Commentary Magazine


Topic: United Nations Security Council

Morning Commentary

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

On Saturday, P5+1 officials will meet with Iranian leaders to push them to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful. But it looks like Iran is doing everything in its power not to cooperate: “Iran, however, is coming to Turkey offering no signs that it is willing to respect United Nations Security Council resolutions and suspend its production of nuclear fuel. ‘There is nothing to discuss’ about Iran’s nuclear program, an Iranian official said. ‘In Istanbul, we will speak about something else.’”

The day after President Hu Jintao was honored with a State Dinner by President Obama, the Chinese leader met privately with lawmakers who pressed him on China’s poor record on human rights: “Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, emerged Thursday from his huddle with Hu optimistic and hopeful on all fronts, suggesting a major breakthrough had occurred in Hu’s recognition that his nation had a subpar human rights record and that key progress was made in making China engage other nations.”

Richard Falk, the UN’s Palestine investigator, once again came out as a supporter of the 9/11 “Truth movement” on his blog last week (he’s been making “truther” statements since 2004). UN Watch is now calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to fire Falk, especially in light of Ki-moon’s condemnation of Ahmadinejad for endorsing similar theories: “The effect of Mr. Falk’s conspiracy-mongering is to deny and excuse the terrorist acts committed by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It insults the memories of those who perished on 9/11, and deeply offends their families and loved ones — as well as all decent men and women worldwide. Mr. Falk’s repulsive comments violate UNHRC Resolution 5/2, which require U.N. experts to uphold the highest standards of integrity, probity, and good faith. Indeed, they shame the United Nations.”

Rep. Steve Cohen should probably avoid making any more public statements for the next few days, because he just keeps digging himself into a bigger hole. Cohen, who compared Republicans to Nazis earlier this week, apologized that his words are being used as a “distraction” by his political opponents, in a statement he released yesterday afternoon: “It is disappointing that my comments have been used to distract from the health care reform debate. It is my hope that we can return our focus to the matter at hand — health care for 32 million Americans.”

On the 30th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural, Mike Pence talked to National Review about how the former president inspired him: “Reagan is the reason I’m a Republican. … I was active in local Democratic politics when I was a teenager in Columbus, Indiana. Then I started to hear the voice of a B-movie actor, turned governor, turned candidate. He gave voice to the ideals and values that I was raised to believe in.”

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Palestinians’ UN Gambit Puts Both Israel and Obama on the Spot

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

The news that the Palestinian Authority is expected to try to use the United Nations Security Council to label any Israeli presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem “illegal” is hardly a surprise to those who have followed the PA’s continuous efforts to evade actual peace negotiations. Having rejected an Israeli offer of an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas spent the first two years of the Obama administration doing everything possible to avoid actually negotiating with Israel. With even Obama starting to understand that the last thing Abbas wants is to sign a peace accord no matter how generous its terms or where Israel’s borders might be drawn, it’s clear the Palestinian’s goal is not a state but to escalate the diplomatic conflict. That will enable him to compete with Hamas for support among a Palestinian population that has never reconciled itself to peace with a Jewish state. The UN is the perfect forum for such a venture since it is a hotbed of anti-Zionist, as well as anti-Semitic, incitement.

Yet despite the mainstream media’s oft trumpeted claim that settlements are illegal under international law, Israel actually has an excellent case here. As David Phillips of the Northeastern School of Law detailed in COMMENTARY in December 2009, whatever one’s opinion of the wisdom of building in the territories, allegations of its illegality are unfounded in international law. Unfortunately, Israel has never made much of an effort to defend itself on this front. The reasons for this are complicated. A lot of it has to do with the general incompetence of Israeli public relations, but it must also be said that the left-wing political beliefs of many Israeli diplomats who were personally opposed to the settlements also played a role. This has led to a situation in which many Israelis and American supporters of the Jewish state simply accept the charge of illegality since they have rarely been exposed to the compelling arguments to the contrary.

But the real question that is hanging over a potential UN fight over settlements is how the United States will behave. The United States has used its veto in the past to prevent the Security Council from unfairly prejudicing potential peace talks with resolutions that demonized Israel. However, President Obama’s foolish decision to pick a fight with the Israelis over settlements and, in particular, about Jerusalem helped torpedo any hope of fruitful negotiations, because Abbas could not appear to be less tough on Israel than the Americans (he had, after all, negotiated directly with the Israelis without the precondition of the settlement freeze that Obama had insisted on). In recent months, the administration tried to entice the Israelis to agree to yet another settlement-building freeze by promising to veto resolutions like the one the Palestinians may propose, but, as we know, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to put that in writing. In the months ahead, we will see whether Israel will be forced to pay a price for an American veto. But even more ominous is the possibility that Barack Obama will reverse decades of pro-Israel advocacy by U.S. representatives to the UN by abandoning Israel in the coming debate.

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In North Korea, a Lesson on Iran

Here’s a sobering paragraph from a New York Times report on North Korea:

When North Korea set off a nuclear test last year just months after Mr. Obama took office, the United States won passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed far harsher sanctions. The sanctions gave countries the right, and responsibility, to board North Korean ships and planes that landed at ports around the world and to inspect them for weapons. The effort seemed partly successful — but the equipment in the centrifuge plant is so new that it is clear that the trade restrictions did not stop the North from building what Siegfried S. Hecker, the visiting scientist, called an “ultramodern” nuclear complex.

We should keep this in mind when considering the prospect of “biting sanctions” on Iran. North Korea is a starved and isolated gulag state run by a family of delusional paranoids, and it managed to find willing international nuclear collaborators and elude the eyes of an international sanctions regime. Iran boasts of trading partners around the globe, and its regional rise incentivizes still more alliances and state-clients. If the malfunctional Kim regime can evade the kind of intrusive sanctions that were slapped on Pyongyang, what hope is there that Tehran will break under the weight of inconsistent trade and banking embargoes?

