Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tehran

Israel Needs to Face Facts About Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stone’s Apologies Don’t Erase Link Between the Left and Anti-Semitism

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Read Less

New Iran Sanctions Don’t Change the Equation

The announcement of what the European Union calls its “toughest sanctions ever” enacted against Iran is certainly a sign that momentum is building for a serious response to Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons. The measure, which makes trade and financial dealings with the West more difficult, appears to exceed the watered-down sanctions package passed by the United Nations Security Council in June but falls short of the July 1 announcement by President Obama banning the sale of gasoline to Iran as well as tightening banking restrictions. Seen in conjunction with the UN and American announcements, one might think that the diplomatic tide is turning against Iran.

Taken out of the context of years of attempted appeasement of Iran and of European failure to prioritize stopping the Islamist regime’s nuclear project, one might be very much encouraged by a program that targets the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and individuals and companies that are connected to it. Indeed, if the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government had not spent the last few years laughing at Western sanctions, tightening the regime’s iron grip on the country, and showing how little it cared about the piecemeal efforts to restrain its ambitions, it might seem as if Iran was being backed into a corner and that a genuine international consensus now exists that an Iranian bomb must not be allowed to come into existence.

But we can’t ignore the context of the last few years: the Bush administration punted on a tough response to Iran (and outsourced diplomacy on the issue to the Europeans); and the Obama administration followed with a year of attempted appeasement that went under the rubric of “engagement.” It is true that Obama now seems to understand that “engagement” had an effect opposite of what he intended: encouraging the Iranians to push harder for nukes and to crack down on dissidents rather than to embrace the chance for good relations. But after years of failure, all these sanctions packages may still be too little and too late. It’s not just that we don’t know how close the Iranians are to actually achieving nuclear capability. Whether they are only months or a year or two away from a bomb or, as the optimists among us would have it, several years away from an actual weapon, the legacy of a generation of Western appeasement and apathy may have engendered a belief in Tehran that everything Iran hears from the West is merely politically inspired noise that can be ignored with impunity as its lethal threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East gets closer to reality.

Even worse would be if Iran believes that these sanctions packages are primarily a Western effort to prevent Israel from unilateral military action. Given the fact that many in the West have often acted as if the possibility of using force against Iran poses a greater danger than the Iranian nuke itself, this is a not an unreasonable interpretation of events. In the meantime, increased sanctions notwithstanding, there is little reason to think Iran is deterred or seriously considering changing its plans or behavior.

The announcement of what the European Union calls its “toughest sanctions ever” enacted against Iran is certainly a sign that momentum is building for a serious response to Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons. The measure, which makes trade and financial dealings with the West more difficult, appears to exceed the watered-down sanctions package passed by the United Nations Security Council in June but falls short of the July 1 announcement by President Obama banning the sale of gasoline to Iran as well as tightening banking restrictions. Seen in conjunction with the UN and American announcements, one might think that the diplomatic tide is turning against Iran.

Taken out of the context of years of attempted appeasement of Iran and of European failure to prioritize stopping the Islamist regime’s nuclear project, one might be very much encouraged by a program that targets the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and individuals and companies that are connected to it. Indeed, if the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad government had not spent the last few years laughing at Western sanctions, tightening the regime’s iron grip on the country, and showing how little it cared about the piecemeal efforts to restrain its ambitions, it might seem as if Iran was being backed into a corner and that a genuine international consensus now exists that an Iranian bomb must not be allowed to come into existence.

But we can’t ignore the context of the last few years: the Bush administration punted on a tough response to Iran (and outsourced diplomacy on the issue to the Europeans); and the Obama administration followed with a year of attempted appeasement that went under the rubric of “engagement.” It is true that Obama now seems to understand that “engagement” had an effect opposite of what he intended: encouraging the Iranians to push harder for nukes and to crack down on dissidents rather than to embrace the chance for good relations. But after years of failure, all these sanctions packages may still be too little and too late. It’s not just that we don’t know how close the Iranians are to actually achieving nuclear capability. Whether they are only months or a year or two away from a bomb or, as the optimists among us would have it, several years away from an actual weapon, the legacy of a generation of Western appeasement and apathy may have engendered a belief in Tehran that everything Iran hears from the West is merely politically inspired noise that can be ignored with impunity as its lethal threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East gets closer to reality.

Even worse would be if Iran believes that these sanctions packages are primarily a Western effort to prevent Israel from unilateral military action. Given the fact that many in the West have often acted as if the possibility of using force against Iran poses a greater danger than the Iranian nuke itself, this is a not an unreasonable interpretation of events. In the meantime, increased sanctions notwithstanding, there is little reason to think Iran is deterred or seriously considering changing its plans or behavior.

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Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Think Tanks Speak Out

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

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Time to Focus on What Matters

John Bolton has his eye on the ball and some practical advice for those who perceive that Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is a failure:

As Tehran and Pyongyang can plainly see, President Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is intellectually and politically exhausted. But U.S. exhaustion will not lead to stasis. North Korea and Iran will continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs in the face of our feeble policy.

What can be done? Bolton suggests that lawmakers and opinion makers “must demand increased intelligence collection on the North Korea-Iran connection. Where possible without compromising sources and methods, this information should be disseminated to increase public awareness.” Perhaps even more important, Bolton recommends:

Slowly, but now with increasing certainty, analysts have come to understand that Iran is going to become a nuclear-weapons state sooner rather than later. Arab states have understood this for some time and have hoped for a pre-emptive U.S. strike. But that will not happen under Mr. Obama absent a Damascene conversion in the Oval Office.

What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran’s Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets. Congress can make it clear, for example, that it would support immediate resupply and rearming to make up for Israeli losses in the event of such an attack. Having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.

What is remarkable is that virtually no lawmaker or Jewish organization to date has done this — not remotely. They have, by and large, marched in lockstep with the administration, holding out hope in the face of abundant contrary evidence that engagement and then sanctions were serious attempts to dismantle the nuclear program, and if push came to shove that “all options would be on the table.” But engagement was a failure, Obama missed an opportunity to back the Green movement, sanctions are too little, too late, and Obama shows no interest in the use of military force.

It would be tragic if Obama abdicated his role as leader of the Free World to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans. The blow to American stature and credibility after the “unacceptable” was allowed to happen on his watch would be immense. But it would be catastrophic if Obama hindered Israel in the event the Jewish state acted in its own defense. Israel’s friends should begin now, not a month or a year from now, to make clear to the White House that Obama will find no support in Congress, among American Jewry, and in the entire country (which remains pro-Israel) for anything less than unqualified and unconditional support for Israel should force be required.

The Jewish community has gotten distracted by the “peace process.” It’s not only futile — it’s a dangerous sideshow that has allowed the administration to escape criticism for an entirely ineffective Iran policy. What matters now — and should be fully debated in the election — is what America will do to defuse the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state. Yes, it is an emergency.

John Bolton has his eye on the ball and some practical advice for those who perceive that Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is a failure:

As Tehran and Pyongyang can plainly see, President Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is intellectually and politically exhausted. But U.S. exhaustion will not lead to stasis. North Korea and Iran will continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs in the face of our feeble policy.

