Friday, March 27, 2015

Obama's MidEast Realignment

Obama’s Mideast Realignment - Max Boot

[The] facts suggest that Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off the most fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy in a generation. He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend. He is diminishing the alliance with Israel, to lows not seen since the 1960s.

Call it the Obama Doctrine: The U.S. puts down the burden, and Iran picks up the slack.

The U.S. has regarded Iran as its enemy since our embassy in Tehran was stormed and our diplomats taken captive. The Iranians have sponsored numerous terrorist attacks on American targets, in Lebanon in the 1980s and Iraq in the 2000s. In response, successive U.S. presidents have backed Israel and Sunni allies, notably Saudi Arabia. Mr. Obama is bucking this foreign-policy consensus. He is offering Iran extraordinarily generous terms in the current negotiations, suggesting that he will lift sanctions if Iran merely slows down its nuclear-weapons program for a decade.

Now the U.S. is even supporting the Iranian-directed offensive against Tikrit by providing surveillance flights and airstrikes for attacking forces.

The flip side of this shift toward Iran is a move away from longtime allies, most notably Israel, which views the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat. The president vowed to put some “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem, and boy has he delivered. His aides deride the Israeli prime minister as a “chickens—” and a “coward,” and Mr. Obama has exhibited more visceral anger at Mr. Netanyahu than he has at Vladimir Putin or Ayatollah Khamenei.

Will Mr. Obama succeed in pulling off his sweeping diplomatic realignment? He still has almost two years in office and considerable presidential prerogative to reorient foreign policy as he sees fit. Ironically, the biggest obstacle in his path may be the Iranian mullahs. If they reject his extraordinarily generous offer for fear of doing any deal with the Great Satan, the folly of his foreign-policy revolution will be brutally exposed.
Mr. Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present”
[The Wall Street Journal]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bombs Away: We Should Hit Iran

To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran - John Bolton

Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear weapons has long been evident. Now the arms race has begun: Neighboring countries are moving forward, driven by fears that Mr. Obama’s diplomacy is fostering a nuclear Iran. Saudi Arabia, keystone of the oil-producing monarchies, has long been expected to move first. No way would the Sunni Saudis allow the Shiite Persians to outpace them in the quest for dominance within Islam and Middle Eastern geopolitical hegemony. Because of reports of early Saudi funding, analysts have long believed that Saudi Arabia has an option to obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan, allowing it to become a nuclear-weapons state overnight. Egypt and Turkey, both with imperial legacies and modern aspirations, and similarly distrustful of Tehran, would be right behind.

Ironically perhaps, Israel’s nuclear weapons have not triggered an arms race. Other states in the region understood — even if they couldn’t admit it publicly — that Israel’s nukes were intended as a deterrent, not as an offensive measure.

Pakistan could quickly supply nuclear weapons or technology to Egypt, Turkey and others. Or, for the right price, North Korea might sell behind the backs of its Iranian friends.

The Obama administration’s increasingly frantic efforts to reach agreement with Iran have spurred demands for ever-greater concessions from Washington. Successive administrations, Democratic and Republican, worked hard, with varying success, to forestall or terminate efforts to acquire nuclear weapons by states as diverse as South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. Even where civilian nuclear reactors were tolerated, access to the rest of the nuclear fuel cycle was typically avoided. Everyone involved understood why.
This gold standard is now everywhere in jeopardy because the president’s policy is empowering Iran. Whether diplomacy and sanctions would ever have worked against the hard-liners running Iran is unlikely. But abandoning the red line on weapons-grade fuel drawn originally by the Europeans in 2003, and by the United Nations Security Council in several resolutions, has alarmed the Middle East and effectively handed a permit to Iran’s nuclear weapons establishment.
The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program. Nor will sanctions block its building a broad and deep weapons infrastructure. The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel’s 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.
Rendering inoperable the Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment installations and the Arak heavy-water production facility and reactor would be priorities. So, too, would be the little-noticed but critical uranium-conversion facility at Isfahan. An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but by breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its program by three to five years. The United States could do a thorough job of destruction, but Israel alone can do what’s necessary. Such action should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.
Mr. Obama’s fascination with an Iranian nuclear deal always had an air of unreality. But by ignoring the strategic implications of such diplomacy, these talks have triggered a potential wave of nuclear programs. The president’s biggest legacy could be a thoroughly nuclear-weaponized Middle East.
The writer, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was a former U.S. ambassador to the UN.
[New York Times]

Saudi's Hit Yemen: Sunni Shia War Heats Up


Saudis Begins Air Assault in Yemen - Mark Mazzetti and David D. Kirkpatrick

Saudi Arabia announced it had launched a campaign in Yemen to restore the Yemeni government after Shiite Houthi rebels took control of large swaths of the country. Saudi Arabia said it had launched airstrikes in coordination with a coalition of 10 nations.