Here’s a sobering paragraph from a New York Times report on North Korea:

When North Korea set off a nuclear test last year just months after Mr. Obama took office, the United States won passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed far harsher sanctions. The sanctions gave countries the right, and responsibility, to board North Korean ships and planes that landed at ports around the world and to inspect them for weapons. The effort seemed partly successful — but the equipment in the centrifuge plant is so new that it is clear that the trade restrictions did not stop the North from building what Siegfried S. Hecker, the visiting scientist, called an “ultramodern” nuclear complex.

We should keep this in mind when considering the prospect of “biting sanctions” on Iran. North Korea is a starved and isolated gulag state run by a family of delusional paranoids, and it managed to find willing international nuclear collaborators and elude the eyes of an international sanctions regime. Iran boasts of trading partners around the globe, and its regional rise incentivizes still more alliances and state-clients. If the malfunctional Kim regime can evade the kind of intrusive sanctions that were slapped on Pyongyang, what hope is there that Tehran will break under the weight of inconsistent trade and banking embargoes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Un-Peace Talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Iran Sanctions Don’t Change the Equation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iran Arms Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

The recent frolic in Damascus now looks even more absurd:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The recent frolic in Damascus now looks even more absurd:

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

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

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House Letter on Flotilla — a Vast Improvement

Republican Rep. Ted Poe and Democrat Rep. Gary Peters have released a letter on the flotilla , the counterpart to the Reid-McConnell letter, we are told. Except it’s not the Pelosi-Cantor letter (for reasons I will try to divine below) and it’s not the same as the Senate version — it’s much better.

Unlike the Senate letter, Poe-Peters avoids praising the noxious UN statement that Obama agreed to, which left open the option of an international inquiry. (Reid-McConnell: “We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community.”) Instead, the congressmen challenge Obama “to make every effort to thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed [note: Reid-McConnell doesn't explicitly make the Iran connection] Hamas leadership against Israel and the Palestinian people.”

And rather than the softer formulation of the Reid-McConnell letter (“The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so”), the congressmen implore Obama to “unequivocally reiterate that the United States stands behind its longtime friend and ally.” Unfortunately, the congressmen don’t call for withdrawal of the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council, but it’s certainly an improvement over the last effort.

Why the improvement? First, rather than negotiating with the House’s Democratic speaker, who’s going to play defense for Obama at all costs, a Democrat unconcerned with running interference for Obama was rounded up. Good move. Lesson for the future: if you insist on bipartisanship, find more candidly pro-Israel Democrats. And second, I can only imagine that pro-Israel groups were rightly embarrassed by the senators’ endorsement of the UN statement and implored the congressmen not to repeat the error.

So it seems possible to set the bar a bit higher for pro-Israel letters and resolutions, obtain a more effective statement, and avoid enabling the Obami’s mischief. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend.

Republican Rep. Ted Poe and Democrat Rep. Gary Peters have released a letter on the flotilla , the counterpart to the Reid-McConnell letter, we are told. Except it’s not the Pelosi-Cantor letter (for reasons I will try to divine below) and it’s not the same as the Senate version — it’s much better.

Unlike the Senate letter, Poe-Peters avoids praising the noxious UN statement that Obama agreed to, which left open the option of an international inquiry. (Reid-McConnell: “We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community.”) Instead, the congressmen challenge Obama “to make every effort to thwart international condemnation and focus the international community on the crimes of the Iran-backed [note: Reid-McConnell doesn't explicitly make the Iran connection] Hamas leadership against Israel and the Palestinian people.”

And rather than the softer formulation of the Reid-McConnell letter (“The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so”), the congressmen implore Obama to “unequivocally reiterate that the United States stands behind its longtime friend and ally.” Unfortunately, the congressmen don’t call for withdrawal of the U.S. from the UN Human Rights Council, but it’s certainly an improvement over the last effort.

Why the improvement? First, rather than negotiating with the House’s Democratic speaker, who’s going to play defense for Obama at all costs, a Democrat unconcerned with running interference for Obama was rounded up. Good move. Lesson for the future: if you insist on bipartisanship, find more candidly pro-Israel Democrats. And second, I can only imagine that pro-Israel groups were rightly embarrassed by the senators’ endorsement of the UN statement and implored the congressmen not to repeat the error.

So it seems possible to set the bar a bit higher for pro-Israel letters and resolutions, obtain a more effective statement, and avoid enabling the Obami’s mischief. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend.

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RE: The Incoherent Response to the Flotilla Incident

The White House released a statement late on Sunday concerning the Israeli investigation of the flotilla incident. It is further proof that no good comes from soft-pedaling criticism of the administration or from wishful thinking that one day Obama will emerge as a stalwart friend of the Jewish state. The statement reads in full:

Today, the Government of Israel took an important step forward in proposing an independent public commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent tragic events on board the flotilla headed for Gaza. Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.

We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.

While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.

Let’s count the ways in which this statement is, as a colleague puts it, “appalling.”

First, contrary to assurances to some Jewish leaders, the Obama administration is not enthusiastically embracing or participating in an investigation of Israel. In fact, the administration’s response is a grudging acknowledgment that Israel insists on doing this itself and a warning that Obama and the “international community” will continue to sit in judgment. There is no repudiation of an international inquest; to the contrary, the door is left wide open if the UN decides that the results of the inquiry aren’t “credible.”

Second, after being apparently encouraged by the Reid-McConnell letter, which treated the UN statement as a positive development, the Obama team gloats about its move. (“Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.”) This is what comes from cheer leading the unacceptable — you get more of it.

Third, it orders Israel to present the findings to the “international community.” What other country must do so? Would the U.S. dream of seeking the UN’s stamp of approval on its drone policy?

Finally, there is no indication that we are the least bit interested in investigating Turkey or the terrorists responsible for the violence. Since Turkey will not investigate itself, why is no international inquest convened to explore that nation’s “acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla”? It is because Obama refuses to cast blame or focus the international community’s ire anywhere but on Israel.

This should be a warning to those earnestly trying to curb the worst instincts of this president. It won’t be done by walking on eggshells, making excuses, or trying to soften criticism. In other words, it is time to robustly and clearly enunciate the ways in which this administration is doing damage to our ally, our security, and our moral standing. Obama continues to put all three in jeopardy.