What can be done? Bolton suggests that lawmakers and opinion makers “must demand increased intelligence collection on the North Korea-Iran connection. Where possible without compromising sources and methods, this information should be disseminated to increase public awareness.” Perhaps even more important, Bolton recommends:

Slowly, but now with increasing certainty, analysts have come to understand that Iran is going to become a nuclear-weapons state sooner rather than later. Arab states have understood this for some time and have hoped for a pre-emptive U.S. strike. But that will not happen under Mr. Obama absent a Damascene conversion in the Oval Office.

What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran’s Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets. Congress can make it clear, for example, that it would support immediate resupply and rearming to make up for Israeli losses in the event of such an attack. Having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.

What is remarkable is that virtually no lawmaker or Jewish organization to date has done this — not remotely. They have, by and large, marched in lockstep with the administration, holding out hope in the face of abundant contrary evidence that engagement and then sanctions were serious attempts to dismantle the nuclear program, and if push came to shove that “all options would be on the table.” But engagement was a failure, Obama missed an opportunity to back the Green movement, sanctions are too little, too late, and Obama shows no interest in the use of military force.

It would be tragic if Obama abdicated his role as leader of the Free World to thwart Iran’s nuclear plans. The blow to American stature and credibility after the “unacceptable” was allowed to happen on his watch would be immense. But it would be catastrophic if Obama hindered Israel in the event the Jewish state acted in its own defense. Israel’s friends should begin now, not a month or a year from now, to make clear to the White House that Obama will find no support in Congress, among American Jewry, and in the entire country (which remains pro-Israel) for anything less than unqualified and unconditional support for Israel should force be required.

The Jewish community has gotten distracted by the “peace process.” It’s not only futile — it’s a dangerous sideshow that has allowed the administration to escape criticism for an entirely ineffective Iran policy. What matters now — and should be fully debated in the election — is what America will do to defuse the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state. Yes, it is an emergency.

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Obama’s Faulty Middle East Vision

Lee Smith has a two-part series featuring different takes on the Middle East. I previously highlighted Elliott Abrams’s concise summary in part one of Obama’s multiple failings. Martin Kramer offers this insight on the region more generally:

In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.

The response in Washington is to huff and puff, imposing settlement “freezes” and “crippling” sanctions. This is the illusion of power, not its substance. The Obama Administration is bringing the United States out of the Middle East, to a position from which it believes it can “contain” threats with diplomacy, deterrence, and drones. As the United States decamps, its allies will feel insecure, its enemies emboldened. The Middle East’s stress test has begun.

It is a zero-sum game that Obama understands not at all, for his strategy — give the aggressors more respect and our ally Israel more grief — is one that will encourage our enemies. And Obama and his advisers have missed the importance of the Iranian Green movement. Ramin Ahmadi, founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (which the Obama team defunded), observes:

The administration had looked at Iran’s democratic revolution as an inconvenience, and yet it didn’t seem wise to make concessions to an appalling regime that was falling apart. The Green Revolution is a powerful display of “people’s power,” and yet it has not toppled the regime after a full year, effectively putting all the possible rapprochement initiatives on hold. It exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime in Tehran and the lack of a cohesive Iran policy here in Washington. It took Obama some time to voice any support for the Green Revolution and when he finally did, it was too little too late.

Obama fancies himself a sort of Muslim expert, a far more informed observer of the region that was his predecessor. But it turns out that the Obama Middle East policy has been operating with ideological blinders, oblivious to the realities on the ground. You can’t practice “smart” diplomacy if you haven’t a clue what’s going on. And so America’s influence recedes, and the region becomes more dangerous and unstable.

Lee Smith has a two-part series featuring different takes on the Middle East. I previously highlighted Elliott Abrams’s concise summary in part one of Obama’s multiple failings. Martin Kramer offers this insight on the region more generally:

In the Middle East, power is a zero-sum game, domination by a benevolent hegemon creates order, and the regional balance of power is the foundation of peace. It’s the pax Americana, and while it may be stressful to uphold it, the alternative is more stressful still. And as the impression of American power wanes, we are getting a foretaste of “post-American” disorder. A struggle has begun among the middle powers—Iran, Turkey, and Israel—to fill the vacuum. Iran floods Lebanon with rockets, Turkey sends a flotilla to Gaza, Israel sends an assassination squad to Dubai—these are all the signs of an accelerating regional cold war. Each middle power seeks to demonstrate its reach, around, above, and behind the fading superpower.

The response in Washington is to huff and puff, imposing settlement “freezes” and “crippling” sanctions. This is the illusion of power, not its substance. The Obama Administration is bringing the United States out of the Middle East, to a position from which it believes it can “contain” threats with diplomacy, deterrence, and drones. As the United States decamps, its allies will feel insecure, its enemies emboldened. The Middle East’s stress test has begun.

It is a zero-sum game that Obama understands not at all, for his strategy — give the aggressors more respect and our ally Israel more grief — is one that will encourage our enemies. And Obama and his advisers have missed the importance of the Iranian Green movement. Ramin Ahmadi, founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (which the Obama team defunded), observes:

The administration had looked at Iran’s democratic revolution as an inconvenience, and yet it didn’t seem wise to make concessions to an appalling regime that was falling apart. The Green Revolution is a powerful display of “people’s power,” and yet it has not toppled the regime after a full year, effectively putting all the possible rapprochement initiatives on hold. It exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime in Tehran and the lack of a cohesive Iran policy here in Washington. It took Obama some time to voice any support for the Green Revolution and when he finally did, it was too little too late.

Obama fancies himself a sort of Muslim expert, a far more informed observer of the region that was his predecessor. But it turns out that the Obama Middle East policy has been operating with ideological blinders, oblivious to the realities on the ground. You can’t practice “smart” diplomacy if you haven’t a clue what’s going on. And so America’s influence recedes, and the region becomes more dangerous and unstable.

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Iran Arms Syria

Obama’s efforts to engage Syria continue to produce evidence that Syria wants not to be engaged by us, but to move ever closer to the rising power in the region — Iran. This report explains:

Iran has sent Syria a sophisticated radar system that could threaten Israel’s ability to launch a surprise attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, say Israeli and U.S. officials, extending an alliance aimed at undermining Israel’s military dominance in the region.

The radar could bolster Syria’s defenses by providing early warning of Israeli air-force sorties. It could also benefit Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group based in Lebanon and widely believed to receive arms from Syria. …

The increased sophistication of the weapons transfers and military cooperation among [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] signal an increased risk of conflict on Israeli’s northern border. U.S. officials worry any new fighting would be more likely to include Syria, which hasn’t directly engaged Israeli in combat since 1974.

The radar transfer could potentially violate a 2007 United Nations Security Council resolution that bans Iran from supplying, selling or transferring “any arms or related materiel.”

You will recall that Syria has already tested our resolve and found it wanting when it comes to rearming Hezbollah — also in violation of the UN resolution. So Syria and its senior partner continue to exploit American weakness and Obama’s overeagerness for engagement. The Syria-Iran-Turkey alliance has figured out there is no price to be paid for threatening Israel.

The recent frolic in Damascus now looks even more absurd:

The radar report is likely to place greater pressure on the Syria strategy of the Obama administration, which has aimed to tamp down tensions with Syria as it tries to rebuild diplomatic ties. U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sent a high-level trade delegation to Damascus in June, continue to argue that Washington has the best hope of altering Syrian President Bashar Assad’s behavior, and weakening his alliance with Tehran, through diplomatic dialogue.