(New York Times)

The U.S. Dropped the Ball on Yemen - Ron Ben-Yishai

The U.S. has once again messed up big time - this time in Yemen, where it underestimated the military might of the Houthis, who are backed by Iran and Sunni tribes loyal to the old regime. The Americans also understand the strategic significance of the capture of the Bab-el-Mandeb strait by a Shiite tribe loyal to Iran, which now controls the entrance to the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean.

But the U.S. National Security Council and President Obama were so hell-bent on the need to fight al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen that they failed to see the much greater threat being created right under their noses.
(Ynet News)


How Saudis Took the Lead in Yemen - Eli Lake & Josh Rogin

On Thursday, Egyptian warships entered the Gulf of Aden, while Saudi jets pounded Houthi positions on the mainland. 

America's traditional allies in the Middle East - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Turkey and Egypt - began stitching together the military coalition in the beginning of March.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, General Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, said he did not learn the Saudis were actually going to attack Yemen until an hour before the operation was launched.

Egypt May Send Troops to Yemen - David D. Kirkpatrick

Egypt said it was prepared to send troops into Yemen as part of a Saudi-led campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis, a day after Saudi Arabia and a coalition of nine other states began hammering the Houthis with airstrikes and blockading the Yemeni coast.

(New York Times)

Yemen Devolves into Proxy War
- Hakim Almasmari, Rory Jones & Asa Fitch

The conflict in Yemen is quickly devolving into a wider regional conflagration, pitting Shiite Iran and the allied militant Houthis against Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states. Saudi Arabia said its campaign in Yemen was being conducted in tandem with Egypt and Gulf neighbors Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Sudan and Turkey indicated they would support operations against the Houthis.

(Wall Street Journal)

Yemen: Testing Ground for Coalition Against Iran - Zvi Bar'el

The Saudi assault on Yemen is part of a comprehensive strategy to halt the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East. The core of the new, more aggressive policy consists of building a Sunni axis comprised of most of the Arab states plus the moderate and less-moderate Sunni organizations, the establishment of a 40,000-strong Arab intervention force that draws from the militaries of the Gulf States and Egypt, and an aggressive persuasion campaign to get countries with close ties to Iran to switch sides and join the Sunni axis.

The military preparations included direct coordination with Egypt, ensuring support from Pakistan, and the addition of Sudan to the military force. Qatar also joined the coalition despite being considered an Iranian ally.

The speed with which this Arab coalition has formed shows how fearful Saudi Arabia and its allies are that Yemen has now become part of the Iranian sphere of influence and control. This concern is particularly acute now that Syria and Iraq, and Lebanon to a large degree, have essentially become Iranian protectorates. 

A New Generation of Saudi Leaders and a New Foreign Policy
- Nawaf Obaid

Just two months after the passing of King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's extensive intervention in Yemen should serve notice that a major generational shift is underway in the kingdom that is sure to have far-reaching ramifications. With almost 90% of Muslims identifying as Sunni, and the Saudis at the epicenter of the Sunni world, the Saudis believe they can meet an urgent need for a united Sunni front against Shiite Iran, as well as the terrorist movements tearing the Arab world apart.

The writer is a visiting fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
(Washington Post)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Obama's Israel Tantrum

Claims of Spying: American "Chutzpah" - Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror

The claims of Israeli spying are part of an intentional American campaign to undermine Israel's standing among the American public and their elected officials, with the aim of limiting Israel's ability to argue against the bad agreement that the West, led by the U.S., is poised to sign with Iran. For Israel, this is a vital struggle focused on a highly sensitive matter of national security. The Americans know this and are still sparing no effort to undermine Israel's determination and abilities.