The White House released a statement late on Sunday concerning the Israeli investigation of the flotilla incident. It is further proof that no good comes from soft-pedaling criticism of the administration or from wishful thinking that one day Obama will emerge as a stalwart friend of the Jewish state. The statement reads in full:

Today, the Government of Israel took an important step forward in proposing an independent public commission to investigate the circumstances of the recent tragic events on board the flotilla headed for Gaza. Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.

We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation, and the structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.

While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly. We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.

Let’s count the ways in which this statement is, as a colleague puts it, “appalling.”

First, contrary to assurances to some Jewish leaders, the Obama administration is not enthusiastically embracing or participating in an investigation of Israel. In fact, the administration’s response is a grudging acknowledgment that Israel insists on doing this itself and a warning that Obama and the “international community” will continue to sit in judgment. There is no repudiation of an international inquest; to the contrary, the door is left wide open if the UN decides that the results of the inquiry aren’t “credible.”

Second, after being apparently encouraged by the Reid-McConnell letter, which treated the UN statement as a positive development, the Obama team gloats about its move. (“Through a presidential statement of the United Nations Security Council, the United States joined the international community in condemning those acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla, and supporting the completion of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation.”) This is what comes from cheer leading the unacceptable — you get more of it.

Third, it orders Israel to present the findings to the “international community.” What other country must do so? Would the U.S. dream of seeking the UN’s stamp of approval on its drone policy?

Finally, there is no indication that we are the least bit interested in investigating Turkey or the terrorists responsible for the violence. Since Turkey will not investigate itself, why is no international inquest convened to explore that nation’s “acts which led to nine fatalities and many injuries on board the flotilla”? It is because Obama refuses to cast blame or focus the international community’s ire anywhere but on Israel.

This should be a warning to those earnestly trying to curb the worst instincts of this president. It won’t be done by walking on eggshells, making excuses, or trying to soften criticism. In other words, it is time to robustly and clearly enunciate the ways in which this administration is doing damage to our ally, our security, and our moral standing. Obama continues to put all three in jeopardy.

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Reid-McConnell Letter on Israel

Late on Friday the following letter signed by Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was circulated to all senators for signature. It reads:

President Barack Obama

The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations. The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy. Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region. That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran. Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.

We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense. In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza. Israel’s naval blockade, which is legal under international law, allows Israel to keep dangerous goods from entering Gaza by sea. The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation. Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockage. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.

We are deeply concerned about the IHH’s role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas. The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department.

We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community. We also deplore the actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council which, once again, singled out Israel. Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough  investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted. In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

Finally, we believe that this incident should not derail the current proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We hope that these talks will move quickly to direct negotiations and ultimately, to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The letter certainly sets forth stark differences with the administration (which has ignored the IHH, edged toward an international investigation, and failed to offer full support for Israel). It is a robust statement of support for Israel, its right of self-defense, and its right to maintain the blockade. It rebuffs the administration’s efforts to internationalize the investigation. And unlike the Obama team, the senators put the spotlight on Turkey and on the terrorists.

However, the letter is weaker than Rep. Peter King’s proposed resolution as well as the statements of Sen. John Cornyn. It does not call for withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. It does not specifically identify Iran as a sponsor of Hamas or mention the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Most troubling, it commends the administration for downgrading (but not vetoing) the original UN resolution. This was an unprecedented action by Obama, an accommodation to the Israel-haters in the UN. It was yet another dangerous sign that the administration, rather than giving unqualified support to Israel in international bodies, is seeking to straddle between Israel and its antagonists. It is not helpful to encourage such conduct.

As I wrote yesterday, when you desire for the broadest possible coalition and shrink from pointedly challenging the administration, you wind up praising fraudulent UN sanctions and giving the president a pat on the back for crossing a line that no administration has. AIPAC released the following statement:

Along with on the 103 statements from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate that we have seen in the just the last week, AIPAC strongly supports this letter from Senate Majority Leader Reid and GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell calling on the President to act in America’s national interest by standing with our ally Israel in international bodies and to firmly and publicly reiterate America’s unyielding support for Israel’s right to self-defense.  The letter also calls on the Treasury and State Departments to closely examine terrorist-linked (HAMAS, 2000 al-Qaeda attack on LAX, etc.) Turkish “charity” IHH, at the center of the Flotilla incident, and consider adding the HAMAS affiliated group to the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

Supporters of Israel should be concerned that sails were trimmed. There is much good in the letter, but it cut Obama a break at Israel’s expense. It is most troubling that it was apparently necessary needlessly to praise Obama’s UN equivocation.

We can only hope that even with a less-than-ideal letter and, more importantly, with the reaction set off by the revelation (and later the confirmation) that the administration is still pursuing an international element to the investigation, that the administration will stand down and fully embrace an Israel-only investigation. Then we can work on getting the U.S. off the Human Rights Council.

Late on Friday the following letter signed by Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell was circulated to all senators for signature. It reads:

President Barack Obama

The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations. The United States has traditionally stood with Israel because it is in our national security interest and must continue to do so.

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and a vibrant democracy. Israel is also a partner to the United States on military and intelligence issues in this critical region. That is why it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran. Israel’s opponents have developed clever diplomatic and tactical ploys to challenge its international standing, whether the effort to isolate Israel at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference or the recent effort to breach the naval blockade around Gaza.

We fully support Israel’s right to self-defense. In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza. Israel’s naval blockade, which is legal under international law, allows Israel to keep dangerous goods from entering Gaza by sea. The intent of the measures is to protect Israel, while allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Late last month when Israel learned that groups operating in Turkey wanted to challenge its blockade of Gaza, Israel made every effort to ensure that all humanitarian aid reached Gaza without needlessly precipitating a confrontation. Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockage. However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted.

We are deeply concerned about the IHH’s role in this incident and have additional questions about Turkey and any connections to Hamas. The IHH is a member of a group of Muslim charities, the Union of Good, which was designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organization. The Union of Good was created by and strongly supports Hamas, which has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State Department. We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department.

We commend the action you took to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution, which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community. We also deplore the actions of the United Nations Human Rights Council which, once again, singled out Israel. Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough  investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted. In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing.