At some point will the Obami concede that the effort to “pry” Syria away from Iran with concessions and obsequiousness is a failure? Hard to say — no facts to date have made any impression on them.

Obama’s efforts to engage Syria continue to produce evidence that Syria wants not to be engaged by us, but to move ever closer to the rising power in the region — Iran. This report explains:

Iran has sent Syria a sophisticated radar system that could threaten Israel’s ability to launch a surprise attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, say Israeli and U.S. officials, extending an alliance aimed at undermining Israel’s military dominance in the region.

The radar could bolster Syria’s defenses by providing early warning of Israeli air-force sorties. It could also benefit Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militant group based in Lebanon and widely believed to receive arms from Syria. …

The increased sophistication of the weapons transfers and military cooperation among [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] signal an increased risk of conflict on Israeli’s northern border. U.S. officials worry any new fighting would be more likely to include Syria, which hasn’t directly engaged Israeli in combat since 1974.

The radar transfer could potentially violate a 2007 United Nations Security Council resolution that bans Iran from supplying, selling or transferring “any arms or related materiel.”

You will recall that Syria has already tested our resolve and found it wanting when it comes to rearming Hezbollah — also in violation of the UN resolution. So Syria and its senior partner continue to exploit American weakness and Obama’s overeagerness for engagement. The Syria-Iran-Turkey alliance has figured out there is no price to be paid for threatening Israel.

The recent frolic in Damascus now looks even more absurd:

The radar report is likely to place greater pressure on the Syria strategy of the Obama administration, which has aimed to tamp down tensions with Syria as it tries to rebuild diplomatic ties. U.S. officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who sent a high-level trade delegation to Damascus in June, continue to argue that Washington has the best hope of altering Syrian President Bashar Assad’s behavior, and weakening his alliance with Tehran, through diplomatic dialogue.

At some point will the Obami concede that the effort to “pry” Syria away from Iran with concessions and obsequiousness is a failure? Hard to say — no facts to date have made any impression on them.

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The Real Victims of Unions’ Anti-Israel Boycotts

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

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Frolicking with Despots

This report confirms many of the worst qualities of the Obama foreign team brain trust — unprofessional, oblivious, juvenile, and shockingly insensitive. It seems Special Adviser on Innovation Alec J. Ross and Policy Planning staffer Jared Cohen, two of the State Department’s best and brightest, are yucking it up in Syria. No, really:

For example, according to Ross, on Tuesday Cohen challenged the Syrian Minister of Telecom to a cake-eating contest and called it “Creative Diplomacy.” Match that, Tehran! Ross and Cohen both tweeted about their trip to the Tonino Lamborghini Caffe Lounge in Damascus, but while Ross was “amused” by the place, Cohen wants his 300,000-plus tweeps to know that “I’m not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappacino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus.” Good to know! …

In between drinking frappuccinos and touring such places as the Souk al-Hamadiye, the famous covered marketplace in Damascus, Cohen and Ross did find time to hold substantive meetings with Syrian students, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, government officials, and Assad himself.

The students complained that the Syrian government blocked Google, Tashkil, Facebook, YouTube, etc., according to Cohen. Apparently they don’t block Twitter. …

Ross explained that the trip is not just about engaging Assad. “This trip to Syria will test Syria’s willingness to engage more responsibly on issues of netfreedom,” he tweeted.

Is it any wonder despots think they’re getting a free pass from Obama? There certainly is reason for their oppressed and brutalized people to despair.

This report confirms many of the worst qualities of the Obama foreign team brain trust — unprofessional, oblivious, juvenile, and shockingly insensitive. It seems Special Adviser on Innovation Alec J. Ross and Policy Planning staffer Jared Cohen, two of the State Department’s best and brightest, are yucking it up in Syria. No, really:

For example, according to Ross, on Tuesday Cohen challenged the Syrian Minister of Telecom to a cake-eating contest and called it “Creative Diplomacy.” Match that, Tehran! Ross and Cohen both tweeted about their trip to the Tonino Lamborghini Caffe Lounge in Damascus, but while Ross was “amused” by the place, Cohen wants his 300,000-plus tweeps to know that “I’m not kidding when I say I just had the greatest frappacino ever at Kalamoun University north of Damascus.” Good to know! …

In between drinking frappuccinos and touring such places as the Souk al-Hamadiye, the famous covered marketplace in Damascus, Cohen and Ross did find time to hold substantive meetings with Syrian students, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, government officials, and Assad himself.

The students complained that the Syrian government blocked Google, Tashkil, Facebook, YouTube, etc., according to Cohen. Apparently they don’t block Twitter. …

Ross explained that the trip is not just about engaging Assad. “This trip to Syria will test Syria’s willingness to engage more responsibly on issues of netfreedom,” he tweeted.

Is it any wonder despots think they’re getting a free pass from Obama? There certainly is reason for their oppressed and brutalized people to despair.

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Flotilla Thriller

This summer promises events that will thoroughly eclipse the diplomatic flurry over the recent Gaza flotilla. What few would have expected is the maritime character of the drama to which we have to look forward. And in a manner reminiscent of some seemingly minor operational decisions during the Cold War, Obama’s response to the challenge will be the most important security signal sent by his administration to date.

The distant drumbeat of the impending climax has been sounding for some time; Iran and Hezbollah have repeatedly threatened shipping in, respectively, the Strait of Hormuz and the waters off Lebanon and Israel, near the northern approach to the Suez Canal. Hezbollah’s most recent threat was issued in May, shortly before the deadly flotilla incident. Both Iran and Hezbollah are actively preparing to make good on their threats. This is not a theoretical menace. A complacent dismissal of their activities would be very dangerous.

Moreover, they are about to get help from — and take direct advantage of — the chaotic maritime situation brewing with the follow-on flotillas now in planning. Avram Rimon at Examiner.com had a good summary of them this weekend: they include a Gaza flotilla sponsored by German Jews; a counter-flotilla of Israelis hoping to bring aid to Cyprus, the Turkish Kurds, and Armenia (the latter under a Turkish blockade for more than 16 years); the Turkish flotilla for which Tayyip Erdogan has promised his own presence and a naval escort; and the flotilla being mounted by Iran, which is scheduled to leave Iran for Gaza on June 18.

The U.S. can do one of two things about these proliferating flotillas. We can organize NATO overtly to monitor and control eruptions in the Eastern Mediterranean, or we can simply leave it all for Israel to handle. Doing the latter will guarantee the early involvement of Hezbollah and Hamas in enlarging the scope of this maritime challenge. A hands-off approach by the Western nations makes it more likely that the terrorists, along with Iran and Turkey, will seek to precipitate crises — which may involve innocent commercial shipping — and press situational advantages. On the other hand, a declaration that the U.S. and NATO will prevent destabilizing eruptions, accompanied by obvious readiness to impose order if necessary, would be a salutary and effective signal. None of this need be done in a bellicose manner: quiet but unyielding is the appropriate demeanor.

Turkey’s involvement in the recent flotilla should already have resulted in a moment of reckoning with its NATO allies, if only behind closed doors. The West’s lackadaisical approach to its core alliance is on borrowed time. If the impending parade of flotillas produces only disorganized posturing from NATO, while allowing Israel’s enemies to create havoc at sea and score propaganda points against Israel, the next challenge is likely to emerge almost automatically in the Persian Gulf. Iran has threatened to begin stopping ships in the Strait of Hormuz if the inspection clause of the June 9 UN sanctions is actually applied against Iran-bound cargo. Tehran’s willingness to carry through on this will depend on the U.S. posture, which governs what the Iranians think they can get away with.