The ugly accusation alleging Israel was spying on the U.S. is part of this American campaign. Israel does not spy on the U.S. and they know it. Everything else is manipulation meant to undermine Israel's credibility in American public opinion. It is a shame things had to come to this, but the determination of the Americans to reach an agreement - any agreement - with the Iranians is leading to an unavoidable conflict.
The writer, former Israeli National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council, served 36 years in senior IDF posts.
(Israel Hayom)

U.S. Accusations of Israeli Espionage - Why Now? - Ron Ben-Yishai

The accusations from the U.S. over Israeli espionage, published in the Wall Street Journal, are unfair and even a little ridiculous. The American administration and the government official who leaked the information are well aware that Israel is capable of obtaining this information in a completely legitimate manner from those who are party to the negotiations with Iran.

What is unacceptable for Israel should also be unacceptable for the U.S. The article specifically states that the U.S. intercepted Israeli transmissions. Is it acceptable for the Americans to spy on a Middle Eastern ally? The reports are part of a calculated campaign waged by the U.S., with a clear political purpose.
(Ynet News)

Obama's Israel Tantrum: Revenge on an Ally - Editorial

The leader of the free world is still having difficulty accepting that the Israeli people get to choose their own prime minister, never mind his preferences. In a day when the President's chief of staff invokes the lexicon of Palestinian terrorists to describe Israel's democracy, Americans and the world are left to wonder whose side the leader of the free world is on.

(Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Jewish Establishment Sounds Alarm
- Michael Wilner 

Criticism of Israel from the Obama administration has intensified to such a degree that leading figures in Washington's pro-Israel community are calling on the administration to turn down the temperature. Jewish leaders are sounding the alarm after years of defending their support for President Obama and his White House.

"The fact that the outcome of a democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement,” said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee. "The way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of U.S.-Israel relations," Harris said. "The U.S. appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis."

"What we are hearing from the Obama administration raises deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives," said Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, adding that "from the beginning of the Obama years, there was a disturbing indifference to the mind-set of the Israeli public."

Rabbi William Gershon, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said, "the prime minister has quickly made significant steps to repair the tensions that developed in the heat of Israel's election. The time is due, if not overdue, for the U.S. administration to do the same."

Nathan Diament, the Orthodox Union's executive director for public policy, said the president "clearly [preferred] ongoing political confrontation over trying to work with a democratically elected Israeli leader on the critical issues facing our two nations."  
(Jerusalem Post)

Congress Totally Cool with Reports of Israel Spying - Tim Mak

Israel is spying on the U.S.-Iranian nuclear talks? No problem, key Democrats and Republicans in Congress say. "I don't look at Israel or any nation directly affected by the Iranian program wanting deeply to know what's going on in the negotiations - I just don't look at that as spying," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). "Their deep existential interest in such a deal, that they would try to figure out anything that they could, that they would have an opinion on it....I don't find any of that that controversial."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) joked that he was more concerned that Israeli intelligence hadn't shared what they learned with him. "One of my reactions was, why haven't they been coming up here sharing information with me? I mean Israel. I haven't had any of them coming up and talking with me about where the deal is, so I was kind of wondering who it was they were meeting with. I kind of feel left out."

If anything, lawmakers said they were perturbed that the Israelis were being accused of spying. Learning the details of the nuclear talk, lawmakers argued, was more like information gathering. "To use the word 'spying,' that is a pejorative accusation. That's not the phrase I would use to describe what I read," Kaine said. Several lawmakers interviewed said that the Israeli government had not told them anything they weren't already aware of in broad strokes. "No one from Israel has told me anything that I haven't already known," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

A senior congressional staffer called administration allegations of Israeli spying "deeply irresponsible innuendo and destructive hearsay," adding that "these unsubstantiated allegations are all the more galling in light of the fact that this administration has leaked, consistently and aggressively, details of Iran proposals to the front page of the New York Times and other news outlets, as well as to sympathetic think-tankers and pro-Iranian groups outside of government." 
(Daily Beast)

White House Risks Buoying Netanyahu - Jodi Rudoren

Israeli analysts are now suggesting that Obama and his aides might be overplaying their hand, inviting a backlash of sympathy for Netanyahu, and that they may not have clearly defined what they expected to gain diplomatically by continuing to pressure the Israeli leader. The president's harsh words have been deemed by some to be patronizing and disrespectful to the voters who rewarded Netanyahu with a resounding mandate for a fourth term.

In contrast with the White House, leading Israeli voices seem to have accepted Netanyahu's post-election clarification that current circumstances make it impossible to imagine meeting his longstanding conditions for supporting a Palestinian state. 
(New York Times)

The Orwellian Obama Presidency - Bret Stephens

There is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration is now on better terms with Iran...than it is with Israel. He claims we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria.

He treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army.

He was prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor.

To adapt George Orwell’s motto for Oceania: Under Mr. Obama, friends are enemies, denial is wisdom, capitulation is victory.

The current victim of Mr. Obama’s moral inversions is the recently re-elected Israeli prime minister. Normally a sweeping democratic mandate reflects legitimacy, but not for Mr. Obama. Now we are treated to the astonishing spectacle in which Benjamin Netanyahu has become persona non grata for his comments doubting the current feasibility of a two-state solution. This, while his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas is in the 11th year of his four-year term, without a murmur of protest from the White House.

In 2014 Mr. Abbas agreed to a power-sharing agreement with Hamas, a deal breaker for any Israeli interested in peace. In 2010 he used the expiration of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze as an excuse to abandon bilateral peace efforts. In 2008 he walked away from a statehood offer from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In 2000 he was with Yasser Arafat at Camp David when the Palestinians turned down a deal from Israel’s Ehud Barak.

For continuously rejecting good-faith Israeli offers, Mr. Abbas may be about to get his wish: a U.S. vote for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. For tiring of constant Palestinian bad faith—and noting the fact—Israel will now be treated to pariah-nation status by Mr. Obama.

Here is my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt. Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back.

The Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi highnesses.

The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance. On the Iranian nuclear deal, they may have to go rogue: Let’s hope their warnings have not been mere bluffs. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage. For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.
[The Wall Street Journal]

Obama Risks Capitol Hill Backlash - Mike Lillis

Congress is growing hostile to the emerging nuclear deal with Iran. On Friday, 367 House lawmakers - including 129 Democrats - wrote to President Obama warning that a deal must "foreclose any pathway to a bomb."

At a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) confronted Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, accusing him of "misleading" the panel with claims that, under the potential deal, international inspectors could keep Iran's nuclear program in check. "You've said...that, well, they can't develop a nuclear weapon because that would be illegal," Sherman said. "That's a preposterous argument. Obviously, they're willing to break the law." 
(The Hill)


An Ugly Double Standard for Israel - Lawrence J. Haas

President Barack Obama's vow to reassess U.S.-Israeli relations after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign remarks about a Palestinian state showcases his badly skewed views of Israel. 

If Obama takes Netanyahu "at his [election-driven] word," one can't help wonder why he's so willing to ignore the far more explosive words of Iran's leader. "Of course, yes, death to America," Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a speech on Saturday.
The writer, former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.
(U.S. News)

Revealing Israel's Nuclear Secrets - Michael Karpin

[T]he Pentagon declassified a 386-page report from 1987, exposing for the first time ever the actual depth of top-secret military cooperation between the United States and Israel — including, amazingly, information about Israel’s unacknowledged nuclear program.

In view of the caustic tension that has increased lately between Washington and Jerusalem, the timing of the publication’s declassification might raise a few eyebrows. [A]fter reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.
[The Forward]

In Shocking Breach, U.S. Reveals Israel's Nuke Capabilities
- Tom Gross 

On Feb. 12, the Pentagon declassified a top-secret document from 1987 detailing Israel's nuclear program, but kept sections on France, Germany, and Italy classified and blacked out.

The declassification is a serious breach of decades' old understandings concerning this issue. Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

Together with leaking incorrect allegations that Israel spies on the U.S., this "is part of a pattern of carefully controlled leaking of information which is very hard to attribute to a specific government agency or individual. Nevertheless it is clear what is happening," said an informed person connected to the government in Jerusalem.

"The failure to maintain the degree of mature and cooperative discretion that officials from several governments have exercised up to now marks a serious change in the code of conduct."    
(Weekly Standard)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Iran Deal VideoBite


Former Senators Urge Iran Vote - Kristina Wong
  • A bipartisan trio of former senators has banded together to run an aggressive TV ad [above] urging Congress to pass a bill that would allow lawmakers to review any deal that international negotiators reach with Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
  • Former Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) have created a new non-profit called the American Security Initiative, which last week began running an ad showing a white van, ostensibly packed with a nuclear bomb, driving towards New York.
(The Hill)

