Commentary Magazine


Topic: UN Security Council

Hillary’s World

Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The text can be read in full here. A few observations.

She, unlike the president, seems rhetorically willing to fly the banner of American exceptionalism:

The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.

Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment. A moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways. A moment when those things that make us who we are as a nation — our openness and innovation, our determination, and devotion to core values — have never been needed more.

Her argument, however, that she and the Obama team have furthered American influence and power is belied by the facts. But this does not deter her from offering disingenuous platitudes. (“From Europe and North America to East Asia and the Pacific, we are renewing and deepening the alliances that are the cornerstone of global security and prosperity.” Apparently Britain, Honduras, Israel, India, Eastern Europe, and others don’t understand that their relationship with us has “deepened.”) She touts progress with China, but one is left wondering where this has manifested itself. China has grown more aggressive, not less, and its human-rights abuses have not abated.

Second, the aversion to hard power is obvious. The cornerstones of American leadership according to Clinton are domestic economic strength and “diplomacy.” She has a single line, a throw-away to mollify the easily mollified (“This administration is also committed to maintaining the greatest military in the history of the world and, if needed, to vigorously defending our friends and ourselves.”) But in paragraph after paragraph of blather (I spare you the extract) about global architecture and centers of influence, she makes it clear that her idea of foreign policy is: talk, talk, and more talk. And her sole mention of the two wars is this: “Long after our troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, our diplomatic and development assistance and support for the Afghan security forces will continue.” So much for projecting American power and values.

Most troubling, however, is the placement of Iran in the speech and the content. It comes at the very end, suggesting that it really is not at the top of her to-do list. She gives no indication that this is the most pressing issue we face. And she dispenses with even the formulaic “all options are on the table.” None of this suggests that the administration is serious — gone is even the term ”unacceptable”:

First, we began by making the United States a full partner and active participant in international diplomatic efforts regarding Iran. Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.

Second, we have sought to frame this issue within the global non-proliferation regime in which the rules of the road are clearly defined for all parties. To lead by example, we have renewed our own disarmament efforts. Our deepened support for global institutions such as the IAEA underscores the authority of the international system of rights and responsibilities. Iran, on the other hand, continues to single itself out through its own actions. Its intransigence represents a challenge to the rules to which all countries must adhere.

Third, we continue to strengthen relationships with those countries whose help we need if diplomacy is to be successful. Through classic shoe-leather diplomacy, we have built a broad consensus that will welcome Iran back into the community of nations if it meets its obligations and likewise will hold Iran accountable to its obligations if it continues its defiance.

This spring, the UN Security Council passed the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions ever on Iran. The European Union has followed up with robust implementation of that resolution. Many other nations are implementing their own additional measures, including Australia, Canada, Norway and most recently Japan. We believe Iran is only just beginning to feel the full impact of sanctions. Beyond what governments are doing, the international financial and commercial sectors are also starting to recognize the risks of doing business with Iran.

Sanctions and pressure are not ends in themselves. They are the building blocks of leverage for a negotiated solution, to which we and our partners remain committed. The choice for Iran’s leaders is clear, even if they attempt to obfuscate and avoid it: Meet the responsibilities incumbent upon all nations and enjoy the benefits of integration into the international community, or continue to flout your obligations and accept increasing isolation and costs.  Iran now must decide for itself.

That is it. The whole thing. It is a shocking, even for them, signal of the nonchalance with which the Obami view the most pressing national-security concern of our time. And much of what she says is simply gibberish. For example: “Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.” What is she talking about? Iran made excuses before, they make them now, and we’ve lost 18 months in fruitless negotiations.

Israelis, I am sure, are listening carefully. While they go through the motions at the save-face-for-Obama Middle East peace talks, they must surely be coming to terms with the fact that their military is all that stands between the West and a nuclear-armed Iran. If Hillary is any indication, they will get no help from us.

Hillary Clinton delivered a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. The text can be read in full here. A few observations.

She, unlike the president, seems rhetorically willing to fly the banner of American exceptionalism:

The United States can, must, and will lead in this new century.

Indeed, the complexities and connections of today’s world have yielded a new American Moment. A moment when our global leadership is essential, even if we must often lead in new ways. A moment when those things that make us who we are as a nation — our openness and innovation, our determination, and devotion to core values — have never been needed more.

Her argument, however, that she and the Obama team have furthered American influence and power is belied by the facts. But this does not deter her from offering disingenuous platitudes. (“From Europe and North America to East Asia and the Pacific, we are renewing and deepening the alliances that are the cornerstone of global security and prosperity.” Apparently Britain, Honduras, Israel, India, Eastern Europe, and others don’t understand that their relationship with us has “deepened.”) She touts progress with China, but one is left wondering where this has manifested itself. China has grown more aggressive, not less, and its human-rights abuses have not abated.

Second, the aversion to hard power is obvious. The cornerstones of American leadership according to Clinton are domestic economic strength and “diplomacy.” She has a single line, a throw-away to mollify the easily mollified (“This administration is also committed to maintaining the greatest military in the history of the world and, if needed, to vigorously defending our friends and ourselves.”) But in paragraph after paragraph of blather (I spare you the extract) about global architecture and centers of influence, she makes it clear that her idea of foreign policy is: talk, talk, and more talk. And her sole mention of the two wars is this: “Long after our troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, our diplomatic and development assistance and support for the Afghan security forces will continue.” So much for projecting American power and values.

Most troubling, however, is the placement of Iran in the speech and the content. It comes at the very end, suggesting that it really is not at the top of her to-do list. She gives no indication that this is the most pressing issue we face. And she dispenses with even the formulaic “all options are on the table.” None of this suggests that the administration is serious — gone is even the term ”unacceptable”:

First, we began by making the United States a full partner and active participant in international diplomatic efforts regarding Iran. Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.

Second, we have sought to frame this issue within the global non-proliferation regime in which the rules of the road are clearly defined for all parties. To lead by example, we have renewed our own disarmament efforts. Our deepened support for global institutions such as the IAEA underscores the authority of the international system of rights and responsibilities. Iran, on the other hand, continues to single itself out through its own actions. Its intransigence represents a challenge to the rules to which all countries must adhere.

Third, we continue to strengthen relationships with those countries whose help we need if diplomacy is to be successful. Through classic shoe-leather diplomacy, we have built a broad consensus that will welcome Iran back into the community of nations if it meets its obligations and likewise will hold Iran accountable to its obligations if it continues its defiance.

This spring, the UN Security Council passed the strongest and most comprehensive set of sanctions ever on Iran. The European Union has followed up with robust implementation of that resolution. Many other nations are implementing their own additional measures, including Australia, Canada, Norway and most recently Japan. We believe Iran is only just beginning to feel the full impact of sanctions. Beyond what governments are doing, the international financial and commercial sectors are also starting to recognize the risks of doing business with Iran.

Sanctions and pressure are not ends in themselves. They are the building blocks of leverage for a negotiated solution, to which we and our partners remain committed. The choice for Iran’s leaders is clear, even if they attempt to obfuscate and avoid it: Meet the responsibilities incumbent upon all nations and enjoy the benefits of integration into the international community, or continue to flout your obligations and accept increasing isolation and costs.  Iran now must decide for itself.

That is it. The whole thing. It is a shocking, even for them, signal of the nonchalance with which the Obami view the most pressing national-security concern of our time. And much of what she says is simply gibberish. For example: “Through our continued willingness to engage Iran directly, we have re-energized the conversation with our allies and are removing easy excuses for lack of progress.” What is she talking about? Iran made excuses before, they make them now, and we’ve lost 18 months in fruitless negotiations.