Finally, we believe that this incident should not derail the current proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We hope that these talks will move quickly to direct negotiations and ultimately, to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The letter certainly sets forth stark differences with the administration (which has ignored the IHH, edged toward an international investigation, and failed to offer full support for Israel). It is a robust statement of support for Israel, its right of self-defense, and its right to maintain the blockade. It rebuffs the administration’s efforts to internationalize the investigation. And unlike the Obama team, the senators put the spotlight on Turkey and on the terrorists.

However, the letter is weaker than Rep. Peter King’s proposed resolution as well as the statements of Sen. John Cornyn. It does not call for withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council. It does not specifically identify Iran as a sponsor of Hamas or mention the growing alliance between Turkey and Iran. Most troubling, it commends the administration for downgrading (but not vetoing) the original UN resolution. This was an unprecedented action by Obama, an accommodation to the Israel-haters in the UN. It was yet another dangerous sign that the administration, rather than giving unqualified support to Israel in international bodies, is seeking to straddle between Israel and its antagonists. It is not helpful to encourage such conduct.

As I wrote yesterday, when you desire for the broadest possible coalition and shrink from pointedly challenging the administration, you wind up praising fraudulent UN sanctions and giving the president a pat on the back for crossing a line that no administration has. AIPAC released the following statement:

Along with on the 103 statements from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate that we have seen in the just the last week, AIPAC strongly supports this letter from Senate Majority Leader Reid and GOP Leaders Mitch McConnell calling on the President to act in America’s national interest by standing with our ally Israel in international bodies and to firmly and publicly reiterate America’s unyielding support for Israel’s right to self-defense.  The letter also calls on the Treasury and State Departments to closely examine terrorist-linked (HAMAS, 2000 al-Qaeda attack on LAX, etc.) Turkish “charity” IHH, at the center of the Flotilla incident, and consider adding the HAMAS affiliated group to the U.S. list of designated terrorist organizations.

Supporters of Israel should be concerned that sails were trimmed. There is much good in the letter, but it cut Obama a break at Israel’s expense. It is most troubling that it was apparently necessary needlessly to praise Obama’s UN equivocation.

We can only hope that even with a less-than-ideal letter and, more importantly, with the reaction set off by the revelation (and later the confirmation) that the administration is still pursuing an international element to the investigation, that the administration will stand down and fully embrace an Israel-only investigation. Then we can work on getting the U.S. off the Human Rights Council.

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RE: RE: What Is Obama Up To?

The reaction to the report regarding an international investigation of the flotilla and then the confirmation from the administration that it is searching for some type of international element have indeed caused an immediate push-back. From Minority Whip Eric Cantor:

It would be naïve to assume that the United Nations intends to give a fair and balanced account of the flotilla incident. As we saw with the Goldstone Commission, these so-called investigations are designed to demonize Israel and strip it of its right to self defense. The Obama Administration should not lend America’s stamp of approval to a witch hunt against a democratic ally who stands on our side in the battle against terrorism – lest one day American troops become the target of a similar smear attack. I hope that these reports are untrue and that the Administration makes its position known by standing with our friend and ally Israel.

And Josh Rogin ably explains the stakes:

While it’s true there is no specific resolution expected, sources close to the issue say, what pro-Israel leaders like Kristol are worried about are continuing calls for tougher measures against Israel, such as the vote in the Human Rights Council, and whether or not the administration will really oppose them with vigor. That point is made clearly in the first line of a letter addressed to the president that is currently being finalized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY. In a rare show of bipartisan comity, the two Senate leaders are calling on Obama not just to oppose new efforts to isolate Israel at the U.N., but to openly declare America’s support for the Jewish state. …

“Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted,” they wrote. “In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing. . . 

“We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations,” the letter reads.

Why should this be such an ordeal for the administration? In any other administration, the Reid-McConnell letter would never have been necessary. Everyone — Democrats and Republicans, not to mention Jewish groups — would assume that the administration would never entertain a witch hunt of this type and that it would be pressing for an investigation of the terrorists instead. But this is an administration like no other, and Israel supporters must devise a new approach to it in these troubled times.

UPDATE: Perhaps this is the way to go. A letter signed by 78 Republican House members was sent to Bibi Netanyahu affirming American support for Israel and for the maritime blockade. It is what Obama should be saying, but won’t.

The reaction to the report regarding an international investigation of the flotilla and then the confirmation from the administration that it is searching for some type of international element have indeed caused an immediate push-back. From Minority Whip Eric Cantor:

It would be naïve to assume that the United Nations intends to give a fair and balanced account of the flotilla incident. As we saw with the Goldstone Commission, these so-called investigations are designed to demonize Israel and strip it of its right to self defense. The Obama Administration should not lend America’s stamp of approval to a witch hunt against a democratic ally who stands on our side in the battle against terrorism – lest one day American troops become the target of a similar smear attack. I hope that these reports are untrue and that the Administration makes its position known by standing with our friend and ally Israel.

And Josh Rogin ably explains the stakes:

While it’s true there is no specific resolution expected, sources close to the issue say, what pro-Israel leaders like Kristol are worried about are continuing calls for tougher measures against Israel, such as the vote in the Human Rights Council, and whether or not the administration will really oppose them with vigor. That point is made clearly in the first line of a letter addressed to the president that is currently being finalized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY. In a rare show of bipartisan comity, the two Senate leaders are calling on Obama not just to oppose new efforts to isolate Israel at the U.N., but to openly declare America’s support for the Jewish state. …

“Israel has announced its intention to promptly carry out a thorough investigation of this incident and has the right to determine how its investigation is conducted,” they wrote. “In the meantime, we ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing. . . 

“We write to affirm our support for our strategic partnership with Israel, and encourage you to continue to do so before international organizations such as the United Nations,” the letter reads.

Why should this be such an ordeal for the administration? In any other administration, the Reid-McConnell letter would never have been necessary. Everyone — Democrats and Republicans, not to mention Jewish groups — would assume that the administration would never entertain a witch hunt of this type and that it would be pressing for an investigation of the terrorists instead. But this is an administration like no other, and Israel supporters must devise a new approach to it in these troubled times.