A strong stance in the Eastern Mediterranean is the lowest-cost, highest-payoff method of deterring Iran from the outset. Maintaining stability at sea and control of the world’s key chokepoints is an American naval task so basic we rarely think about it, but the impact from breaches of that order is immediate and far-reaching. Doing nothing is courting crisis; we should be working to head this one off at the pass. That approach would be far less costly than reacting to a series of crises.

This summer promises events that will thoroughly eclipse the diplomatic flurry over the recent Gaza flotilla. What few would have expected is the maritime character of the drama to which we have to look forward. And in a manner reminiscent of some seemingly minor operational decisions during the Cold War, Obama’s response to the challenge will be the most important security signal sent by his administration to date.

The distant drumbeat of the impending climax has been sounding for some time; Iran and Hezbollah have repeatedly threatened shipping in, respectively, the Strait of Hormuz and the waters off Lebanon and Israel, near the northern approach to the Suez Canal. Hezbollah’s most recent threat was issued in May, shortly before the deadly flotilla incident. Both Iran and Hezbollah are actively preparing to make good on their threats. This is not a theoretical menace. A complacent dismissal of their activities would be very dangerous.

Moreover, they are about to get help from — and take direct advantage of — the chaotic maritime situation brewing with the follow-on flotillas now in planning. Avram Rimon at Examiner.com had a good summary of them this weekend: they include a Gaza flotilla sponsored by German Jews; a counter-flotilla of Israelis hoping to bring aid to Cyprus, the Turkish Kurds, and Armenia (the latter under a Turkish blockade for more than 16 years); the Turkish flotilla for which Tayyip Erdogan has promised his own presence and a naval escort; and the flotilla being mounted by Iran, which is scheduled to leave Iran for Gaza on June 18.

The U.S. can do one of two things about these proliferating flotillas. We can organize NATO overtly to monitor and control eruptions in the Eastern Mediterranean, or we can simply leave it all for Israel to handle. Doing the latter will guarantee the early involvement of Hezbollah and Hamas in enlarging the scope of this maritime challenge. A hands-off approach by the Western nations makes it more likely that the terrorists, along with Iran and Turkey, will seek to precipitate crises — which may involve innocent commercial shipping — and press situational advantages. On the other hand, a declaration that the U.S. and NATO will prevent destabilizing eruptions, accompanied by obvious readiness to impose order if necessary, would be a salutary and effective signal. None of this need be done in a bellicose manner: quiet but unyielding is the appropriate demeanor.

Turkey’s involvement in the recent flotilla should already have resulted in a moment of reckoning with its NATO allies, if only behind closed doors. The West’s lackadaisical approach to its core alliance is on borrowed time. If the impending parade of flotillas produces only disorganized posturing from NATO, while allowing Israel’s enemies to create havoc at sea and score propaganda points against Israel, the next challenge is likely to emerge almost automatically in the Persian Gulf. Iran has threatened to begin stopping ships in the Strait of Hormuz if the inspection clause of the June 9 UN sanctions is actually applied against Iran-bound cargo. Tehran’s willingness to carry through on this will depend on the U.S. posture, which governs what the Iranians think they can get away with.

A strong stance in the Eastern Mediterranean is the lowest-cost, highest-payoff method of deterring Iran from the outset. Maintaining stability at sea and control of the world’s key chokepoints is an American naval task so basic we rarely think about it, but the impact from breaches of that order is immediate and far-reaching. Doing nothing is courting crisis; we should be working to head this one off at the pass. That approach would be far less costly than reacting to a series of crises.

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Calling ‘Em Like You See ‘Em on the Middle East

James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations writes of the UN sanctions against Iran:

These are not the crippling sanctions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised about a year ago. To the contrary. As the price of their support, veto-holding members China and Russia insisted that the resolution contain nothing that would impose broad costs on the Iranian economy — or damage Chinese and Russian commercial interests in the country.

The Obama administration calculates that even a watered-down resolution will put pressure on Tehran to return to the negotiating table. The resolution shows that the Security Council’s permanent members remain united in their demand that Iran come clean on its nuclear program, makes it harder for Iran to acquire nuclear technology, and opens the door to additional sanctions by the European Union and others.

Tehran will likely read the resolution’s passage differently. The weaker-than-threatened sanctions came only after months of haggling, making the prospect of tougher sanctions down the road look remote. Moreover, Brazil and Turkey voted against new sanctions (and Lebanon abstained). No country had voted against any of the three previous resolutions.

So if a mainstream foreign-policy guru can readily reach this conclusion, why aren’t Jewish groups sounding the alarm? It’s because they have bought into a strategy — or rather refuse to give up on a strategy — which amounts to “don’t annoy those in power.” That works fine when those in power have pro-Israel instincts and a basic understanding of the history and motivations of the players in the Middle East. However, with this administration, it is counterproductive — if not disastrous — both for the course of American foreign policy and for the reputation and integrity of pro-Israel groups. The inevitable result is to ignore bad news, cheer the unacceptable, and provide cover for an administration badly in need of scrutiny.

In sum, if the CFR refuses to make excuses for the administration, why should American Jewish groups? The former is rightly concerned with maintaining its intellectual credibility; the latter should start being so.

James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations writes of the UN sanctions against Iran:

These are not the crippling sanctions that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had promised about a year ago. To the contrary. As the price of their support, veto-holding members China and Russia insisted that the resolution contain nothing that would impose broad costs on the Iranian economy — or damage Chinese and Russian commercial interests in the country.

The Obama administration calculates that even a watered-down resolution will put pressure on Tehran to return to the negotiating table. The resolution shows that the Security Council’s permanent members remain united in their demand that Iran come clean on its nuclear program, makes it harder for Iran to acquire nuclear technology, and opens the door to additional sanctions by the European Union and others.

Tehran will likely read the resolution’s passage differently. The weaker-than-threatened sanctions came only after months of haggling, making the prospect of tougher sanctions down the road look remote. Moreover, Brazil and Turkey voted against new sanctions (and Lebanon abstained). No country had voted against any of the three previous resolutions.

So if a mainstream foreign-policy guru can readily reach this conclusion, why aren’t Jewish groups sounding the alarm? It’s because they have bought into a strategy — or rather refuse to give up on a strategy — which amounts to “don’t annoy those in power.” That works fine when those in power have pro-Israel instincts and a basic understanding of the history and motivations of the players in the Middle East. However, with this administration, it is counterproductive — if not disastrous — both for the course of American foreign policy and for the reputation and integrity of pro-Israel groups. The inevitable result is to ignore bad news, cheer the unacceptable, and provide cover for an administration badly in need of scrutiny.

In sum, if the CFR refuses to make excuses for the administration, why should American Jewish groups? The former is rightly concerned with maintaining its intellectual credibility; the latter should start being so.

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Riyadh Votes No-Confidence in Iran Sanctions

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

The report that Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli jets transit its airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities indeed shows, as Jennifer noted, that progress in the “peace process” is not necessary to secure Israeli-Arab cooperation on a grave mutual threat. But it also constitutes a vote of no-confidence — by both Saudi Arabia and at least someone in the U.S. administration — in the anti-Iran sanctions that the UN Security Council approved last week.