Israelis, I am sure, are listening carefully. While they go through the motions at the save-face-for-Obama Middle East peace talks, they must surely be coming to terms with the fact that their military is all that stands between the West and a nuclear-armed Iran. If Hillary is any indication, they will get no help from us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Peace Through Self-Defenestration

In a New York Times op-ed entitled “For Once, Hope in the Middle East,” Martin Indyk argues that while “the commentariat is already dismissing [Obama’s] chances of reaching a peace agreement,” the “negotiating environment is better suited to peacemaking today than it has been at any point in the last decade.” Take security for example – no problem:

Security arrangements were all but settled in 2000 at Camp David before the talks collapsed. The increased threat of rocket attacks since then, among other developments, require the two sides to agree on stricter border controls and a robust third-party force in the Jordan Valley. But one year is ample time to resolve this.

The “increased threat of rocket attacks… among other developments” is Indyk’s diplomatic way of describing the two rocket wars waged on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza after it withdrew every soldier and settler from those areas. The all-but-settled arrangements in 2000 would not have worked, as Indyk implicitly acknowledges with his admission that arrangements would have to be “stricter” today.

But the key word in Indyk’s sunny description is his proposal for a “robust” third-party force. The word “robust” is a familiar term in Middle East diplomacy. It is the adjective commonly used to give meaning to an otherwise unimpressive noun. One might be skeptical of a third-party force, but a robust third-party force – that would be effective virtually by definition.

The most recent experience with a “robust” third-party force, however, might give one pause. In July 2006, 10 days into the Second Lebanon War, Condoleezza Rice told reporters she wanted a “robust” international military force to replace Hezbollah’s forces because a “cease-fire would be a false promise if it just returns us to the status quo.” On Aug. 11, 2006, as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on Resolution 1701, she told Wolf Blitzer the force would have an “absolutely robust mandate.” In an Aug. 16 interview with Susan Page, who congratulated her on passage of the UN resolution, Rice noted the force’s “quite robust mandate, which is a really very robust mandate.”

We now know that the “robust” force turned into 15,000 de facto human shields for Hezbollah, which today has at least twice the number of rockets trained on Israel as before the insertion of the “robust” force.

Indyk ends his piece by quoting Shimon Peres that “history is like a horse that gallops past your window and the true test of statesmanship is to jump from that window onto the horse.” Indyk suggests it is time for Abbas and Netanyahu to take that “politically perilous leap.” Trying to leap out your window onto a galloping horse seems an apt metaphor for Indyk’s solution of a “robust” third-party force — particularly if you remember the last time Israel was persuaded to jump out the window.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled “For Once, Hope in the Middle East,” Martin Indyk argues that while “the commentariat is already dismissing [Obama’s] chances of reaching a peace agreement,” the “negotiating environment is better suited to peacemaking today than it has been at any point in the last decade.” Take security for example – no problem:

Security arrangements were all but settled in 2000 at Camp David before the talks collapsed. The increased threat of rocket attacks since then, among other developments, require the two sides to agree on stricter border controls and a robust third-party force in the Jordan Valley. But one year is ample time to resolve this.

The “increased threat of rocket attacks… among other developments” is Indyk’s diplomatic way of describing the two rocket wars waged on Israel from Lebanon and Gaza after it withdrew every soldier and settler from those areas. The all-but-settled arrangements in 2000 would not have worked, as Indyk implicitly acknowledges with his admission that arrangements would have to be “stricter” today.

But the key word in Indyk’s sunny description is his proposal for a “robust” third-party force. The word “robust” is a familiar term in Middle East diplomacy. It is the adjective commonly used to give meaning to an otherwise unimpressive noun. One might be skeptical of a third-party force, but a robust third-party force – that would be effective virtually by definition.

The most recent experience with a “robust” third-party force, however, might give one pause. In July 2006, 10 days into the Second Lebanon War, Condoleezza Rice told reporters she wanted a “robust” international military force to replace Hezbollah’s forces because a “cease-fire would be a false promise if it just returns us to the status quo.” On Aug. 11, 2006, as the UN Security Council prepared to vote on Resolution 1701, she told Wolf Blitzer the force would have an “absolutely robust mandate.” In an Aug. 16 interview with Susan Page, who congratulated her on passage of the UN resolution, Rice noted the force’s “quite robust mandate, which is a really very robust mandate.”

We now know that the “robust” force turned into 15,000 de facto human shields for Hezbollah, which today has at least twice the number of rockets trained on Israel as before the insertion of the “robust” force.

Indyk ends his piece by quoting Shimon Peres that “history is like a horse that gallops past your window and the true test of statesmanship is to jump from that window onto the horse.” Indyk suggests it is time for Abbas and Netanyahu to take that “politically perilous leap.” Trying to leap out your window onto a galloping horse seems an apt metaphor for Indyk’s solution of a “robust” third-party force — particularly if you remember the last time Israel was persuaded to jump out the window.

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Another Liberal with Radical Ties (Part Two)

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC's jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC's jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

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Another Liberal with Radical Ties (Part One)

In 2008, Obama’s supporters and campaign flacks assured us that his association with a grab bag of radical leftists (e.g. Bill Ayers), a racist and anti-Semitic preacher (Rev. Wright), and a PLO spokesman (Rashid Khalidi), and a Senate voting record that rated him more liberal than Ted Kennedy were irrelevant to his candidacy. It turns out that all that was more revealing of his values and political inclinations than his campaign platitudes. If it weren’t for Obama, Rep. Joe Sestak’s associations (CAIR, J Street) and voting record (97.8 percent agreement with Nancy Pelosi) might not be of concern to Pennsylvania voters. But frankly, they and voters around the country now should sense what is truly enlightening and what is not about a candidate’s associations and allies.

Sestak has made much of his service in the U.S. Navy, which certainly is worthy of respect (although he’s refused to release records that would shed light on the reasons for his resignation). But that service should not obscure his very radical foreign policy associates. Much has already been written about his views on the Middle East and Israel, but practically unnoticed is his association with a group that goes by the name Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), until recently known by the Orwellian name “the World Federalist Association.” Who are they, and why have they endorsed Sestak and raised $5,700 for him this year and $4,000 in previous years? (The numbers are not extraordinarily large, but Sestak is far and away the top beneficiaries of the group’s largess.) Read More

In 2008, Obama’s supporters and campaign flacks assured us that his association with a grab bag of radical leftists (e.g. Bill Ayers), a racist and anti-Semitic preacher (Rev. Wright), and a PLO spokesman (Rashid Khalidi), and a Senate voting record that rated him more liberal than Ted Kennedy were irrelevant to his candidacy. It turns out that all that was more revealing of his values and political inclinations than his campaign platitudes. If it weren’t for Obama, Rep. Joe Sestak’s associations (CAIR, J Street) and voting record (97.8 percent agreement with Nancy Pelosi) might not be of concern to Pennsylvania voters. But frankly, they and voters around the country now should sense what is truly enlightening and what is not about a candidate’s associations and allies.

Sestak has made much of his service in the U.S. Navy, which certainly is worthy of respect (although he’s refused to release records that would shed light on the reasons for his resignation). But that service should not obscure his very radical foreign policy associates. Much has already been written about his views on the Middle East and Israel, but practically unnoticed is his association with a group that goes by the name Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), until recently known by the Orwellian name “the World Federalist Association.” Who are they, and why have they endorsed Sestak and raised $5,700 for him this year and $4,000 in previous years? (The numbers are not extraordinarily large, but Sestak is far and away the top beneficiaries of the group’s largess.)

CGS has some very radical ideas, which make Obama seem like a raging nationalist. Its history as a champion of world government, multinational institutions and treaties (which subsume the laws of nation-states), and devotion to the international redistribution of wealth is no secret:

Seeking to create a world in which nations work together to abolish war, protect our rights and freedoms, and solve the problems facing humanity that no nation can solve alone, Citizens for Global Solutions has a long, proud tradition of activism. Tracing its earliest roots back to the years prior to World War II, United World Federalists (later the World Federalist Association) was created in 1947 as a partnership between a number of like-minded organizations that united to achieve their commons goals.