UPDATE: Perhaps this is the way to go. A letter signed by 78 Republican House members was sent to Bibi Netanyahu affirming American support for Israel and for the maritime blockade. It is what Obama should be saying, but won’t.

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RE: Reaction to UN Sanctions

There is a predictable split in reaction. Nancy Pelosi coos that the Congress stands with Obama and the UN. But does it? Minority Leader John Boehner issues a statement:

Today’s action by the United Nations Security Council is long overdue but unfortunately doesn’t go far enough. What’s most disappointing is that the President’s 16-month ‘engagement strategy’ on this issue has simply given the Iranians 16 more months to work on acquiring a nuclear capability, and this sanctions resolution does nothing to stop that. At the request of the Administration, Congress has repeatedly delayed mandatory bilateral sanctions legislation.  Any justification for delay is now at an end, and the Congress must act immediately.

Carly Fiorina declares that the sanctions are “no victory for peace” and rightly fingers Obama for allowing Russia to continue supporting the mullahs:

In order to get Russia and China on board, President Obama gutted the sanctions that were once promised to be “crippling” and later downgraded to “biting.” Today’s sanctions are so watered down that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, at a conference this week with the leader of Iran, vowed they would “not put Iran’s leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty.”

If Iran’s leadership is not put “into difficulty” by these sanctions, American interests and those of our allies will be. This is the fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran, yet Iran continues to work toward a nuclear weapon. Iran will also be allowed to continue arming itself — these sanctions include a loophole that will let Russia move forward with plans to sell Iran one of the world’s most sophisticated air defense systems, the S-300. Russia will also be allowed to continue building and delivering fuel to an Iranian nuclear reactor, even as the Obama administration moves toward a deal with Russia on nuclear cooperation that is now pending in Congress. And these sanctions do not target Iran’s imports of refined petroleum products or its access to international banking systems and capital markets, and it does not include a ban on dealings with Iran’s national air and shipping lines — the real pressure points on the Iranian regime.

The United States Congress can impose its own sanctions on Iran, real sanctions that would cause Iran’s leadership great difficulty. But Barbara Boxer and this Congress have so far refused to stand up to this administration and get serious about the threat from Iran.

This is a time for choosing, and to see Jewish “leaders” among the Obama enablers is a sorry spectacle. It is proof positive that Israel must rely on a new sort of alliance of American supporters – many leaders and members who are not Jewish — to defend the Jewish state. It certainly isn’t going to come from mainstream Jewish groups or the Democratic Party (but I repeat myself).

There is a predictable split in reaction. Nancy Pelosi coos that the Congress stands with Obama and the UN. But does it? Minority Leader John Boehner issues a statement:

Today’s action by the United Nations Security Council is long overdue but unfortunately doesn’t go far enough. What’s most disappointing is that the President’s 16-month ‘engagement strategy’ on this issue has simply given the Iranians 16 more months to work on acquiring a nuclear capability, and this sanctions resolution does nothing to stop that. At the request of the Administration, Congress has repeatedly delayed mandatory bilateral sanctions legislation.  Any justification for delay is now at an end, and the Congress must act immediately.

Carly Fiorina declares that the sanctions are “no victory for peace” and rightly fingers Obama for allowing Russia to continue supporting the mullahs:

In order to get Russia and China on board, President Obama gutted the sanctions that were once promised to be “crippling” and later downgraded to “biting.” Today’s sanctions are so watered down that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, at a conference this week with the leader of Iran, vowed they would “not put Iran’s leadership or the Iranian people into difficulty.”

If Iran’s leadership is not put “into difficulty” by these sanctions, American interests and those of our allies will be. This is the fourth round of U.N. sanctions on Iran, yet Iran continues to work toward a nuclear weapon. Iran will also be allowed to continue arming itself — these sanctions include a loophole that will let Russia move forward with plans to sell Iran one of the world’s most sophisticated air defense systems, the S-300. Russia will also be allowed to continue building and delivering fuel to an Iranian nuclear reactor, even as the Obama administration moves toward a deal with Russia on nuclear cooperation that is now pending in Congress. And these sanctions do not target Iran’s imports of refined petroleum products or its access to international banking systems and capital markets, and it does not include a ban on dealings with Iran’s national air and shipping lines — the real pressure points on the Iranian regime.

The United States Congress can impose its own sanctions on Iran, real sanctions that would cause Iran’s leadership great difficulty. But Barbara Boxer and this Congress have so far refused to stand up to this administration and get serious about the threat from Iran.

This is a time for choosing, and to see Jewish “leaders” among the Obama enablers is a sorry spectacle. It is proof positive that Israel must rely on a new sort of alliance of American supporters – many leaders and members who are not Jewish — to defend the Jewish state. It certainly isn’t going to come from mainstream Jewish groups or the Democratic Party (but I repeat myself).

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New Sanctions Give Iran Nothing to Worry About

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

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Obama Slows Sanctions Bill

You knew this was coming:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), the co-chairs of the Iran sanctions conference committee, have agreed to slow down Congressional Iran sanctions until the end of June, given the progress the Obama administration has shown getting consensus from all the permanent members for a new United Nations Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran.

Despite the carve-outs and the thin gruel in the UN sanctions resolution, the two self-described friends of Israel are just delighted with the result:

Dodd and Berman added: “With the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts — and expected follow-on action by the EU at its mid-June summit — to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President.”

AIPAC has applauded the slowdown. Maybe they all know something the rest of us don’t; maybe there’s some other sanctions proposal floating around the UN, because this sure doesn’t sound like anything we’ve seen already:

AIPAC also calls for quick U.N. Security Council passage of tough sanctions, and calls on our government and our European allies — individually and collectively thru the European Union — to press ahead urgently and immediately with complementary and crippling sanctions to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability before it is too late.

But the UN sanctions aren’t tough, and the sanctions under consideration in the U.S. Congress need carve-outs for China and Russia, the Obama team argues. So where are we heading? And why is AIPAC cheering?