At a time when the Muslim world is still seething over Israel’s botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, nothing could be more embarrassing for Saudi Arabia than a report that it is cooperating with the hated Zionist entity in planning an attack on another Muslim country. Under these circumstances, only one thing could motivate a Saudi official to actually confirm this cooperation to the London Times: sheer terror.

And the report’s timing — just days after U.S. President Barack Obama proclaimed the new round of toothless sanctions a great achievement, even as he openly acknowledged that they will not stop Iran’s nuclear program — makes the source of this terror clear: Saudi Arabia is now convinced that the West, in general, and Americans, in particular, will do nothing substantive to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has thus concluded that the only hope of making Tehran rethink the program’s wisdom is a credible threat of force. By agreeing to let Israeli jets transit its airspace, thus shortening the distance they would have to fly, Riyadh has greatly increased the credibility of this threat by making an Israeli strike more feasible.

The same logic applies to the U.S. The Obama administration has repeatedly and publicly trumpeted its efforts to thwart an Israeli strike; indeed, the Times reported that Washington still refuses to let Israeli jets transit Iraqi airspace, which the U.S. controls. Moreover, Obama continues to invest great efforts in outreach to the Muslim world. That a U.S. “defense source” confirmed this story to the Times and even asserted that the deal was concocted “with the agreement of the [U.S.] State Department” is deeply embarrassing to the administration, depicting it as downright hypocritical: publicly voicing full-throated opposition to an Israeli raid even as it secretly brokers a deal with Riyadh to facilitate such a raid.

And here, too, the motive is clear: at least someone in the administration has concluded that truly painful sanctions — the kind that might actually affect Tehran’s behavior — are never going to be enacted, so the only hope is a credible threat of military force.

It is, of course, encouraging to learn that both Riyadh and at least some parts of Washington still have a grasp of reality. Yet given the almost unanimous agreement among Western leaders that a military strike on Iran would be disastrous, it is deeply discouraging that they nevertheless remain incapable of mustering the will to enact the kind of sanctions that are the only alternative to such a strike — other than a nuclear Iran.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Elections have consequences: “The White House was slow to embrace the movement — so much so that protesters held up signs last year asking President Obama, ‘Are you with them or with us?’ Lately, Mr. Obama has made some stronger statements, including one on Thursday that was delivered in his name by an aide before the National Endowment for Democracy, which gave its annual award to the Green Movement. But as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointed out in a powerful speech before the group also on Thursday, the president has hesitated to ‘unleash America’s full moral power to support the Iranian people.’ Mr. Obama clings to the hope that the radical clique in Tehran will eventually agree to negotiate in good faith — ‘an assumption,’ Mr. McCain noted, that ‘seems totally at odds with the character of this Iranian regime.’”

The House Democrats have a shellacking coming their way. Realclearpolitics shows 201 “safe” or “leans Democratic” seats for Nancy Pelosi and company, 199 “safe” or “leans Republican” for the GOP, and 35 toss-ups.

Labor bosses have nothing to show — first, for their expensive efforts on card check, and now, in the Arkansas Democratic primary. On the latter, Chris Cillizza writes: “Organized labor, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.” When do you think union members will insist their hard-earned dollars not be wasted on these political larks?

The EU countries have every reason to go after Israel if the U.S. isn’t standing up for the Jewish state: “Spain will propose the European Union exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, the country’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday. The Spanish prime minister said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Spain wants to ‘forge a strong common position’ with EU countries in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Republican establishment types have none of the influence of Sarah Palin in a GOP primary: “[Nikki] Haley’s attacks on the party caught Palin’s attention last summer. A fan sent Palin a YouTube clip of the candidate speaking at a July 4 tea party rally. ‘Who is that?’ Palin asked, according to a Haley adviser. ‘I want to help her.’ Palin kept an eye on Haley’s progress and then flew last month to Columbia, where she appeared on the steps of the Capitol with Haley and gave the candidate her blessing. … Palin’s endorsement worked: Haley’s poll numbers jumped.”

We have a means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “Some in Washington seem resigned to letting Israel take action. But a U.S. failure to act in response to what is perhaps the greatest threat to American interests in decades would be irresponsible. Israel, moreover, lacks our full capabilities to do the job. Despite our global commitments and our engagement in two ongoing wars, the U.S. military is fully able to carry out such a mission. Indeed, the success of President Bush’s 2007 surge of forces into Iraq and of President Obama’s sending additional resources to Afghanistan means we are on better footing to deal with Iran’s nuclear program than we were a few years ago.” What we don’t have is a president with the will to do it.

The mainstream news outlets have standards, unlike the blogospheric riffraff, they keep telling us. From its own ombudsman: “Too often it seems The [Washington] Post grants anonymity at the drop of a hat. … By casually agreeing to conceal the identities of those who provide non-critical information, the Post erodes its credibility and perpetuates Washington’s insidious culture of anonymity.”

Elections have consequences: “The White House was slow to embrace the movement — so much so that protesters held up signs last year asking President Obama, ‘Are you with them or with us?’ Lately, Mr. Obama has made some stronger statements, including one on Thursday that was delivered in his name by an aide before the National Endowment for Democracy, which gave its annual award to the Green Movement. But as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pointed out in a powerful speech before the group also on Thursday, the president has hesitated to ‘unleash America’s full moral power to support the Iranian people.’ Mr. Obama clings to the hope that the radical clique in Tehran will eventually agree to negotiate in good faith — ‘an assumption,’ Mr. McCain noted, that ‘seems totally at odds with the character of this Iranian regime.’”

The House Democrats have a shellacking coming their way. Realclearpolitics shows 201 “safe” or “leans Democratic” seats for Nancy Pelosi and company, 199 “safe” or “leans Republican” for the GOP, and 35 toss-ups.

Labor bosses have nothing to show — first, for their expensive efforts on card check, and now, in the Arkansas Democratic primary. On the latter, Chris Cillizza writes: “Organized labor, you had the Worst Week in Washington. Congrats, or something.” When do you think union members will insist their hard-earned dollars not be wasted on these political larks?

The EU countries have every reason to go after Israel if the U.S. isn’t standing up for the Jewish state: “Spain will propose the European Union exert strong diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip, the country’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday. The Spanish prime minister said at a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Spain wants to ‘forge a strong common position’ with EU countries in the face of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Republican establishment types have none of the influence of Sarah Palin in a GOP primary: “[Nikki] Haley’s attacks on the party caught Palin’s attention last summer. A fan sent Palin a YouTube clip of the candidate speaking at a July 4 tea party rally. ‘Who is that?’ Palin asked, according to a Haley adviser. ‘I want to help her.’ Palin kept an eye on Haley’s progress and then flew last month to Columbia, where she appeared on the steps of the Capitol with Haley and gave the candidate her blessing. … Palin’s endorsement worked: Haley’s poll numbers jumped.”

We have a means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions: “Some in Washington seem resigned to letting Israel take action. But a U.S. failure to act in response to what is perhaps the greatest threat to American interests in decades would be irresponsible. Israel, moreover, lacks our full capabilities to do the job. Despite our global commitments and our engagement in two ongoing wars, the U.S. military is fully able to carry out such a mission. Indeed, the success of President Bush’s 2007 surge of forces into Iraq and of President Obama’s sending additional resources to Afghanistan means we are on better footing to deal with Iran’s nuclear program than we were a few years ago.” What we don’t have is a president with the will to do it.