CGS and its predecessor group, the World Federalist Association (WFA), haven’t been shy about their views. They have decried the “myth” of national sovereignty, supported expansion of international entities like the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and even a standing UN army, all to be funded by the U.S. and new global taxes. (“The United States would benefit from an increased involvement in United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the group explains.) In 1999 in the Washington Times, the issues director for the WFA wrote in an op-ed: “This could bring into favor a global e-commerce tax that could be redistributed back to local, state, and national governments.” He explained the organization’s focus:

The crisis-filled future we face is primarily a result of policy-makers holding onto the myth of independence or national sovereignty and a reliance primarily on unilateral action for dealing with global problems. If Congress continues cutting foreign aid and undermining the vital work of the United Nations, we will have to give up either our personal freedoms or our security.

Under its new name (World Federalist Association probably creeped out too many people), CGS has kept up the internationalist drumbeat and the preference for a slew of agreements that diminish U.S. sovereignty, from the Law of the Seas Treaty to global warming accords to the enhancement of the UN authority. The group thinks the UN Human Rights Council is swell:

Currently, the HRC is the primary global intergovernmental body able to address human rights issues and this is the first time the U.S. has been an active participant. Membership will help generate goodwill toward the U.S. and prove the United States’ commitment to multilateral diplomacy. The HRC is direct, resultant, and demands accountability in human rights from its members and the world. Through HRC actions, a strong basis in international action is created so countries can collectively come to the aid of any human rights crisis.

(Of course, it should also get an A+ in Israel-bashing.) Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only instance in which CGS has demonstrated a marked anti-Israel bias. Its deputy director of government relations, Drew Asson, went after Israel in the Lebanon war, bellowing from his website: “When will this senseless onslaught by Israeli hawks end? When will the UN Security Council step up to the plate and condemn this vicious obviously disproportionate response by Israel?”

You get the picture. This isn’t the first time a politician’s association with CGS has landed him in hot water. In his 2006 Senate run (the same year CGS started giving Sestak money), Bob Casey was pressured to return campaign donations from the group.

Sestak’s relationship with CGS is indicative of a pattern — he solicits support and receives backing from groups whose agenda is at the far left of the political spectrum. (As such, his supporters and donors have a decidedly anti-Israel cast.) So there is reason for the voters to ask what he sees in these groups’ agendas and, more important, what do they see in him?

The answer may lie in his answers on the CGS questionnaire. It’s an eye-opener, to be discussed in Part Two.

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The Trouble with International Forces

The latest argument by Palestinian flacks like Haaretz reporter Akiva Eldar is that with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having agreed to host an international force such as “UNIFIL or NATO” in the West Bank following an Israeli withdrawal, Israel has no more security worries and therefore no excuse for any delays in reaching an agreement on such a withdrawal.

But anyone who actually believes that Israel can or should rely on “an international force to defend Israel’s well-being” should consider the latest news on UNIFIL’s mission in south Lebanon.

As defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, this mission is, inter alia, to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in making the south of the Litani River “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”

But a few weeks ago, something dreadful happened: a French contingent of UNIFIL actually tried to carry out this mission. It began using sniffer dogs to detect illegal weapons and explosives and insisted on searching homes and yards where it had reason to believe Hezbollah was stockpiling such arms.

The immediate result was a series of clashes apparently either staged or encouraged by Hezbollah between Lebanese villagers and UNIFIL troops. In the most serious incident, villagers hurled stones at the peacekeepers, seized their weapons, and vandalized their vehicle.

The second result was that, at the end of last week, UNIFIL agreed to stop using sniffer dogs and refrain from entering homes and yards – or, in other words, to stop carrying out its mission of detecting illegal Hezbollah weapons. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, followed that up with a fawning apology for the “mistakes,” published in the Lebanese press as an open letter to the Lebanese people.

In fairness, you can’t really blame UNIFIL. Soldiers are expected to risk their lives to defend their own countries and their own people, but it’s quite understandable that they are less enthusiastic about risking their lives to defend someone else’s country and someone else’s people unless their own country sees a vital national interest in so doing (as the U.S. does in Afghanistan). And the risks are real: in 2007, for instance, six Spanish UNIFIL members whom Israel considered particularly effective were killed by a roadside bomb in what appeared to be a clear message from Hezbollah.

But that understandable reluctance to die for someone else’s country has made peacekeepers consistently ineffective at stopping active fighting. Examples abound, from Dutch peacekeepers’ failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 to the UN peacekeepers’ obedient withdrawal from Sinai in 1967 when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted a path cleared for his troops to invade Israel.

In other words, an international force would be useless at preventing anti-Israel terror if Palestinians wanted to perpetrate such attacks — and completely unnecessary if they did not.

Unfortunately, experience has taught most Israelis to consider the former possibility more likely. And until that changes, they will view any substitute for their own army in the West Bank as a nonstarter.

The latest argument by Palestinian flacks like Haaretz reporter Akiva Eldar is that with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas having agreed to host an international force such as “UNIFIL or NATO” in the West Bank following an Israeli withdrawal, Israel has no more security worries and therefore no excuse for any delays in reaching an agreement on such a withdrawal.

But anyone who actually believes that Israel can or should rely on “an international force to defend Israel’s well-being” should consider the latest news on UNIFIL’s mission in south Lebanon.

As defined by UN Security Council Resolution 1701, this mission is, inter alia, to “assist the Lebanese armed forces” in making the south of the Litani River “an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL.”

But a few weeks ago, something dreadful happened: a French contingent of UNIFIL actually tried to carry out this mission. It began using sniffer dogs to detect illegal weapons and explosives and insisted on searching homes and yards where it had reason to believe Hezbollah was stockpiling such arms.

The immediate result was a series of clashes apparently either staged or encouraged by Hezbollah between Lebanese villagers and UNIFIL troops. In the most serious incident, villagers hurled stones at the peacekeepers, seized their weapons, and vandalized their vehicle.

The second result was that, at the end of last week, UNIFIL agreed to stop using sniffer dogs and refrain from entering homes and yards – or, in other words, to stop carrying out its mission of detecting illegal Hezbollah weapons. Its commander, Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas, followed that up with a fawning apology for the “mistakes,” published in the Lebanese press as an open letter to the Lebanese people.

In fairness, you can’t really blame UNIFIL. Soldiers are expected to risk their lives to defend their own countries and their own people, but it’s quite understandable that they are less enthusiastic about risking their lives to defend someone else’s country and someone else’s people unless their own country sees a vital national interest in so doing (as the U.S. does in Afghanistan). And the risks are real: in 2007, for instance, six Spanish UNIFIL members whom Israel considered particularly effective were killed by a roadside bomb in what appeared to be a clear message from Hezbollah.

But that understandable reluctance to die for someone else’s country has made peacekeepers consistently ineffective at stopping active fighting. Examples abound, from Dutch peacekeepers’ failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 to the UN peacekeepers’ obedient withdrawal from Sinai in 1967 when Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted a path cleared for his troops to invade Israel.

In other words, an international force would be useless at preventing anti-Israel terror if Palestinians wanted to perpetrate such attacks — and completely unnecessary if they did not.

Unfortunately, experience has taught most Israelis to consider the former possibility more likely. And until that changes, they will view any substitute for their own army in the West Bank as a nonstarter.