There are two possibilities. One is that there’s a game plan for super-duper EU sanctions and a commitment by the administration to use force to stop Iran from going nuclear if that fails. Doesn’t sound like what we’ve been hearing for a year and a half, but we can hope. The other is that this is another dangerous stall and a slow walk to containment, and the Obama team has successfully snowed Congress and pro-Israel groups into playing along with the charade. I sure hope I’m wrong about which it is.

You knew this was coming:

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.), the co-chairs of the Iran sanctions conference committee, have agreed to slow down Congressional Iran sanctions until the end of June, given the progress the Obama administration has shown getting consensus from all the permanent members for a new United Nations Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran.

Despite the carve-outs and the thin gruel in the UN sanctions resolution, the two self-described friends of Israel are just delighted with the result:

Dodd and Berman added: “With the progress in negotiations at the Security Council, we believe that our overriding goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability is best served by providing a limited amount of time for those efforts — and expected follow-on action by the EU at its mid-June summit — to reach a successful conclusion before we send our bill to the President.”

AIPAC has applauded the slowdown. Maybe they all know something the rest of us don’t; maybe there’s some other sanctions proposal floating around the UN, because this sure doesn’t sound like anything we’ve seen already:

AIPAC also calls for quick U.N. Security Council passage of tough sanctions, and calls on our government and our European allies — individually and collectively thru the European Union — to press ahead urgently and immediately with complementary and crippling sanctions to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability before it is too late.

But the UN sanctions aren’t tough, and the sanctions under consideration in the U.S. Congress need carve-outs for China and Russia, the Obama team argues. So where are we heading? And why is AIPAC cheering?

There are two possibilities. One is that there’s a game plan for super-duper EU sanctions and a commitment by the administration to use force to stop Iran from going nuclear if that fails. Doesn’t sound like what we’ve been hearing for a year and a half, but we can hope. The other is that this is another dangerous stall and a slow walk to containment, and the Obama team has successfully snowed Congress and pro-Israel groups into playing along with the charade. I sure hope I’m wrong about which it is.

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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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Obama’s Anti-Israel Bullying Continues

The New York Times reports on the opening of the proximity talks, with two nuggets of news confirming that for all its “charm,” the Obami’s anti-Israel assault is going full steam ahead.

First, the Times — presumably with some sourcing — pronounces that “many experts agree that the chances of a breakthrough are minuscule, and some say the whole exercise is simply a warm-up before Mr. Obama puts forward his own proposals for ending decades of conflict.”  Some say? But the president and Hillary Clinton of late have been promising they won’t “impose” any peace deal. Are we to believe that’s just spin? Yes, we’re shocked, shocked to find there’s duplicity going on in the Obami’s Israel policy. We are, no doubt, going to hear that they gave the parties every chance to work things out among themselves, but, by gosh, now it’s time to get serious and — voila! — here’s the Obama plan. But they promised not to pull this, you say? Well, they also say a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable,” so don’t take them too literally.

But the real news comes with this glimpse into the bully-boyism that now characterizes the Obami’s treatment of our ally. We learn:

The Arab League is expected to endorse the decision of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the bargaining table, when the organization meets on Saturday in Cairo. Mr. Abbas’s change of heart, administration officials said, came after reassurances from the United States, including a letter from Mr. Obama prodding the Palestinian leader to re-enter talks with Israel. Separately, these officials said, Mr. Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, indicated to the Palestinians that if Israel proceeded with the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move.

So much for defending Israel in international institutions, and so much for past promises by the U.S. to leave disposition of Jerusalem to final-status talks. A knowledgeable source reminds me that the Bush administration regularly vetoed anti-Israel UN resolutions, the sole exception being an abstention in January 2009, which called for a ceasefire in the Gaza War. But the notion that we would threaten prospectively to permit a condemnation of  the Jewish state by the UN Israel-bashers is frankly shocking. We’ll abstain no matter what the UN says? As the source tells me, “Resolutions are vetoed one by one; language counts.” So the Obami are either making a promise to the Palestinians that can’t be relied upon, or the Obami are giving Israel’s UN foes a blank check to bash, condemn, and vilify Israel to their heart’s content.

Once again, one asks, where are the mainstream Jewish organizations? Do they find Obama’s platitudinous assurances and pretty letters so irresistible that they can’t bestir themselves to discern the true nature of Obama’s Middle East policy? The evidence continues to mount that Obama will keep turning the screws on the Jewish state and will countenance, if not encourage, the UN’s crusade to delegitimize Israel and impose a “peace” on an unwilling ally. American Jewish “leaders” better rouse themselves from their slumber before it too late to knock the Obami off their desired course. Or maybe it already is.

The New York Times reports on the opening of the proximity talks, with two nuggets of news confirming that for all its “charm,” the Obami’s anti-Israel assault is going full steam ahead.

First, the Times — presumably with some sourcing — pronounces that “many experts agree that the chances of a breakthrough are minuscule, and some say the whole exercise is simply a warm-up before Mr. Obama puts forward his own proposals for ending decades of conflict.”  Some say? But the president and Hillary Clinton of late have been promising they won’t “impose” any peace deal. Are we to believe that’s just spin? Yes, we’re shocked, shocked to find there’s duplicity going on in the Obami’s Israel policy. We are, no doubt, going to hear that they gave the parties every chance to work things out among themselves, but, by gosh, now it’s time to get serious and — voila! — here’s the Obama plan. But they promised not to pull this, you say? Well, they also say a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable,” so don’t take them too literally.

But the real news comes with this glimpse into the bully-boyism that now characterizes the Obami’s treatment of our ally. We learn:

The Arab League is expected to endorse the decision of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the bargaining table, when the organization meets on Saturday in Cairo. Mr. Abbas’s change of heart, administration officials said, came after reassurances from the United States, including a letter from Mr. Obama prodding the Palestinian leader to re-enter talks with Israel. Separately, these officials said, Mr. Mitchell’s deputy, David Hale, indicated to the Palestinians that if Israel proceeded with the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem’s ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move.