The mainstream news outlets have standards, unlike the blogospheric riffraff, they keep telling us. From its own ombudsman: “Too often it seems The [Washington] Post grants anonymity at the drop of a hat. … By casually agreeing to conceal the identities of those who provide non-critical information, the Post erodes its credibility and perpetuates Washington’s insidious culture of anonymity.”

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Saudis Show “Linkage” Is a Farce

From the UK, the Times reports on Saudi Arabia:

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert. …

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.

Frankly, this is a more effective deterrent on the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions than anything Obama has done in eighteen months. And it proves how utterly false is Obama’s premise that progress on the “peace process” is required to gain the Arab states’ co-operation on Iran. Imagine if we had spent the last 18 months rounding up support from the Arab states on a shared defense pact, demonstrating America’s full support of Israel and making clear that the military option is perfectly viable. Instead, we have a tenser Middle East, a withering U.S.-Israel alliance, and an emboldened Iran. It is the greatest foreign-policy miscalculation in memory.

From the UK, the Times reports on Saudi Arabia:

In the week that the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Tehran, defence sources in the Gulf say that Riyadh has agreed to allow Israel to use a narrow corridor of its airspace in the north of the country to shorten the distance for a bombing run on Iran.

To ensure the Israeli bombers pass unmolested, Riyadh has carried out tests to make certain its own jets are not scrambled and missile defence systems not activated. Once the Israelis are through, the kingdom’s air defences will return to full alert. …

Sources in Saudi Arabia say it is common knowledge within defence circles in the kingdom that an arrangement is in place if Israel decides to launch the raid. Despite the tension between the two governments, they share a mutual loathing of the regime in Tehran and a common fear of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “We all know this. We will let them [the Israelis] through and see nothing,” said one.

Frankly, this is a more effective deterrent on the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions than anything Obama has done in eighteen months. And it proves how utterly false is Obama’s premise that progress on the “peace process” is required to gain the Arab states’ co-operation on Iran. Imagine if we had spent the last 18 months rounding up support from the Arab states on a shared defense pact, demonstrating America’s full support of Israel and making clear that the military option is perfectly viable. Instead, we have a tenser Middle East, a withering U.S.-Israel alliance, and an emboldened Iran. It is the greatest foreign-policy miscalculation in memory.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Now anti-Israel venom is even featured on sports talk. ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone (with an assist from Israel-hater Desmond Tutu) calls for a sports boycott of Israel: “In the wake of widespread international condemnation of Israel’s botched commando raid last week that killed nine people on a humanitarian aid flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip — where Palestinians live under what Nobel-prize winning South African Bishop Desmond Tutu … once said is Israel’s apartheid-like thumb — could it not be time for sport to illuminate Israel’s deadly occupation of Palestinians?” (h/t New Ledger)

Now, as Cliff May reminds us, Jew-hatred is quite fashionable elsewhere: “The fever of anti-Israelism seems to be rising too fast to be reduced by the cold compress of truth. Jew-hatred is increasingly acceptable, even fashionable, not just in the Middle East but in Europe and in some of America’s finer salons — and journals and blogs. And now, apparently, interest in a ‘final solution’ — to borrow Hitler’s apt phrase — is emerging as well. Helen Thomas’s sudden retirement is unlikely to significantly slow that trend. The quaint idea that, having learned the lessons of the Holocaust, civilized people would ‘never again’ tolerate genocide has become a cruel joke — one repeated in Cambodia, Kurdistan, Rwanda, the Balkans, Darfur, and beyond. Radical anti-Semites of the 20th century had a goal: the extermination of Europe’s Jews. Radical anti-Semites of the 21st century also have a goal: the extermination of the Middle East’s Jewish state.”

Now Obama’s ineffectiveness is so apparent that Joe Biden has become the administration’s principal spokesman.

Now the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers come with a warning label. A small publishing company slaps this on a volume of the documents: “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.” Any such parent needs a warning label.

Now Rand Paul is annoying libertarians. But good to know he thinks “there are times when we have to go in and prevent, at times, people that are organizing to attack us.”

Now we have the quintessential un-Obama : “[Chris]Christie has already put the state on a tough new fiscal regimen and set it on course toward being solvent once again. Refusing to raise taxes, he’s challenged the entrenched, vested interests and has dared to take on the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers union. And now he’s out to enact a constitutional amendment creating a 2.5 percent cap on property tax increases. Through it all, he seems remarkably willing to take the flak that’s inevitably come his way. At town meetings across the state he tells crowds: ‘I think I know why you elected me. I know you didn’t elect me for my matinee idol looks or my charm. So, I’m trying to do what you elected me to do.’”

Now all those “Harry Reid bounces back” headlines will have to be rewritten: “Sharron Angle, following her come-from-behind Republican Primary win Tuesday, has bounced to an 11-point lead over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada’s closely-watched U.S. Senate race.”

Now, if we only had a president who believed this: “It’s not just that the Israelis are being held to a different — and immeasurably higher — standard than the rest of humanity. Israel is now being judged in the absence of any objective standard whatsoever. As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, it seems that Israel is now ‘guilty until proven guilty.’ Sadly, it is no surprise to see angry mobs on the streets of Tehran or London calling for Jewish blood. It seems that we now must accustom ourselves to similar scenes playing out in Istanbul as well. Yet what is far more troubling is that we are now hearing these critiques being echoed right here in the United States.”

Now anti-Israel venom is even featured on sports talk. ESPN’s Kevin Blackistone (with an assist from Israel-hater Desmond Tutu) calls for a sports boycott of Israel: “In the wake of widespread international condemnation of Israel’s botched commando raid last week that killed nine people on a humanitarian aid flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip — where Palestinians live under what Nobel-prize winning South African Bishop Desmond Tutu … once said is Israel’s apartheid-like thumb — could it not be time for sport to illuminate Israel’s deadly occupation of Palestinians?” (h/t New Ledger)

Now, as Cliff May reminds us, Jew-hatred is quite fashionable elsewhere: “The fever of anti-Israelism seems to be rising too fast to be reduced by the cold compress of truth. Jew-hatred is increasingly acceptable, even fashionable, not just in the Middle East but in Europe and in some of America’s finer salons — and journals and blogs. And now, apparently, interest in a ‘final solution’ — to borrow Hitler’s apt phrase — is emerging as well. Helen Thomas’s sudden retirement is unlikely to significantly slow that trend. The quaint idea that, having learned the lessons of the Holocaust, civilized people would ‘never again’ tolerate genocide has become a cruel joke — one repeated in Cambodia, Kurdistan, Rwanda, the Balkans, Darfur, and beyond. Radical anti-Semites of the 20th century had a goal: the extermination of Europe’s Jews. Radical anti-Semites of the 21st century also have a goal: the extermination of the Middle East’s Jewish state.”

Now Obama’s ineffectiveness is so apparent that Joe Biden has become the administration’s principal spokesman.

Now the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers come with a warning label. A small publishing company slaps this on a volume of the documents: “This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work.” Any such parent needs a warning label.