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International Outrage, Please

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

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Wanted: Grown-Ups to Take On Obama’s Iran Policy

On Afghanistan, we have seen the emergence of a bipartisan, sober group of senators who understand the stakes and who aren’t shy about giving advice to the president. The same should be the case on Iran. Rather than platitudinous letters or resolutions, the most worthwhile endeavor at this point (one to three years from the time Iran has a nuclear weapon) would be to develop a bipartisan group that is candid on the administration’s deficiencies and vocal about the options we have for preventing Iran from going nuclear.

A fine starting point would be this, from Dan Coats, a candidate for the Senate, who explains the problem:

This is the most urgent national security issue America confronts today. Unfortunately, none of the actions taken, including inspections, reports and sanctions, has effectively challenged the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. … Advocating an international group hug does nothing but encourage the enemy; all talk and no action emboldens bullies to be even more aggressive toward its neighbors and the world community.

He recommends three steps:

A much-enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. A strong, ever-tightening sanctions track. The six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions over the past four years are far too weak to compel Iran to comply with the international community’s demands. Concrete military preparations. We are dealing with a regime that appears to respect little other than the genuine threat of force.

As to the first, we have done nothing to isolate and ostracize the Iranian regime diplomatically; to the contrary, we have welcomed the regime into UN bodies and afforded it the respect that the mullahs crave (and which will demoralize the internal opposition). But it is the third recommendation that is the most critical. Coats explains:

If it is true that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is “unacceptable,” then our nation and the international community must understand what few options remain should the first two tracks fail. And Iran must be especially clear-eyed about those potential consequences. Indeed, to give the diplomatic and sanctions tracks the credibility they require, the military option must be genuinely credible.

It seems as though there is already a core group of grown-ups in the U.S. Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman immediately come to mind — who have the respect of their colleagues, the expertise, and the appropriate demeanor to take on this task. The administration is sleepwalking toward a national-security disaster, and the time for biting lips and pulling punches is over. It is time to tell the administration what it is doing wrong and how to fix it — before it is too late.

On Afghanistan, we have seen the emergence of a bipartisan, sober group of senators who understand the stakes and who aren’t shy about giving advice to the president. The same should be the case on Iran. Rather than platitudinous letters or resolutions, the most worthwhile endeavor at this point (one to three years from the time Iran has a nuclear weapon) would be to develop a bipartisan group that is candid on the administration’s deficiencies and vocal about the options we have for preventing Iran from going nuclear.

A fine starting point would be this, from Dan Coats, a candidate for the Senate, who explains the problem:

This is the most urgent national security issue America confronts today. Unfortunately, none of the actions taken, including inspections, reports and sanctions, has effectively challenged the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions. … Advocating an international group hug does nothing but encourage the enemy; all talk and no action emboldens bullies to be even more aggressive toward its neighbors and the world community.

He recommends three steps:

A much-enhanced international coalition devoted to the same objective: to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons. A strong, ever-tightening sanctions track. The six UN Security Council sanctions resolutions over the past four years are far too weak to compel Iran to comply with the international community’s demands. Concrete military preparations. We are dealing with a regime that appears to respect little other than the genuine threat of force.

As to the first, we have done nothing to isolate and ostracize the Iranian regime diplomatically; to the contrary, we have welcomed the regime into UN bodies and afforded it the respect that the mullahs crave (and which will demoralize the internal opposition). But it is the third recommendation that is the most critical. Coats explains:

If it is true that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran is “unacceptable,” then our nation and the international community must understand what few options remain should the first two tracks fail. And Iran must be especially clear-eyed about those potential consequences. Indeed, to give the diplomatic and sanctions tracks the credibility they require, the military option must be genuinely credible.

It seems as though there is already a core group of grown-ups in the U.S. Senate — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Joe Lieberman immediately come to mind — who have the respect of their colleagues, the expertise, and the appropriate demeanor to take on this task. The administration is sleepwalking toward a national-security disaster, and the time for biting lips and pulling punches is over. It is time to tell the administration what it is doing wrong and how to fix it — before it is too late.

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Beyond Sanctions

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

There was bipartisan praise for the sanctions resolution that emerged from the long-delayed House-Senate conference committee. AIPAC cheered the passage of the “toughest sanctions ever passed.” Its news release asserted:

The new legislation seeks to exploit Iranian economic vulnerabilities in order to persuade Iran’s regime to curtail its nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism. CISAD [the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act] explicitly targets the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), requiring financial sanctions on entities that facilitate any IRGC activity. CISAD also mandates broad financial sanctions on any entity involved with Iran’s nuclear weapons program or support for terrorism. CISAD seeks to limit investments in Iran’s energy sector by sanctioning offending companies and barring them from federal contracts. The bill presumes denial of export licenses to countries permitting sensitive technology diversions to Iran. CISAD also prohibits U.S. nuclear technology export licenses to any country assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons pursuit.

CISAD provides the President with a narrow diplomatic window to significantly curb Iran’s refined petroleum imports and its ability to expand its own refinery operations; if diplomacy fails, the President must impose sanctions on companies in violation of CISAD.

But what do sanctions really mean at this stage? Not all that much, as this report explains:

Senior US officials have acknowledged that newly imposed sanctions against Iran would not be enough to end its quest for nuclear capabilities, but told Congress that the approach was bearing fruit.

“It will certainly not change the calculations of the Iranian leadership overnight, nor is it a panacea,” William Burns, under-secretary for political affairs at the State Department, said of US-backed sanctions passed by the UN Security Council earlier this month during testimony Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But it is a mark of the potential effect that Iran has worked so hard in recent months to avert action in the Security Council and tried so hard to deflect or divert the steps that are now under way.”

And the administration still wishes to see changes to the sanctions deal:

“We will continue to work with the Congress over the coming days as it finalizes work on this important bill, and in our ongoing efforts to hold Iran accountable,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement.

The administration has long had reservations that the legislation would restrict the president’s ability to provide exemptions to countries considered helpful on international sanctions and which he would not want to alienate.

“It is no secret that our international partners contain their enthusiasm for extra-territorial applications of US legislation, and that’s why we continue to work closely with you and your colleagues to try to ensure that the measures are going to be targeted in a way that maximizes the goal here,” Burns told the Senate panel.

So to sum up, we have UN sanctions and are on the verge of passing unilateral sanctions. What we don’t have is an effective, timely means of thwarting Iran’s nuclear program. As Jamie Fly of the Foreign Policy Initiative explained via e-mail, “The bottom line with this is that it is good it is finally moving and will become law, but in reality, the impact will be minimal.”

We had other options — vigorous support for the Green Movement, a full-court press to isolate Iran diplomatically, and the use of force (or the realistic threat of force) — but instead Obama chose prolonged “engagement” and sanctions that are unlikely to slow progress on Iran’s nuclear program.

The administration must now be pressed to answer two questions: how will we know if sanctions are working? And what are we prepared to do if they don’t? One suspects the administration doesn’t have a ready answer for either and that neither Congress nor Jewish groups are all that eager to pose them. But both lawmakers and Jewish groups need to keep their eyes on the ball. The goal here was not to pass sanctions; the goal was to stop Iran from going nuclear. The former is means to the end, although “smart” diplomats often get confused when asked to distinguish between lovely paper documents and effective policy.

Those who cannot conceive of an effective “containment” policy for a nuclear Iran had better think ahead. Unless they begin to forcefully press the administration to think about options if and when sanctions fail and to commit to supporting Israel in the event that the Jewish state is forced to act on its own, they will be ill prepared for the day when Obama, as he certainly will,  moves from deterrence to containment and announces: “We tried everything we could but we told you sanctions might not work.”