So much for defending Israel in international institutions, and so much for past promises by the U.S. to leave disposition of Jerusalem to final-status talks. A knowledgeable source reminds me that the Bush administration regularly vetoed anti-Israel UN resolutions, the sole exception being an abstention in January 2009, which called for a ceasefire in the Gaza War. But the notion that we would threaten prospectively to permit a condemnation of  the Jewish state by the UN Israel-bashers is frankly shocking. We’ll abstain no matter what the UN says? As the source tells me, “Resolutions are vetoed one by one; language counts.” So the Obami are either making a promise to the Palestinians that can’t be relied upon, or the Obami are giving Israel’s UN foes a blank check to bash, condemn, and vilify Israel to their heart’s content.

Once again, one asks, where are the mainstream Jewish organizations? Do they find Obama’s platitudinous assurances and pretty letters so irresistible that they can’t bestir themselves to discern the true nature of Obama’s Middle East policy? The evidence continues to mount that Obama will keep turning the screws on the Jewish state and will countenance, if not encourage, the UN’s crusade to delegitimize Israel and impose a “peace” on an unwilling ally. American Jewish “leaders” better rouse themselves from their slumber before it too late to knock the Obami off their desired course. Or maybe it already is.

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Hillary Announces Proximity Talks

In remarks on Friday with the Kuwati Deputy Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton repeated her wishy-washy talking point on Iran:

I also updated the deputy prime minister on our ongoing efforts, along with our international partners, to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. We discussed the importance of diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to abide by its international nuclear obligations. On Monday, I will attend the conference in New York reviewing the Nonproliferation Treaty and we will be underscoring once again the importance of all nations upholding their responsibilities.

Good grief — could she sound any less serious about thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions? (Notice how nonproliferation meetings are used as camouflage to hide the utter lack of progress on the proliferation issue which is most urgent.) Later in the news conference, she adds: “We are working to isolate Iran through the United Nations. We’re in the midst of negotiations over a Security Council resolution that will impose consequences on Iran for its unwillingness to follow the IAEA or the United Nations Security Council requirements about its nuclear program. We are working to support the defense and territorial integrity of our partners and allies in the Gulf, and we consult closely.” You think that induces fear in Tehran? No, me neither.

Then she moves on to the “peace process” with her usual pablum. (“As I said last night at the American Jewish Committee, the Middle East will never realize its full potential, Israel will never be truly secure, the Palestinians will never have their legitimate aspiration for a state, unless we create the circumstances in which positive negotiations can occur.”) She announces that next week, after fifteen months, the Obami have been able to get the Palestinians to not talk directly to Israel. (Yes, this is a step backward from the Bush administration, which at least managed to force the parties into fruitless face-to-face talks.) She announces: “We will be starting with proximity talks next week. Senator Mitchell will be going back to the region. And we look forward to the meeting of the Arab follow-up committee in Cairo tomorrow night to support the commitment by President Abbas to move forward with these talks.”

Then, perhaps sensing this is indeed thin gruel and less than other administrations have achieved, she adds: “Ultimately, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must – they’ve been close a few times before. I remember very well the Camp David experience, and I know that President Abbas negotiated with former Prime Minister Olmert. So we are looking to see the resumption of those discussions.” In other words: for all their smart diplomacy, the Obami have managed to set back the “peace process” by more than a decade.

In remarks on Friday with the Kuwati Deputy Prime Minister, Hillary Clinton repeated her wishy-washy talking point on Iran:

I also updated the deputy prime minister on our ongoing efforts, along with our international partners, to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution on Iran. We discussed the importance of diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to abide by its international nuclear obligations. On Monday, I will attend the conference in New York reviewing the Nonproliferation Treaty and we will be underscoring once again the importance of all nations upholding their responsibilities.

Good grief — could she sound any less serious about thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions? (Notice how nonproliferation meetings are used as camouflage to hide the utter lack of progress on the proliferation issue which is most urgent.) Later in the news conference, she adds: “We are working to isolate Iran through the United Nations. We’re in the midst of negotiations over a Security Council resolution that will impose consequences on Iran for its unwillingness to follow the IAEA or the United Nations Security Council requirements about its nuclear program. We are working to support the defense and territorial integrity of our partners and allies in the Gulf, and we consult closely.” You think that induces fear in Tehran? No, me neither.

Then she moves on to the “peace process” with her usual pablum. (“As I said last night at the American Jewish Committee, the Middle East will never realize its full potential, Israel will never be truly secure, the Palestinians will never have their legitimate aspiration for a state, unless we create the circumstances in which positive negotiations can occur.”) She announces that next week, after fifteen months, the Obami have been able to get the Palestinians to not talk directly to Israel. (Yes, this is a step backward from the Bush administration, which at least managed to force the parties into fruitless face-to-face talks.) She announces: “We will be starting with proximity talks next week. Senator Mitchell will be going back to the region. And we look forward to the meeting of the Arab follow-up committee in Cairo tomorrow night to support the commitment by President Abbas to move forward with these talks.”

Then, perhaps sensing this is indeed thin gruel and less than other administrations have achieved, she adds: “Ultimately, we want to see the parties in direct negotiations and working out all the difficult issues that they must – they’ve been close a few times before. I remember very well the Camp David experience, and I know that President Abbas negotiated with former Prime Minister Olmert. So we are looking to see the resumption of those discussions.” In other words: for all their smart diplomacy, the Obami have managed to set back the “peace process” by more than a decade.

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Congress Objects to Feckless Iran Policy

AIPAC is touting letters signed by 76 senators and 363 House members calling for tougher action on Iran. They really do want “crippling sanctions.” The House version explains:

Iran’s nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could lead to the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East and beyond, destabilizing the global non-proliferation regime and greatly increasing the likelihood of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. It would also dramatically expand Iranian influence and threaten our allies in the region. It would undercut prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors, with emboldened Iranian surrogates enjoying the strategic backing of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And it would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Iran is making steady progress in its nuclear program. It now has stored enough low enriched uranium to serve as the core for two nuclear weapons. It will soon be able to install much more advanced and efficient centrifuges. Iran has recently begun to enrich uranium to twenty percent fissile. Its weaponization program now appears to be at an advanced stage.

Mr. President, you have stated this issue is a priority for your administration. You have attempted to engage the Iranian regime for over a year. You have gone to the United Nations Security Council in an effort to impose tough new sanctions on Iran. But time is not on our side. We cannot allow those who would oppose or delay sanctions to govern either the timing or content of our efforts. As you said last July, we cannot wait until we “wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act.”