Now Rand Paul is annoying libertarians. But good to know he thinks “there are times when we have to go in and prevent, at times, people that are organizing to attack us.”

Now we have the quintessential un-Obama : “[Chris]Christie has already put the state on a tough new fiscal regimen and set it on course toward being solvent once again. Refusing to raise taxes, he’s challenged the entrenched, vested interests and has dared to take on the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s powerful teachers union. And now he’s out to enact a constitutional amendment creating a 2.5 percent cap on property tax increases. Through it all, he seems remarkably willing to take the flak that’s inevitably come his way. At town meetings across the state he tells crowds: ‘I think I know why you elected me. I know you didn’t elect me for my matinee idol looks or my charm. So, I’m trying to do what you elected me to do.’”

Now all those “Harry Reid bounces back” headlines will have to be rewritten: “Sharron Angle, following her come-from-behind Republican Primary win Tuesday, has bounced to an 11-point lead over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada’s closely-watched U.S. Senate race.”

Now, if we only had a president who believed this: “It’s not just that the Israelis are being held to a different — and immeasurably higher — standard than the rest of humanity. Israel is now being judged in the absence of any objective standard whatsoever. As Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, it seems that Israel is now ‘guilty until proven guilty.’ Sadly, it is no surprise to see angry mobs on the streets of Tehran or London calling for Jewish blood. It seems that we now must accustom ourselves to similar scenes playing out in Istanbul as well. Yet what is far more troubling is that we are now hearing these critiques being echoed right here in the United States.”

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Russia’s Not Going to Renege on a Deal

A reader sends this report:

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Moscow is not obliged to freeze a deal to deliver the S-300 missile defense system to Iran under the newly imposed UN sanctions. Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Thursday that the deal is not referenced in the fourth round of UN sanctions imposed against Tehran which mainly target financial and military sectors. He stopped short of dismissing an earlier report by the Interfax news agency, which cited a Russian arms industry source as saying that Moscow is planning to renege on aits unfulfilled contract to sell the S-300 system to Iran.

It seems critical to Putin that Russia maintains its credibility. (“Tehran’s Ambassador to Moscow Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi cautioned Russia over the S-300 deal, stressing that the country would lose ‘all its credibility as a reliable arms supplier’ if it failed to deliver the defense system.”) After all, if you show yourself to be unreliable, turn your back on allies, say one thing in public and another in private, what have you got?

A reader sends this report:

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Moscow is not obliged to freeze a deal to deliver the S-300 missile defense system to Iran under the newly imposed UN sanctions. Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said Thursday that the deal is not referenced in the fourth round of UN sanctions imposed against Tehran which mainly target financial and military sectors. He stopped short of dismissing an earlier report by the Interfax news agency, which cited a Russian arms industry source as saying that Moscow is planning to renege on aits unfulfilled contract to sell the S-300 system to Iran.

It seems critical to Putin that Russia maintains its credibility. (“Tehran’s Ambassador to Moscow Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi cautioned Russia over the S-300 deal, stressing that the country would lose ‘all its credibility as a reliable arms supplier’ if it failed to deliver the defense system.”) After all, if you show yourself to be unreliable, turn your back on allies, say one thing in public and another in private, what have you got?

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Reaction to UN Sanctions

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

Various lawmakers and groups  are weighing in on passage of the pitifully ineffective UN sanctions to which Brazil and Turkey refused to agree. Eric Cantor’s statement is among the better ones:

After months of delay and foot-dragging only bought time for Iran to advance its nuclear program, it is encouraging that the United Nations finally mustered the will to act. While the sanctions are a step in the right direction, they represent the lowest common denominator and are too weak to bring about a change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Moving forward, these sanctions must serve as a floor — not as a ceiling. It’s now time for Congress to swiftly pass sanctions legislation with real teeth, and President Obama must follow suit by imposing these sanctions upon the Iranian regime. We encourage our EU allies as well as Russia and China to follow our lead by passing stronger sanctions on the Iranian regime before it is too late.

And it might be helpful to point out that for all our bowing and scraping before Russia and China, we got a UN sanctions agreement that is unlikely to do anything other than stem the calls for military action.

But the best assessment so far comes from Senate candidate Dan Coats:

The sanctions resolution passed today is too little, too late. Proactive measures such as this should have been taken years ago. Instead, with no real incentive for the Iranians to comply, we have only bought them more time to develop a nuclear weapon which they could potentially achieve yet this year. While we have been flailing away with a combination of diplomacy and weak sanctions, Iran’s centrifuges have been rapidly spinning. Real meaningful comprehensive steps must be taken immediately to address this growing threat. Iran has already ignored three sanctions — I don’t see why the fourth will make any difference.

But alas, AIPAC is cheering wildly. (“AIPAC strongly applauds today’s U.N. Security Council passage of new sanctions against Iran –  the sixth Security Council resolution demanding that Tehran immediately suspend all nuclear work and open up to full inspection. We commend the Obama administration’s strong leadership effort to secure passage of this important measure.”) AIPAC also calls for more sanctions, but it’s ludicrous to claim, “This latest Security Council action provides yet another indication of Iran’s deepening isolation.” Even the Washington Post knows this is laughable.

It’s time for Congress to man up: pass those exacting sanctions with no carve-outs. And as candidates, it’s time to distinguish the Obama cheerleaders (Great job on sanctions!) from the savvy observers.

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New Sanctions Give Iran Nothing to Worry About

Now that the United Nations Security Council has passed a new round of sanctions against Iran, we can expect a degree of self-congratulation from the Obama administration, which has been working toward this goal for many months. But it is no secret that the package passed by a vote of 12-to-2 with one abstention (Brazil and Turkey voted no while Lebanon abstained) and does little to make life more difficult for Iran or to hamper its ongoing quest for nuclear capability.

The sanctions make life a bit more difficult for 40 Iranians involved in the nuclear program, who had been mentioned in previous resolutions, by freezing their assets and banning their travel. Only one name was added to the list, Javad Rahiqi, the head of the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. There is also language about requiring countries to inspect ships or planes headed to or from Iran if they suspect that banned cargo is aboard, but there is no authorization to board ships by force at sea. Iran is now also not allowed to invest in nuclear-enrichment plants, uranium mines, and related technology. The sale of heavy weapons to Iran is also now banned.

But as a result of many months of haggling with Russia and China, who gave only reluctant backing to these sanctions, Iran’s oil, financial, and insurance industries — which are all highly vulnerable to international pressure — were left untouched. As the New York Times noted today, the European Union — America’s supposed ally in the campaign to restrain Tehran’s nuclear plans — alone does more than $35 billion in business with Iran. The amount of trade between Iran and China — whose vote in favor of the mild measure just passed was bought by American concessions that watered down the same sanctions — exceeds that amount. China gets 11 percent of its oil from the Islamist regime. And as the Times reported in a feature last week, Iran’s ability to evade sanctions with shell companies and by having their ships registered under foreign flags has made a mockery of the world body’s previous attempts to sanction it.

So, like the three previous rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, we can expect this latest one to have no impact on either Iran’s willingness to buck global displeasure over the nuclear issue or its ability to proceed with its plans.

All of which leaves us asking the Obama administration, what now?

