t act, sooner or later, the Israelis will. No surprise there.

As for whether the Obama administration is capable of launching a strike to forestall Iran from going nuclear, Goldberg professes he is closer to believing that it is possible. That was certainly the intent of many of those in the administration who discussed it with him. But, like much of the spin being delivered by both American and Israeli sources quoted by Goldberg, that strikes me just as likely to be disinformation as not.

Much of the piece centers on whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be forced by circumstances or by his father, the 100-year-old, formidable scholar Benzion Netanyahu, to pull the trigger on Iran. For all of his considerable knowledge of Israel, Goldberg is still stuck on the trope of figuring out how right-wing Bibi is, even though this issue transcends the right/left divide of Israeli politics because it is literally a matter of life and death.

More to the point, the endless speculation about an Israeli strike is at the same time both unhelpful and misleading.

It is unhelpful because, as Shimon Peres seems to be telling Goldberg in the conclusion to his essay, dealing with Iran is America’s responsibility, not Israel’s. The consequences of an Iranian bomb are enormous for Israel, but they are no less scary for the United States. A nuclear Iran would destabilize the Middle East, start a chain-reaction of nuclear proliferation among other countries in the region, and empower Islamist terrorists. If America stands by and meekly attempts to contain Tehran once it has the bomb, it won’t be just international law that won’t mean a thing, as Christopher Hitchens has pointed out. America’s credibility as a great power will be shredded. Putting the onus on Israel to act to save the day also has the unfortunate side effect of lessening the pressure on Obama to face his responsibilities.

Even worse, the impulse to let the Israelis do the dirty work — while the United States and its moderate Arab allies stand by tut-tutting about Likud hardliners as they reap the benefits of a preemptive strike — also creates the illusion that Israel can do just as good a job as America in terms of achieving the military objective. We should not shortchange the Israeli Defense Forces. As history has shown, the Israeli military can do amazing things. But there is simply no comparison between its capabilities and those of the armed forces of the United States. Knocking out or significantly damaging Iran’s nuclear facilities is a job for the Americans, not the Israelis.

And for all the bravado that emanates from Israel about its military, not everyone there is all that confident about the IDF’s ability to perform such a task. As one Israeli friend pointed out, it is more than optimistic — it is probably delusional — to expect this of a country whose intelligence agencies weren’t able to coordinate their efforts to deal effectively with a flotilla of small ships on their way to Hamas-run Gaza; that isn’t able to locate and rescue Gilad Shalit in a Hamas hideout only kilometers away from IDF bases; that didn’t make mincemeat out of the Lebanese army after it participated in a cross-border murder of an Israeli soldier last week; and whose top army command could go to a general who hired a political consultant to help him campaign for the job. Under these circumstances, many Israelis rightly see America as the world’s only hope for preventing the nightmare of Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who run that tyrannical regime acquiring a nuclear option.

Rather than wasting time worrying about whether Netanyahu’s daddy will shame him into preventing another Holocaust, as Goldberg has done, what is needed now is focusing all our attention on whether Barack Obama has the wisdom — and the guts — to do what needs to be done about Iran.

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Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone

A few days ago, I interviewed the brilliant Israeli writer Benjamin Kerstein — who also happens to be my friend — at a café in central Tel Aviv. We talked about, among other things, what outsiders often don’t understand about Israel. The list of things is a long one. We also discussed, as people in Israel so often do, the danger posed by Iran’s Islamic Republic regime.

“Iran used to be secular, open, and friendly to Israel,” Kerstein said. “It once was pro-Western. Jews were at least nominally tolerated. It was seen as a place where there was a certain degree of cultural development. Persian culture used to be recognizable to us like Lebanese culture is. The Iran that is currently ruled by the theocracy is alien and threatening to us. We see it as a cold and hateful place. It’s a place that hates us.”