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No Wonder King Can’t Round Up Democrats for His Resolution

There is a reason why pro-Israel Democrats aren’t signing on to the Peter King Resolution. AIPAC wants the Poe-Peters letter, which doesn’t set forth a bill of particulars against Iran and doesn’t seek to block funds to the UN Human Rights Council or spur U.S. withdrawal from it:

Dear Representative:

We are writing in support of an important effort to bolster the U.S.-Israel relationship led by Representatives Poe, Peters, Hoyer, Boehner, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen.  We urge you to sign a letter they are sending to President Obama backing Israel’s right to self-defense and reaffirming the strategic importance of our partnership with Israel.

In light of the unwarranted barrage of international criticism aimed at Israel for upholding its security blockade of Gaza, the letter urges the President to continue U.S. support for Israel in international fora and, if necessary, use of America’s veto at the UN Security Council to ensure fair treatment of Israel.

The letter spotlights the effort instigated by groups operating out of Turkey, specifically the IHH.  It has become increasingly clear that the IHH was less interested in the delivery of aid to Gazans than in provoking a confrontation with Israel.  In the meantime, Israel has established an independent inquiry to investigate the events surrounding the flotilla episode and is working ardently to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

We commend Representatives Poe, Peters, Hoyer, Boehner, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen in their effort and strongly urge you to sign the letter.  If you have already added you signature to the letter, thank you.

The Poe-Peters letter, as I acknowledged, was an improvement over the Reid-McConnell letter. But why not raise the bar and get behind the King resolution? Too confrontational? Democrats want us to stay in the Human Rights Council?

There is a reason why pro-Israel Democrats aren’t signing on to the Peter King Resolution. AIPAC wants the Poe-Peters letter, which doesn’t set forth a bill of particulars against Iran and doesn’t seek to block funds to the UN Human Rights Council or spur U.S. withdrawal from it:

Dear Representative:

We are writing in support of an important effort to bolster the U.S.-Israel relationship led by Representatives Poe, Peters, Hoyer, Boehner, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen.  We urge you to sign a letter they are sending to President Obama backing Israel’s right to self-defense and reaffirming the strategic importance of our partnership with Israel.

In light of the unwarranted barrage of international criticism aimed at Israel for upholding its security blockade of Gaza, the letter urges the President to continue U.S. support for Israel in international fora and, if necessary, use of America’s veto at the UN Security Council to ensure fair treatment of Israel.

The letter spotlights the effort instigated by groups operating out of Turkey, specifically the IHH.  It has become increasingly clear that the IHH was less interested in the delivery of aid to Gazans than in provoking a confrontation with Israel.  In the meantime, Israel has established an independent inquiry to investigate the events surrounding the flotilla episode and is working ardently to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

We commend Representatives Poe, Peters, Hoyer, Boehner, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen in their effort and strongly urge you to sign the letter.  If you have already added you signature to the letter, thank you.

The Poe-Peters letter, as I acknowledged, was an improvement over the Reid-McConnell letter. But why not raise the bar and get behind the King resolution? Too confrontational? Democrats want us to stay in the Human Rights Council?

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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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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

Thanks to the NAACP, Hallmark was forced to remove from the shelves space-themed cards that used the phrase “black hole.” The group’s professional grievants apparently misheard the second word. No kidding.

Thanks to Barack Obama, the Middle East is more dangerous than ever: “The Gaza flotilla incident might have been a great setback to the radical camp had the United States reacted sharply, defending Israel, condemning the jihadists on board and their sponsors in Turkey, blocking UN Security Council action, and refusing to sponsor another international inquiry that will condemn Israel. And Israel’s interests were not the only ones at stake: The blockade of Gaza is a joint Israeli-Egyptian action to weaken Hamas. But the American position reflects the Obama line: carefully balancing the interests of friend and foe, seeking to avoid offense to our enemies, or, as Churchill famously described British policy in the 1930s, ‘resolved to be irresolute.’ Middle Eastern states, including Arab regimes traditionally allied with the United States, view this pose as likely to get them all killed when enemies come knocking at the door.”

Thanks to Obama, Bobby Jindal has regained a lot of stature. He appears to be what Obama is not — competent, engaged, and proactive.

Thanks to Jon Stewart, Tim Pawlenty gets to show that he has a sense of humor.

Thanks to Leslie Gelb, we are reminded that things can always be worse: Robert Gates departs, Hillary Clinton goes to the Defense Department, and Chuck Hagel goes to the State Department. Oy.

Thanks to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, “a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected this November. Sixty-five percent (65%) disagree and say it would be better if most were defeated. Sixteen percent (16%) aren’t sure.”

Thanks to Obama, “people close to the president [Harmid Karzai] say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.” It’s no surprise, then, that “Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.”

Thanks to Ben Bernanke, Rep. Gerry Connolly makes a fool of himself and his Republican challenger has a boffo campaign ad.

Thanks to Obama and the Democratic Congress, you’re probably not going to get to keep your health-care plan: “Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law. In just three years, a majority of workers—51 percent—will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to the draft.”

Thanks to Israel, there is a place in the Middle East where gays are not persecuted: “Tel Aviv embraced Israel’s GLBT community Friday as it hosted the 13th annual gay parade.Dozens of policemen and civilian police watched on as thousands marched, dancing and waving rainbow flags.”

Thanks to the economic-policy wizardry of the Obama administration: “U.S. consumers unexpectedly ratcheted back spending on everything from cars to clothing in May, adding to concerns that a volatile stock market and high unemployment are increasingly weighing down the economic recovery. The Commerce Department reported Friday that sales at retail establishments — including department stores, gas stations and restaurants — fell 1.2% in May from the previous month. The decline, driven by sharp drops in autos and building materials, was the first and largest since September 2009, when sales fell 2.2%.”

Thanks to the NAACP, Hallmark was forced to remove from the shelves space-themed cards that used the phrase “black hole.” The group’s professional grievants apparently misheard the second word. No kidding.

Thanks to Barack Obama, the Middle East is more dangerous than ever: “The Gaza flotilla incident might have been a great setback to the radical camp had the United States reacted sharply, defending Israel, condemning the jihadists on board and their sponsors in Turkey, blocking UN Security Council action, and refusing to sponsor another international inquiry that will condemn Israel. And Israel’s interests were not the only ones at stake: The blockade of Gaza is a joint Israeli-Egyptian action to weaken Hamas. But the American position reflects the Obama line: carefully balancing the interests of friend and foe, seeking to avoid offense to our enemies, or, as Churchill famously described British policy in the 1930s, ‘resolved to be irresolute.’ Middle Eastern states, including Arab regimes traditionally allied with the United States, view this pose as likely to get them all killed when enemies come knocking at the door.”

Thanks to Obama, Bobby Jindal has regained a lot of stature. He appears to be what Obama is not — competent, engaged, and proactive.

Thanks to Jon Stewart, Tim Pawlenty gets to show that he has a sense of humor.

Thanks to Leslie Gelb, we are reminded that things can always be worse: Robert Gates departs, Hillary Clinton goes to the Defense Department, and Chuck Hagel goes to the State Department. Oy.

Thanks to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, “a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 19% of voters think it would be better for the country if most incumbents in Congress were reelected this November. Sixty-five percent (65%) disagree and say it would be better if most were defeated. Sixteen percent (16%) aren’t sure.”

Thanks to Obama, “people close to the president [Harmid Karzai] say he began to lose confidence in the Americans last summer, after national elections in which independent monitors determined that nearly one million ballots had been stolen on Mr. Karzai’s behalf. The rift worsened in December, when President Obama announced that he intended to begin reducing the number of American troops by the summer of 2011.” It’s no surprise, then, that “Mr. Karzai has been pressing to strike his own deal with the Taliban and the country’s archrival Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime supporter. According to a former senior Afghan official, Mr. Karzai’s maneuverings involve secret negotiations with the Taliban outside the purview of American and NATO officials.”