No Iran Treaty without Congressional Action - Evan Bayh, Saxby Chambliss and Norm Coleman
  • For half a century, Congress has reviewed, amended and voted on treaties that have achieved lasting results with nuclear disarmament. In the Iranian context, congressional authorization would carry the added benefit of illustrating America's commitment to long-term Iranian nuclear deterrence beyond the end of the Obama administration in January 2017.
  • Iran is more likely to make meaningful concessions when our government speaks with one voice and our commitments and deterrents extend beyond 20 months. Congressional approval of an Iranian nuclear accord that included specific and automatic consequences for listed violations would carry added weight.
  • Congressional authorization for the use of force in case of egregious cheating by Tehran is particularly important. There must be no doubt about the price they will pay for non-compliance with any nuclear weapons limitations.
(Roll Call)

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Missing Fatwa

Produce the Fatwa - Thomas Joscelyn

In a
statement Thursday to mark Nowruz, the Persian new year, President Obama said: "Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons." 

If the president is so confident that Khamenei's alleged fatwa exists, then his administration should be able to produce a copy of it, revealing when it was written and what it says. The Washington Post's fact checker went looking for the fatwa and couldn't find it.

There is another problem. Khamenei says all sorts of things, many of which we know are false. For example, he has repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration supports the Islamic State. And Khamenei has clearly lied about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Weekly Standard)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Understanding the Election

Netanyahu's Victory - Editorial

While the election results may dismay Netanyahu's detractors abroad, they surely reflect Israel's security consensus.

Israelis have seen Gaza become a launching pad for missile attacks on innocent civilians after Israel left. They have seen the Palestinian Authority reject reasonable land-for-peace offers and the terror group Hamas join the PA's governing coalition. Israelis have shown they will take risks for peace - recall Oslo in 1993 and Ehud Barak's sweeping concessions in 2000 that Yasser Arafat rejected - but they are not suicidal.

Israelis surrounded by hostile nations sworn to their destruction are most likely to take risks for peace when they feel secure in America's support. But Obama's looming concessions to Iran's nuclear program have united Israelis and Arabs in opposition. 
(Wall Street Journal)

The Role of Palestinians in Israel's Election - Alan M. Dershowitz
A liberal Democrat's view
  • Those who are upset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's electoral victory should put much of the responsibility on the Palestinian Authority (PA).
  • At least twice over the last 15 years, Israel has offered the Palestinians extraordinarily generous two-state solutions. The first time was in 2000-2001 when Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton offered the Palestinians more than 90% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem. Yassir Arafat turned down the offer and started an intifada, in which 4,000 people were killed.
  • In 2007, Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians an even more generous resolution, to which Mahmoud Abbas failed to respond positively. The hopes of Israelis for a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian conflict were dashed by Arafat's rejection and Abbas' refusal to accept generous peace offers.
  • The Obama administration also contributed to the election results in Israel by refusing to listen to Israeli concerns - shared by Israelis of every political stripe - about the impending deal with Iran. The current deal contains a sunset provision which all but guarantees that Iran will have nuclear weapons within a decade.
  • While the international community, academics and the media tend to have short memories, many Israeli voters have long memories. They remember the lethal responses to earlier peace offers. So let's look at a videotape of the last 15 years in order to understand how Israel's democracy produced the current election results.
  • Already, the spokespersons for the PA have predicted that the reelection of Netanyahu marks the end of any realistic peace process, without reminding their listeners of how Palestinian intransigence marked the end of earlier peace processes.
(Gatestone Institute)


Israeli Elections Overseen by Israeli Arab

The Chairman of Israel's Central Election Committee overseeing the recent Israeli election is Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran - an Israeli Arab

Imagine a Baha'i overseeing Iranian elections, a Yazidi overseeing Iraqi elections, or a Christian overseeing Saudi elections. 

No Peace in Our Time - Charles Krauthammer

  • Of all the idiocies uttered in reaction to Benjamin Netanyahu's stunning election victory, none is more ubiquitous than the idea that peace prospects are now dead because Netanyahu has declared that there will be no Palestinian state while he is Israel's prime minister.
  • I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either. Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state - with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted - only to be rudely rejected. This is not ancient history. This is 2000, 2001 and 2008.
  • The fundamental reality remains: This generation of Palestinian leadership - from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas - has never and will never sign its name to a final peace settlement dividing the land with a Jewish state.
  • Today, however, there is a second reason a peace agreement is impossible: the supreme instability of the entire Middle East. Syria has al-Qaeda allies, Hizbullah fighters, government troops and even the occasional Iranian general prowling the Israeli border. In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes.
  • The West Bank could fall to Hamas overnight. At which point fire rains down on Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and the entire Israeli urban heartland.
  • Peace awaits three things. Eventual Palestinian acceptance of a Jewish state. A Palestinian leader willing to sign a deal based on that premise. A modicum of regional stability that allows Israel to risk the potentially fatal withdrawals such a deal would entail. I believe such a day will come. But there is zero chance it comes now or even soon. That's essentially what Netanyahu said.
(Washington Post)