What do they want? First, “We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’” (No more que sera, sera.) Second, they want Obama “to reverse the practice under which the US government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran” and to gather support for “crippling sanctions.” And finally, they advise the president that they are proceeding with the Iran sanctions measure making its way through the House and Senate and that “by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, rocking Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import or refine petroleum” they can force the Iranians to choose between pursuing its nuclear program and “possible reconciliation.”

But we know much of this isn’t going to happen. The president has already let the cat out of the bag — he’s no longer saying that he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent the mullahs from getting the bomb. His apparent resignation to the distinct possibility that Iran will not respond to his entreaties isn’t going to be erased from the public record. What — now he’s going to say, “I really didn’t mean to sound so blasé”? And we’ve already heard from him and from Medvedev that the sanctions won’t be crippling. So that leaves the unilateral sanctions by the U.S. Do we think Obama will actually implement those? It would only highlight how insufficient are the possible mini-sanctions under consideration by the UN.

It’s nice to see Congress go on record. But it’s a tall order to wrest control of foreign policy from the executive branch. For now, Obama appears entirely averse to employing a “whatever it takes” strategy. We know it, Congress knows it, and the mullahs know it. Until that changes, it is only a matter of time before the Islamic revolutionary state acquires its nuclear bomb — and the entire Middle East embarks on a deadly arms race. It sure will throw cold water on Obama’s whole nonproliferation effort, won’t it?

AIPAC is touting letters signed by 76 senators and 363 House members calling for tougher action on Iran. They really do want “crippling sanctions.” The House version explains:

Iran’s nuclear weapons program represents a severe threat to American national interests. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could lead to the proliferation of these weapons throughout the Middle East and beyond, destabilizing the global non-proliferation regime and greatly increasing the likelihood of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. It would also dramatically expand Iranian influence and threaten our allies in the region. It would undercut prospects for peace between Israel and her neighbors, with emboldened Iranian surrogates enjoying the strategic backing of an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And it would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.

Iran is making steady progress in its nuclear program. It now has stored enough low enriched uranium to serve as the core for two nuclear weapons. It will soon be able to install much more advanced and efficient centrifuges. Iran has recently begun to enrich uranium to twenty percent fissile. Its weaponization program now appears to be at an advanced stage.

Mr. President, you have stated this issue is a priority for your administration. You have attempted to engage the Iranian regime for over a year. You have gone to the United Nations Security Council in an effort to impose tough new sanctions on Iran. But time is not on our side. We cannot allow those who would oppose or delay sanctions to govern either the timing or content of our efforts. As you said last July, we cannot wait until we “wake up one day and find ourselves in a much worse situation and unable to act.”

What do they want? First, “We call on you to fulfill your June 2008 pledge that you would do ‘everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’” (No more que sera, sera.) Second, they want Obama “to reverse the practice under which the US government has awarded at least $107 billion over the past decade in federal contracts to companies investing in or doing business in Iran” and to gather support for “crippling sanctions.” And finally, they advise the president that they are proceeding with the Iran sanctions measure making its way through the House and Senate and that “by imposing punishing measures on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, rocking Iran’s banking system, and dramatically impacting Iran’s ability to import or refine petroleum” they can force the Iranians to choose between pursuing its nuclear program and “possible reconciliation.”

But we know much of this isn’t going to happen. The president has already let the cat out of the bag — he’s no longer saying that he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent the mullahs from getting the bomb. His apparent resignation to the distinct possibility that Iran will not respond to his entreaties isn’t going to be erased from the public record. What — now he’s going to say, “I really didn’t mean to sound so blasé”? And we’ve already heard from him and from Medvedev that the sanctions won’t be crippling. So that leaves the unilateral sanctions by the U.S. Do we think Obama will actually implement those? It would only highlight how insufficient are the possible mini-sanctions under consideration by the UN.

It’s nice to see Congress go on record. But it’s a tall order to wrest control of foreign policy from the executive branch. For now, Obama appears entirely averse to employing a “whatever it takes” strategy. We know it, Congress knows it, and the mullahs know it. Until that changes, it is only a matter of time before the Islamic revolutionary state acquires its nuclear bomb — and the entire Middle East embarks on a deadly arms race. It sure will throw cold water on Obama’s whole nonproliferation effort, won’t it?

Read Less

Pushing Back

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

If the nuclear summit was meant to distract us from the failure of the Obami to devise a serious policy reasonably designed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions, it isn’t working. As this report explains:

As Iran gets closer to fulfilling its nuclear ambitions, Republican lawmakers are pushing the Obama administration to stop whistling past the graveyard and get tough with the Islamic Republic.

Sen. John McCain said Wednesday the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while U.S. officials admitted that that country’s accelerated nuclear program is roughly a year away from producing a weapon.

McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the U.S. acts more boldly. The Arizona Republican said the U.S. keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran, but it is failing to “pull the trigger.”

So what is the Obama administration doing? “Bill Burns, the No. 3 person at the State Department, said the United States is working as fast as it can to win new international sanctions on Iran. Burns predicted that a resolution will emerge from the United Nations Security Council this spring, and he called the case for new penalties urgent, saying he expects China will agree to some form of sanctions.” (Perhaps if it had started last Labor Day, when the first “final” deadline passed for the Iranians to cooperate, we’d already have sanctions in place and could be evaluating their effectiveness.) One sees that the supposed agreement with China is no agreement at all, and we are essentially starting at the beginning to discuss what sanctions they might agree to.

I suspect the voices inside and outside of Congress will have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the attention of the president. He’s got his plan — nibbly sanctions we might put in place this spring (if the Chinese agree) and that won’t be confused with a “magic wand” (i.e., anything remotely crippling that might impact the mullahs’ decision-making). There is only one president, and in this regard, his outlook is what matters. It will take a huge effort to get Obama to regard the Iranian threat as the single most critical issue we face. For a president who regards collection in four years of nuclear materials from NPT signatories a great achievement and who thinks global warming is a dire emergency, it’s going to be an uphill climb.

Read Less




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