Thanks to Ben Bernanke, Rep. Gerry Connolly makes a fool of himself and his Republican challenger has a boffo campaign ad.

Thanks to Obama and the Democratic Congress, you’re probably not going to get to keep your health-care plan: “Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it. But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law. In just three years, a majority of workers—51 percent—will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to the draft.”

Thanks to Israel, there is a place in the Middle East where gays are not persecuted: “Tel Aviv embraced Israel’s GLBT community Friday as it hosted the 13th annual gay parade.Dozens of policemen and civilian police watched on as thousands marched, dancing and waving rainbow flags.”

Thanks to the economic-policy wizardry of the Obama administration: “U.S. consumers unexpectedly ratcheted back spending on everything from cars to clothing in May, adding to concerns that a volatile stock market and high unemployment are increasingly weighing down the economic recovery. The Commerce Department reported Friday that sales at retail establishments — including department stores, gas stations and restaurants — fell 1.2% in May from the previous month. The decline, driven by sharp drops in autos and building materials, was the first and largest since September 2009, when sales fell 2.2%.”

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Obama Delivers Up Israel to the “International Community”

Earlier this year at AIPAC, Hillary Clinton assured the assembled that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Yesterday, Obama threw Israel to the wolves in the “international community”:

Echoing countless calls on Israel to subject itself to an international investigation of the events that led up to the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship last week, the U.S. on Tuesday demanded that some international body be involved in the probe of the events. …

“International participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility that everybody wants to see,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday. “We are discussing with Israel and others the prospective nature of international participation in the investigation. And we’re sharing different ideas on how to best accomplish that.”

Suffice it to say, there was no instance in the Bush administration when we invited the international community to take a swing at Israel. So what say you, AIPAC and American Jewry? This has, of course, been the modus operandi of the administration — singling out Israel in the NPT concluding statement, failing to veto an Israel-bashing resolution in the UN Security Council, and threatening to do the same if Israel resumed building in its eternal capital. The Obama team keeps snowing gullible Jewish “leaders.” Perhaps at some point American Jewry will figure out they are being ill-served by both.

Earlier this year at AIPAC, Hillary Clinton assured the assembled that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Yesterday, Obama threw Israel to the wolves in the “international community”:

Echoing countless calls on Israel to subject itself to an international investigation of the events that led up to the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship last week, the U.S. on Tuesday demanded that some international body be involved in the probe of the events. …

“International participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility that everybody wants to see,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday. “We are discussing with Israel and others the prospective nature of international participation in the investigation. And we’re sharing different ideas on how to best accomplish that.”

Suffice it to say, there was no instance in the Bush administration when we invited the international community to take a swing at Israel. So what say you, AIPAC and American Jewry? This has, of course, been the modus operandi of the administration — singling out Israel in the NPT concluding statement, failing to veto an Israel-bashing resolution in the UN Security Council, and threatening to do the same if Israel resumed building in its eternal capital. The Obama team keeps snowing gullible Jewish “leaders.” Perhaps at some point American Jewry will figure out they are being ill-served by both.

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Does Sestak Agree with His J Street Backers?

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) – and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.’”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

Joe Sestak should be nervous. His record on Israel is spotty at best (he has signed on for a Iran sanctions bill and a pro-Israel resolution here and there but refused to sign on to numerous letters supporting Israel and backing sanctions, which the majority of his colleagues did) – and horrid at worst (signing on to the infamous Gaza blockade letter along with 53 of the most anti-Israel leftists in the House). This report notes that like many of Israel’s harshest critics, he swears he’s a friend of the Jewish state and proclaims “Their security is important to our security.” But his voting record is going to be hard to explain:

[Pat] Toomey last week said he wouldn’t join the “blame Israel first crowd.” Sestak has come under some criticism for signing onto a letter that called for easing restrictions on humanitarian aide into the Gaza Strip during the most recent war, but has also been critical of tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration. Toomey’s campaign is hoping to make significant inroads into the suburban Jewish community this year.

Sestak’s supposed concern about the “tensions between the Israeli government and the Obama administration” might have been hard to spot. He has had to play defense on his Gaza position:

The letter I signed concerning Gaza reflects another primary interest we have — humanitarian interests. Currently, Hamas is using the suffering of the Palestinian people as a recruiting tool for terrorists and a bargaining chip with foreign powers, and they should be held to account. I believe humanitarian aid — with the appropriate oversight and safeguards — will over time lessen, not increase, the capacity of Hamas to threaten Israel.

If that sounds a lot like the J Street line, you shouldn’t be surprised. J Street backed Sestak for the House and is vigorously doing the same in his Senate run.

His other associations are quite odd for such a fan of Israel. He fancied CAIR — appearing as the group’s keynote speaker in 2007. (“One of the featured speakers at the event is Muslim activist Rafael Narbaez, who has made a number of controversial comments about Israel. During a July 2006 speech at a Detroit mosque, Narbaez said Zionists have ‘the same racist ideology that the Nazis of Germany had.’”)

On Gaza this time around, Sestak has changed his tune quite a bit:

Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself. In this case, it appears that the ship carrying humanitarian and construction supplies attempted to break a naval blockade of Gaza despite clear warnings that that they would be denied entry. While the Palestinians have a right to humanitarian assistance, we must not forget that there remain radicals, fueled by organizations like Hamas, who wish Israel’s destruction and have no intention of recognizing its right to exist. Israel must maintain its right to protect itself from them and thwart their attacks, including by preventing dangerous materials from getting into the wrong hands.

So why did he sign the Gaza 54 letter?

Sestak also tries to fudge his position and that of the administration. His statement declares:

In the short-term, I support the recommendation of the United States for the Israeli government to quickly appoint an independent commission to review the circumstances that surrounded the event so that the latest round of peace talks toward a sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can proceed without interruption, and not let this unfortunate incident delay such talks.

Not quite. The Obama team has never said that only Israel should run the review. On the contrary, it went along with the UN Security Council’s statement. (“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the United Nations Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”) That sounds like Goldstone, not an IDF inquiry.

It seems that Sestak — like Obama — is trying to have it both ways. In the glare of an election race, he embraces Israel. When under less intense scrutiny, he runs with J Street and CAIR. Peter King’s resolution should prove a clarifying moment: will Sestak agree that the U.S. needs to get out of the UN Human Rights Council, block a UN witch hunt of Israel, and give Israel unqualified support? And if he does so with a wink and a nod to his J Street backers, will Pennsylvania voters fall for it?

After all, Obama made some very pretty speeches to AIPAC as a candidate. Maybe voters should look at Sestak’s record and associations. Had they done that with Obama before the 2008 election, many pro-Israel voters might not have been conned.

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Obama to Israel: You’re on Your Own

Last week, Obama joined the NPT nations in finger-pointing at Israel, despite our longtime understanding that Israel would maintain a don’t ask, don’t tell policy on it nuclear capability and we would not demand that it join the NPT. At the time, many of us decried the Obama preference for consensus over solidarity with our ally. But Jewish groups — again — were mum. This week, a far more serious and destructive instance of the same behavior occurred at the UN.

In a must-read piece, Elliott Abrams takes the administration to task for caving in to the screeches of the UN Security Council and permitting a resolution on the flotilla rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish state. Reminding us that a “lynch mob” always awaits Israel there unless the U.S. and a few others intervene, he explains:

This week the mob formed again, instantly, after the Gaza flotilla disaster, reinforced this time by the leadership of Turkey, whose language at the UN was more vicious than that used by the Arabs.  As usual there was really only one question once the mob began to gather.  It is the question that arose repeatedly in the Bush years—when the Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi were killed by Israel, when Israel acted in Gaza, when Israel put down the intifada in the West Bank, and during the 2006 war in Lebanon and the late 2008 fighting in Gaza: would Israel stand alone, or would the United States stand with her and prevent the lynching? Would the US, in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s memorable phrase, “join the jackals”?