I know what he means about a culture being “recognizable.” Lebanese culture is indeed recognizable from an American and even an Israeli perspective. Beirut has more in common with Tel Aviv than with any Arabic city in the world. That recognition, so to speak, is sometimes reciprocated. Some of my Beiruti friends are fascinated by Tel Aviv and how it is, in many ways, a Hebrew-speaking sister city of theirs.

Iran’s Khomeinist government — and, by extension, its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon — really does, by comparison, seem as though it’s from another planet. Everyone I know who has been to Iran lately, however, says the country is totally different at street level — where real life is lived and culture is shaped. I believe them, and I believed them before millions of Iranians screamed “death to the dictator” from the rooftops last year.

Take a look at the music video by Blurred Vision, an Iranian exile band based in Toronto. The song is a remake of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, updated and changed ever so slightly to apply to Iran in 2010 rather than to Britain in the 1970s. A culture that produces this is perfectly recognizable. And it’s hard to imagine anything like it emerging from any other country in the region aside from Lebanon.

It’s an electrifying piece of music video art, especially the scene at the end where a Persian woman steps into the light and removes her state-mandated head covering. And the scenes where Iranians battle it out in the street with state-security thugs weren’t shot on a film set in Canada. They’re real and were shot in Tehran.

Perhaps the Middle East hasn’t yet made me sufficiently pessimistic, but I strongly doubt that a radical Islamist regime can rule indefinitely over the kinds of people who produce this sort of thing. When, for example, Palestinians flee Gaza and make these kinds of videos, I think it will signal that something important has changed.

A few days ago, I interviewed the brilliant Israeli writer Benjamin Kerstein — who also happens to be my friend — at a café in central Tel Aviv. We talked about, among other things, what outsiders often don’t understand about Israel. The list of things is a long one. We also discussed, as people in Israel so often do, the danger posed by Iran’s Islamic Republic regime.

“Iran used to be secular, open, and friendly to Israel,” Kerstein said. “It once was pro-Western. Jews were at least nominally tolerated. It was seen as a place where there was a certain degree of cultural development. Persian culture used to be recognizable to us like Lebanese culture is. The Iran that is currently ruled by the theocracy is alien and threatening to us. We see it as a cold and hateful place. It’s a place that hates us.”

I know what he means about a culture being “recognizable.” Lebanese culture is indeed recognizable from an American and even an Israeli perspective. Beirut has more in common with Tel Aviv than with any Arabic city in the world. That recognition, so to speak, is sometimes reciprocated. Some of my Beiruti friends are fascinated by Tel Aviv and how it is, in many ways, a Hebrew-speaking sister city of theirs.

Iran’s Khomeinist government — and, by extension, its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon — really does, by comparison, seem as though it’s from another planet. Everyone I know who has been to Iran lately, however, says the country is totally different at street level — where real life is lived and culture is shaped. I believe them, and I believed them before millions of Iranians screamed “death to the dictator” from the rooftops last year.

Take a look at the music video by Blurred Vision, an Iranian exile band based in Toronto. The song is a remake of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, updated and changed ever so slightly to apply to Iran in 2010 rather than to Britain in the 1970s. A culture that produces this is perfectly recognizable. And it’s hard to imagine anything like it emerging from any other country in the region aside from Lebanon.

It’s an electrifying piece of music video art, especially the scene at the end where a Persian woman steps into the light and removes her state-mandated head covering. And the scenes where Iranians battle it out in the street with state-security thugs weren’t shot on a film set in Canada. They’re real and were shot in Tehran.

Perhaps the Middle East hasn’t yet made me sufficiently pessimistic, but I strongly doubt that a radical Islamist regime can rule indefinitely over the kinds of people who produce this sort of thing. When, for example, Palestinians flee Gaza and make these kinds of videos, I think it will signal that something important has changed.

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Tough on Iran?

This morning, I took President Obama and his senior staff to task for expressing unwarranted optimism about the prospects of negotiations with Iran. It seems I might have been mislead by news accounts of a meeting between the president and some columnists at the White House.