In Bedouin Village, a Landslide for Netanyahu - Noa Shpigel

On March 17, 76% of the votes in the Bedouin village of Arab-al-Naim in the Galilee went to Likud.

Behind the improvised tin shacks are modern homes under construction, designated for the village's residents. "In a few years people will come here from abroad to learn how to build a community," says Nimr Naim, who heads the village council. He then lists the development projects that are underway in the village: kindergartens, sewers, a road, electricity, a soccer field. "I used to sleep in a cave with my goats. Now I ask my daughter what wallpaper she wants in her room," he says with a smile. 

The Job of Our Generation

As I've said, it is the job of our generation and our children's generation to eradicate the scourge of  Radical Islam. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Iran's Aim: Shia Corridor

We're Letting Iran and ISIS Carve Up Iraq - Amir Taheri

While the Islamic State was retreating on the Tikrit front north of Baghdad, its forces were making major gains east of the Iraqi capital with the aim of capturing Ramadi, Iraq's fourth-largest Arab Sunni city. IS has also scored new gains by securing pledges of loyalty from other jihadi movements in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Algeria and Mali. The latest came from Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the general perception is that the real winners in Tikrit were Shiite militias backed and even led by military advisers from the Quds Corps of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Iran's propaganda machine is awarding credit to the military genius of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Corps commander. Some Iranian officials even claim a new Persian empire is taking shape across most of the Middle East.

Iran is not aiming to defeat IS, let alone destroy it.

All Tehran wants is to create a safe corridor through Iraqi territory to Syria and thence to Lebanon
(New York Post)


Petraeus: Iran Is the Problem, Not the Solution - Liz Sly

Former CIA director Gen. David H. Petraeus told the Washington Post:

"The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State. While the U.S. and Iran may have convergent interests in the defeat of Daesh [IS], our interests generally diverge. The Iranian response to the open hand offered by the U.S. has not been encouraging."

"Iranian power in the Middle East is thus a double problem. It is foremost problematic because it is deeply hostile to us and our friends. But it is also dangerous because, the more it is felt, the more it sets off reactions that are also harmful to our interests - Sunni radicalism and, if we aren't careful, the prospect of nuclear proliferation as well." 
(Washington Post)

Iran Takes Over Iraq and Threatens Jordan - Dore Gold

The recent changes in the Middle East have not only melted the borders between Syria and Iraq, but also between Iraq and Iran. In the past, Iraq served as a buffer state separating Iran from the rest of the Arab world.

With the Iraqi buffer removed, there will be a territorially contiguous line from Tehran to Jordan's eastern border. General Qassam Suleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying that Iran could control events in Jordan, the same way it operated in Iraq and Lebanon. Days later the Revolutionary Guards denied that Suleimani made such a statement. 
The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
(Israel Hayom)

Moral Clarity

Debating Israel's Right to Exist - Tim Stanley

The University of Southampton is hosting a conference to discuss Israel's legal right to exist. It is true that Israel was a state created where no such state had existed before. But so were Iraq, Syria, Uganda and Togo - all products of decolonization. Why, pray, does no one debate the legal foundations of the existence of Nigeria, which comprises various tribes and religions with terrible unease?

It is true that Israel's foundation involved the displacement of people. But the case is not unique. When the states of India and Pakistan were created, their subjects trekked across the subcontinent to resettle in one country or another - causing the deaths of thousands. Likewise, the American Indians were displaced by European colonists.

What is it about Israel that makes people debate its "legality" so much more often than they do that of other states? Why is it held to such an impossible standard? When it comes to Israel, there is a unique enthusiasm to call into question its very right to exist. Strange, isn't it? 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dems to Buck Obama Deal

Senator Heidi Heitkamp [D] of North Dakota is ready to oppose White House

Democrats Prepared to Buck White House on Iran - Burgess Everett

The president's challenge in Congress on Iran isn't limited to the 47 Republican senators who signed last week's missive arguing that a nuclear agreement could be revoked by the next U.S. president. The bill that would give Congress 60
days to reject or approve any deal has nearly a dozen Democratic supporters.