This week the Obama administration answered the question: Yes we would, and Israel would stand alone.  It is simple to block the kind of attack issued as a “President’s Statement” on behalf of the Council, for such a statement requires unanimity.  The United States can just say “No,” and make it clear that orders have come from the White House and will not be changed.  Then negotiations begin on a serious statement—or, there can be no statement at all.  The killing of dozens of South Korean sailors by North Korea in an action that truly threatens the peace did not evoke the kind of action the Security Council took against Israel, proving that the UN does not always act, or act in the same way, when news flashes hit.  Whether Israel is slammed depends on whether the United States is willing to take a stand.

As Abrams points out, the Obama team continually wants to have it both ways — not completely abandon Israel (for then American Jewry might bestir itself and recoil against its liberal icon) but never stand athwart the international community and shout, “Stop!” So the Israel-haters have a resolution and call for a Goldstone-like investigation. (Is the former apartheid hanging judge up for thrusting one more dagger into the Jewish state?) In short, Obama had a choice, and he chose not to stand with Israel. (“The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises.”)

We shouldn’t be surprised, Abrams writes:

The White House did not wish to stand with Israel against this mob because it does not have a policy of solidarity with Israel.  Rather, its policy is one of distancing and pressure. … Does the White House accept, indeed relish, the need to defend Israel against all comers—Pakistan, Turkey, the Arabs, weak-kneed Euro-dips, UN bureaucrats?  Is this understood as a chance to show what America really stands for in the world? Or is Israel seen by the president as a burden, an albatross, a complication in his grand struggle to re-position the United States as a more “progressive” power?

Come to think of it, American Jewry — at least the non-leaders of mainstream groups — is playing the exact same game. It wants to have it both ways — stick up for Israel but not cross Obama. So it rises up and defends Israel in the flotilla incident, struggling to get the facts out to the public, which has been inundated with an avalanche of distorted media and inane analysis. But what it refuses to do is criticize the mendacity of the administration and shatter the facade that this administration is acting as a loyal ally. No criticism of the NPT. No criticism of the phony sanctions. No criticism of the UN travesty. Here’s the thing: neither Obama nor American Jewry can have it both ways. They are trying to please irreconcilable parties — in Obama’s case the international community of Israel-haters and Israel, and in the case of Jewish non-leaders, Obama and Israel. It does not work.

There is a single question that every individual, group, and nation must answer. To borrow from the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman: if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.

Last week, Obama joined the NPT nations in finger-pointing at Israel, despite our longtime understanding that Israel would maintain a don’t ask, don’t tell policy on it nuclear capability and we would not demand that it join the NPT. At the time, many of us decried the Obama preference for consensus over solidarity with our ally. But Jewish groups — again — were mum. This week, a far more serious and destructive instance of the same behavior occurred at the UN.

In a must-read piece, Elliott Abrams takes the administration to task for caving in to the screeches of the UN Security Council and permitting a resolution on the flotilla rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish state. Reminding us that a “lynch mob” always awaits Israel there unless the U.S. and a few others intervene, he explains:

This week the mob formed again, instantly, after the Gaza flotilla disaster, reinforced this time by the leadership of Turkey, whose language at the UN was more vicious than that used by the Arabs.  As usual there was really only one question once the mob began to gather.  It is the question that arose repeatedly in the Bush years—when the Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi were killed by Israel, when Israel acted in Gaza, when Israel put down the intifada in the West Bank, and during the 2006 war in Lebanon and the late 2008 fighting in Gaza: would Israel stand alone, or would the United States stand with her and prevent the lynching? Would the US, in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s memorable phrase, “join the jackals”?

This week the Obama administration answered the question: Yes we would, and Israel would stand alone.  It is simple to block the kind of attack issued as a “President’s Statement” on behalf of the Council, for such a statement requires unanimity.  The United States can just say “No,” and make it clear that orders have come from the White House and will not be changed.  Then negotiations begin on a serious statement—or, there can be no statement at all.  The killing of dozens of South Korean sailors by North Korea in an action that truly threatens the peace did not evoke the kind of action the Security Council took against Israel, proving that the UN does not always act, or act in the same way, when news flashes hit.  Whether Israel is slammed depends on whether the United States is willing to take a stand.

As Abrams points out, the Obama team continually wants to have it both ways — not completely abandon Israel (for then American Jewry might bestir itself and recoil against its liberal icon) but never stand athwart the international community and shout, “Stop!” So the Israel-haters have a resolution and call for a Goldstone-like investigation. (Is the former apartheid hanging judge up for thrusting one more dagger into the Jewish state?) In short, Obama had a choice, and he chose not to stand with Israel. (“The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises.”)

We shouldn’t be surprised, Abrams writes:

The White House did not wish to stand with Israel against this mob because it does not have a policy of solidarity with Israel.  Rather, its policy is one of distancing and pressure. … Does the White House accept, indeed relish, the need to defend Israel against all comers—Pakistan, Turkey, the Arabs, weak-kneed Euro-dips, UN bureaucrats?  Is this understood as a chance to show what America really stands for in the world? Or is Israel seen by the president as a burden, an albatross, a complication in his grand struggle to re-position the United States as a more “progressive” power?

Come to think of it, American Jewry — at least the non-leaders of mainstream groups — is playing the exact same game. It wants to have it both ways — stick up for Israel but not cross Obama. So it rises up and defends Israel in the flotilla incident, struggling to get the facts out to the public, which has been inundated with an avalanche of distorted media and inane analysis. But what it refuses to do is criticize the mendacity of the administration and shatter the facade that this administration is acting as a loyal ally. No criticism of the NPT. No criticism of the phony sanctions. No criticism of the UN travesty. Here’s the thing: neither Obama nor American Jewry can have it both ways. They are trying to please irreconcilable parties — in Obama’s case the international community of Israel-haters and Israel, and in the case of Jewish non-leaders, Obama and Israel. It does not work.

There is a single question that every individual, group, and nation must answer. To borrow from the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman: if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.

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Impotent Measures Against Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

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White House Seriously Considering Ludicrous Iran Agreement

We knew this was coming. The White House has issued a statement — the perfect mix of gobbledygook and bureaucratic-speak. You have to read it in full to fully appreciate Obama’s desperation for a deal — any deal — that would avoid a confrontation with Iran:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil. The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns. While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds — and not simply words — its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with UN Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

So the deal simply raises “concerns” — and Obama is not giving up on engagement (“a diplomatic solution”). The next phase (it’s really the same phase we’ve been in for the last 16 months — engage and stall) will consist of diplomatic forays to test how “sincere” the mullahs are and whether we can verify the “progress.” Obama, you see, has thrown in the towel on every effective measure (i.e., military action, crippling sanctions, and regime change) that could prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Now it’s all about devising a strategy whereby Obama can claim diplomatic “success.”

But here’s the hitch: Israel isn’t going to buy this nonsense. So we return to what is becoming the only meaningful question: will Obama support Israeli military action?  American Jewish “leaders” should press Obama to answer that question now. After all, the survival of the Jewish state hangs in the balance and their muteness, like that of American Jewish leaders of the 1930s, will be remembered quite unkindly by history.

We knew this was coming. The White House has issued a statement — the perfect mix of gobbledygook and bureaucratic-speak. You have to read it in full to fully appreciate Obama’s desperation for a deal — any deal — that would avoid a confrontation with Iran:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil. The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns. While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds — and not simply words — its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with UN Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA. We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

So the deal simply raises “concerns” — and Obama is not giving up on engagement (“a diplomatic solution”). The next phase (it’s really the same phase we’ve been in for the last 16 months — engage and stall) will consist of diplomatic forays to test how “sincere” the mullahs are and whether we can verify the “progress.” Obama, you see, has thrown in the towel on every effective measure (i.e., military action, crippling sanctions, and regime change) that could prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. Now it’s all about devising a strategy whereby Obama can claim diplomatic “success.”