In theory, the new UN sanctions could prompt the United States and other Western powers to unilaterally impose far harsher sanctions by themselves. But that move will take even more months of negotiations and would almost certainly not include Russia and China, countries that have played a major role in enabling the Iranians to avoid paying the price for their nuclear ambitions. With force off the table and little hope of a truly crippling round of international sanctions, what does Iran have to worry about?

Though the administration is busily spinning recent developments as proof that the year they wasted trying to engage Iran helped build support for sanctions, the fact remains that Iran is not only a year closer to its nuclear goal but also in a stronger political and diplomatic position today than it was 12 months ago. Having completely suppressed domestic opponents in the wake of their stolen presidential election, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime can also now point to the acquisition of two important foreign allies: Brazil and Turkey, both of whom are now firmly in Iran’s camp. And those two countries can say that the mischief they are making on Iran’s behalf is no different from what President Obama tried to do himself during his long unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran.

Just as bad is the fact that over the past year, Obama has allowed the Iranians and their friends to establish a false moral equivalence between their nuclear program and that of the State of Israel, a country whose very existence requires a nuclear deterrent that Iran’s does not. The United States’s vote last week in favor of a resolution at the UN nonproliferation conference, which called on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities, is a clear signal that the Obama administration’s faltering resolve on Iran is matched by its ambivalence about the Jewish state and its security needs.

The bottom line is that far from today’s UN vote being a cause for celebration or even satisfaction over the fact that the world is finally paying attention to the threat of a nuclear Iran, it may well be a better indication of the West’s slide toward ultimate acquiescence to Iran’s goals.

Now that the United Nations Security Council has passed a new round of sanctions against Iran, we can expect a degree of self-congratulation from the Obama administration, which has been working toward this goal for many months. But it is no secret that the package passed by a vote of 12-to-2 with one abstention (Brazil and Turkey voted no while Lebanon abstained) and does little to make life more difficult for Iran or to hamper its ongoing quest for nuclear capability.

The sanctions make life a bit more difficult for 40 Iranians involved in the nuclear program, who had been mentioned in previous resolutions, by freezing their assets and banning their travel. Only one name was added to the list, Javad Rahiqi, the head of the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. There is also language about requiring countries to inspect ships or planes headed to or from Iran if they suspect that banned cargo is aboard, but there is no authorization to board ships by force at sea. Iran is now also not allowed to invest in nuclear-enrichment plants, uranium mines, and related technology. The sale of heavy weapons to Iran is also now banned.

But as a result of many months of haggling with Russia and China, who gave only reluctant backing to these sanctions, Iran’s oil, financial, and insurance industries — which are all highly vulnerable to international pressure — were left untouched. As the New York Times noted today, the European Union — America’s supposed ally in the campaign to restrain Tehran’s nuclear plans — alone does more than $35 billion in business with Iran. The amount of trade between Iran and China — whose vote in favor of the mild measure just passed was bought by American concessions that watered down the same sanctions — exceeds that amount. China gets 11 percent of its oil from the Islamist regime. And as the Times reported in a feature last week, Iran’s ability to evade sanctions with shell companies and by having their ships registered under foreign flags has made a mockery of the world body’s previous attempts to sanction it.

So, like the three previous rounds of UN sanctions on Iran, we can expect this latest one to have no impact on either Iran’s willingness to buck global displeasure over the nuclear issue or its ability to proceed with its plans.

All of which leaves us asking the Obama administration, what now?

In theory, the new UN sanctions could prompt the United States and other Western powers to unilaterally impose far harsher sanctions by themselves. But that move will take even more months of negotiations and would almost certainly not include Russia and China, countries that have played a major role in enabling the Iranians to avoid paying the price for their nuclear ambitions. With force off the table and little hope of a truly crippling round of international sanctions, what does Iran have to worry about?

Though the administration is busily spinning recent developments as proof that the year they wasted trying to engage Iran helped build support for sanctions, the fact remains that Iran is not only a year closer to its nuclear goal but also in a stronger political and diplomatic position today than it was 12 months ago. Having completely suppressed domestic opponents in the wake of their stolen presidential election, the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime can also now point to the acquisition of two important foreign allies: Brazil and Turkey, both of whom are now firmly in Iran’s camp. And those two countries can say that the mischief they are making on Iran’s behalf is no different from what President Obama tried to do himself during his long unsuccessful attempt to appease Tehran.

Just as bad is the fact that over the past year, Obama has allowed the Iranians and their friends to establish a false moral equivalence between their nuclear program and that of the State of Israel, a country whose very existence requires a nuclear deterrent that Iran’s does not. The United States’s vote last week in favor of a resolution at the UN nonproliferation conference, which called on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities, is a clear signal that the Obama administration’s faltering resolve on Iran is matched by its ambivalence about the Jewish state and its security needs.

The bottom line is that far from today’s UN vote being a cause for celebration or even satisfaction over the fact that the world is finally paying attention to the threat of a nuclear Iran, it may well be a better indication of the West’s slide toward ultimate acquiescence to Iran’s goals.

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Annals of Useful Idiocy, Circa 2010

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPIEGEL: Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran: Obama Makes It Easy for Us

An interesting report in the Washington Post about Iran’s defiance of Western sanctions contains this remarkable nugget:

“We are very proud of our diplomacy, although we are mainly benefiting from mistakes made by the United States and its allies,” said Kazem Jalali, a key member of the Iranian parliament’s commission on national security and foreign policy. “We are using all our resources to exploit these weaknesses.”

The new sanctions have been advertised by the Obama administration as a demonstration of world unity against the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they are so weak and so lacking in international support that they do nothing more than showcase the fecklessness of Obama’s “smart diplomacy”:

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Let’s review how we got here: The “reset” with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The “daylight” policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel.

The world has noticed Obama’s inability to get serious: Russia and China are now joined by Brazil and Turkey in openly thwarting the president’s meek effort to confront Iran. You know your enemy has lost respect for you when he admits, as Jalali does above, that you’re not even making it hard for him anymore.

An interesting report in the Washington Post about Iran’s defiance of Western sanctions contains this remarkable nugget:

“We are very proud of our diplomacy, although we are mainly benefiting from mistakes made by the United States and its allies,” said Kazem Jalali, a key member of the Iranian parliament’s commission on national security and foreign policy. “We are using all our resources to exploit these weaknesses.”

The new sanctions have been advertised by the Obama administration as a demonstration of world unity against the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they are so weak and so lacking in international support that they do nothing more than showcase the fecklessness of Obama’s “smart diplomacy”:

The new U.S.-backed measures have been watered down enough that Tehran’s crucial oil sector will probably be spared, and Russia’s and China’s business dealings with Iran will go largely untouched.

Let’s review how we got here: The “reset” with Russia that was supposed to earn cooperation on Security Council sanctions merely taught Russia that Obama can be defied, cost-free. China noticed, and has joined the hands-off-Iran coalition. The “daylight” policy of being rude to the Israelis as a way of unifying the Arabs behind the peace process and against Iran has only left Israel isolated and the Arabs in disarray. Obama’s review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and his calls for a nuclear-free Middle East have been easily manipulated to deflect attention from the threat to American interests — Iran — to the threat to Iranian interests, Israel.

The world has noticed Obama’s inability to get serious: Russia and China are now joined by Brazil and Turkey in openly thwarting the president’s meek effort to confront Iran. You know your enemy has lost respect for you when he admits, as Jalali does above, that you’re not even making it hard for him anymore.

Read Less




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