Robert Kagan, one of the best analysts and historians in the foreign-policy business, was present at the meeting and writes that it was called because “the administration wanted everyone to know how tough it was being on Iran. … What was striking was the president’s sobriety about the issue,” Kagan writes, “his evident pride in the global diplomatic efforts that produced the latest resolution and his determination to pressure the Tehran regime as much as possible.”

That wasn’t the message that go out, however. As Kagan explains:

[Obama] did make clear that the door was, of course, open to the Iranians to change their minds, that sanctions did not preclude diplomacy and engagement, and that if the Iranians ever decide they wanted to “behave responsibly” by complying with the demands of the international community, then the United States was prepared to welcome them.

It is here that this very straightforward briefing took a bizarre and amusing turn. Some of the journalists present, upon hearing the president’s last point about the door still being open to Iran, decided that he was signaling a brand-new diplomatic initiative. They started peppering Obama with questions to ferret out exactly what “new” diplomatic actions he was talking about and, after the president left, they continued probing the senior officials. This put the officials in an awkward position: They didn’t want to say flat out that the administration was not pursuing a new diplomatic initiative because this might suggest that the administration was not interested in diplomacy at all. But they made perfectly clear — in a half-dozen artful formulations — that, no, there was no new diplomatic initiative in the offing.

So it seems the president and his top aides have learned something in the past year and a half about the futility of reaching out to the Iranians. I apologize for mischaracterizing their views. But I still remain highly skeptical that the sanctions they’ve pushed through will cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. I am still concerned that the administration has not done enough to help the Green Movement and that it has done too much to take the military option of the table, thereby removing our best leverage against Iran. Bottom line: the administration is still failing to stop a major threat — the Iranian nuclear program. In fairness, as I’ve said before, the Bush administration also failed to stop the Iranians. But  it is Obama who is now in office, and time is running out.

This morning, I took President Obama and his senior staff to task for expressing unwarranted optimism about the prospects of negotiations with Iran. It seems I might have been mislead by news accounts of a meeting between the president and some columnists at the White House.

Robert Kagan, one of the best analysts and historians in the foreign-policy business, was present at the meeting and writes that it was called because “the administration wanted everyone to know how tough it was being on Iran. … What was striking was the president’s sobriety about the issue,” Kagan writes, “his evident pride in the global diplomatic efforts that produced the latest resolution and his determination to pressure the Tehran regime as much as possible.”

That wasn’t the message that go out, however. As Kagan explains:

[Obama] did make clear that the door was, of course, open to the Iranians to change their minds, that sanctions did not preclude diplomacy and engagement, and that if the Iranians ever decide they wanted to “behave responsibly” by complying with the demands of the international community, then the United States was prepared to welcome them.

It is here that this very straightforward briefing took a bizarre and amusing turn. Some of the journalists present, upon hearing the president’s last point about the door still being open to Iran, decided that he was signaling a brand-new diplomatic initiative. They started peppering Obama with questions to ferret out exactly what “new” diplomatic actions he was talking about and, after the president left, they continued probing the senior officials. This put the officials in an awkward position: They didn’t want to say flat out that the administration was not pursuing a new diplomatic initiative because this might suggest that the administration was not interested in diplomacy at all. But they made perfectly clear — in a half-dozen artful formulations — that, no, there was no new diplomatic initiative in the offing.

So it seems the president and his top aides have learned something in the past year and a half about the futility of reaching out to the Iranians. I apologize for mischaracterizing their views. But I still remain highly skeptical that the sanctions they’ve pushed through will cause Iran to give up its nuclear program. I am still concerned that the administration has not done enough to help the Green Movement and that it has done too much to take the military option of the table, thereby removing our best leverage against Iran. Bottom line: the administration is still failing to stop a major threat — the Iranian nuclear program. In fairness, as I’ve said before, the Bush administration also failed to stop the Iranians. But  it is Obama who is now in office, and time is running out.

Read Less




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