But here’s the hitch: Israel isn’t going to buy this nonsense. So we return to what is becoming the only meaningful question: will Obama support Israeli military action?  American Jewish “leaders” should press Obama to answer that question now. After all, the survival of the Jewish state hangs in the balance and their muteness, like that of American Jewish leaders of the 1930s, will be remembered quite unkindly by history.

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Iran’s Game of Negotiations

One unanswered question about the nuclear-swap deal: who provides the 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods to Iran? Because that is what swapping means — Iran gives Turkey 1,200 kilograms; the 1,200 kilograms sit in Turkey under IAEA, Iranian, and Turkish supervision for a month and then either they are swapped or they return home. Under the original agreement, there was no swapping — Iran would transfer 1,200 kilograms, Russia and France would reprocess them, and the resulting product (20 percent enriched fuel rods) would then return to Iran.

By negotiating a swap with Turkey, Iran adds a step to the process — 1,200 kilograms go to Turkey. They are swapped with 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods; the 1,200 kilograms go to Russia and France to be reprocessed and then they return to Iran.

You can see this as a bazaar trick to get a discount — for the same price, now Iran gets 240 kilograms of fuel rods instead of 120. Or you can see it as an exchange of hostages — you take our fuel, we take yours.

Still, the question remains unanswered — who supplies 120 kilograms to Iran within a month of delivery?

Turkey? Brazil? The original Vienna group of France, Russia, and the United States?

And while we are at it: who ensures the safety of the nuclear material once it reaches Turkish territory? Turkey is not known to have the facilities to do so.

So let me make a guess. The deal goes nowhere. It falls through. But for a good six to eight weeks, the Iranians are the good guys, the ball is in the West’s court, the sanctions’ effort in New York loses steam, Turkey and Brazil vote against any sanctions’ resolution, and Moscow urges France and the United States to consider the swap deal as a good bridging proposal to “build upon.”

That’s the beauty of the deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil. It puts the West into a corner for two reasons: first, because it allows Iran to break its isolation — with Turkey and Brazil now having negotiated a deal independently of the U.S., the Security Council, the IAEA, or the P5+1, it’s the U.S. and the EU that look isolated.

And second, because now President Obama, President Sarkozy, and President Medvedev (or Prime Minister Putin, who knows?) — the original promoters of the transfer deal from last October — will have to say whether they are prepared to go the extra mile and do what Iran demands in exchange for transferring its uranium to Turkey — something they were not prepared to do back in October. My guess is that Russia will go one way, France and the U.S. the opposite way. So here’s the master stroke: in one fell swoop, Iran managed to create a rift inside the UN Security Council and the Vienna Group at the same time.

Give Iran credit then, as Jennifer and Jonathan note — it has just gained another few months.

One unanswered question about the nuclear-swap deal: who provides the 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods to Iran? Because that is what swapping means — Iran gives Turkey 1,200 kilograms; the 1,200 kilograms sit in Turkey under IAEA, Iranian, and Turkish supervision for a month and then either they are swapped or they return home. Under the original agreement, there was no swapping — Iran would transfer 1,200 kilograms, Russia and France would reprocess them, and the resulting product (20 percent enriched fuel rods) would then return to Iran.

By negotiating a swap with Turkey, Iran adds a step to the process — 1,200 kilograms go to Turkey. They are swapped with 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods; the 1,200 kilograms go to Russia and France to be reprocessed and then they return to Iran.

You can see this as a bazaar trick to get a discount — for the same price, now Iran gets 240 kilograms of fuel rods instead of 120. Or you can see it as an exchange of hostages — you take our fuel, we take yours.

Still, the question remains unanswered — who supplies 120 kilograms to Iran within a month of delivery?

Turkey? Brazil? The original Vienna group of France, Russia, and the United States?

And while we are at it: who ensures the safety of the nuclear material once it reaches Turkish territory? Turkey is not known to have the facilities to do so.

So let me make a guess. The deal goes nowhere. It falls through. But for a good six to eight weeks, the Iranians are the good guys, the ball is in the West’s court, the sanctions’ effort in New York loses steam, Turkey and Brazil vote against any sanctions’ resolution, and Moscow urges France and the United States to consider the swap deal as a good bridging proposal to “build upon.”

That’s the beauty of the deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil. It puts the West into a corner for two reasons: first, because it allows Iran to break its isolation — with Turkey and Brazil now having negotiated a deal independently of the U.S., the Security Council, the IAEA, or the P5+1, it’s the U.S. and the EU that look isolated.

And second, because now President Obama, President Sarkozy, and President Medvedev (or Prime Minister Putin, who knows?) — the original promoters of the transfer deal from last October — will have to say whether they are prepared to go the extra mile and do what Iran demands in exchange for transferring its uranium to Turkey — something they were not prepared to do back in October. My guess is that Russia will go one way, France and the U.S. the opposite way. So here’s the master stroke: in one fell swoop, Iran managed to create a rift inside the UN Security Council and the Vienna Group at the same time.

Give Iran credit then, as Jennifer and Jonathan note — it has just gained another few months.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

The exception to the rule that I never mention poetry.

Dan Coats takes a big lead in Indiana. “Newly chosen Republican nominee Dan Coats earns 51% support while his Democratic rival Brad Ellsworth’s attracts 36% in the first Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of the Indiana Senate race following Tuesday’s GOP Primary.”

A huge majority — 60 to 32 percent — still favor offshore drilling. And that’s in the Daily Kos poll.

When more people get hired, more enter the job market, and there aren’t enough new jobs to absorb them. So despite 290,000 new jobs: “The unemployment rate, however, crept up to 9.9 percent in April from 9.7 percent in March, mostly the government said, because about 805,000 people joined the labor force either working or looking for work. Yet in a sign that many will not be able to find a job even as the economy improves, the number of people who have been out of work for more than six months hit 6.7 million, nearly 46 percent of the unemployed.”

The result of 15 months of Obama’s Iran policy: “Iran will not stop enriching uranium and has a right to pursue atomic technology, the country’s foreign minister told UN Security Council diplomats at a private dinner. A US official familiar with Thursday night’s meeting in New York told The Associated Press that Manouchehr Mottaki was defiant in the face of demands that Iran halt the process that can produce fuel for a nuclear weapon. … Mottaki said Iran would not suspend uranium enrichment, according to the US official. The foreign minister said that position was firm and would not change even if Iran accepted a proposal to send uranium from a medical research reactor in Teheran abroad for reprocessing, the official said Friday.”

Maybe it is because, as Israel’s UN Ambassador says, the sanctions under contemplation “are not going to be crippling. … They’re not even going to be biting. … They’re going to be moderate, watered down, diluted.”

Eric Holder only allows career employees with nice things to say about the administration to speak up. “So here were two customs officers speaking on national television about what they did in this case, revealing to the world (and any terrorist networks) the strengths and weaknesses of our airline-security system. They obviously could not appear without having gotten permission from the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, which is handling the prosecution of this case. Yet Eric Holder refuses to let his front-line Voting Section employees talk about what happened in the New Black Panther case (even purely factual matters having nothing to due with any DOJ deliberations), unlawfully defying subpoenas from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.”

Ronald Brownstein is surprised: “The great political surprise of Obama’s presidency is that amid these hard times, the electorate has directed its frustration less against Big Business (though it is hardly popular) than against Big Government, especially as Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach in response to the economic crisis.” I think it’s because Obama has aggressively expanded Washington’s reach.

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