Indeed, a day after the controversy over Sen. Cotton's letter erupted, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado co-sponsored Corker's congressional review bill, the 11th Democrat to signal support.

U.S. Removes Iran and Hizbullah from List of Terrorism Threats
The Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Communities, an annual report delivered on Feb. 26, 2015, to the Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, removed Iran and Hizbullah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports. The report noted Iran's efforts to combat Sunni extremists.

At the same time, both Iran and Hizbullah were listed as terrorism threats in the assessment of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. 
(Times of Israel)

The Way Forward on Iran - Walter Russell Mead

While the Senators' letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran should have been addressed either to President Obama or to Secretary Kerry as a matter of protocol, as a matter of law the Senators are right. Any deal negotiated between President Obama and Iran will not be legally binding - either on the U.S. or Iran. The President has the authority to bind himself through an agreement with a foreign power; he does not have the authority to bind the Congress, the courts, or his successors.     

The President's defenders are right that in many ways America's Iran diplomacy has been handled with deftness and skill. Keeping Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and France all on the same page while the U.S. both tightens sanctions against Iran and works to hammer out a nuclear deal is a rare feat of cat-herding.     

But President Obama has only herded some of the cats who need to be corralled; he appears to assume that Israel, Congress, and Saudi Arabia have no choice but to fall in line. Yet Netanyahu's speech to Congress and the Cotton letter were very public statements that they are unhappy and don't intend to go along. Moreover, news that the Saudis are stepping up their own nuclear program suggests that President Obama can't end the nuclear arms race in the Middle East without their support.    

The administration's failure to contain Iran's ambitions on the ground in the region undermines the objective of getting to some kind of reasonable accommodation between Washington and Tehran. Lifting sanctions at a moment when Iran is running rampant across the Middle East threatens to shift the balance of power even further in its favor, a prospect that contributes significantly to the spread of radicalism and chaos - and makes the Saudis much more likely to go nuclear themselves.

What's needed here is an internal American negotiation to get an overall approach to the Middle East that commands enough support to be sustainable from one administration to the next. In the same way, our Iran policy shouldn't be dividing us from our closest Middle East allies. 
The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University. 
(American Interest)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Iran Deal: Implications

What Congress's Iran Letter Signals about Obama's Diplomacy
- Michael Singh

Members of Congress in both parties have deep reservations about the trajectory of U.S. diplomacy with Iran. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this week found that this skepticism is shared by 71% of Americans.

Some foreign partners - including Israel but also Arab allies in the Middle East - share many of the stated congressional concerns. They worry that a "bad" deal will leave in its wake an empowered Iran and disengaged U.S. Most of those who are skeptical about a deal are not warmongers but support a negotiated agreement.

To gain skeptics' support, the president needs to be willing to take their concerns on board. Diplomacy is not just about negotiating with adversaries. It is also about bringing along one's allies and domestic constituencies, without whose support an agreement would be a hollow achievement. 
The writer, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, worked on Middle East issues at the U.S. National Security Council from 2005 to 2008. 
(Wall Street Journal)

Iran's Expansion Will Reshape Lebanon - Michael Young

As Iran expands its power throughout the Middle East, it is seeking to reshape the political landscape in ways designed to enhance its leverage and that of its allies. Nor is anybody successfully hindering this. 

It has become increasingly apparent that the U.S. has no intention of challenging Iran's sway in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Gone are the days when the American priority was containment of Iran in the region. The U.S. appears to favor a new regional order in which Iran will be granted a choice role.

Lebanon has particular importance for Iran. It seems highly probable that Iran will seek to modify the political system to the advantage of the Shiite community, led by Hizbullah. Moreover, as Iran puts in place a broad strategy for the expansion of its power in the Arab world, Lebanon and the Golan Heights take on exceptional value. 
(Daily Star-Lebanon)


Concessions to Iran in Nuclear Negotiations

United Against Nuclear Iran is releasing a new analysis of the current status of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1. The analysis compares the positions of the U.S. and Iran on each of the core components of an emerging nuclear accord.
[United Against Nuclear Iran]

The Risks in Negotiating with Syria's Assad - Aaron David Miller

Secretary of State John Kerry's comments that the Obama administration is considering negotiating with the Assad regime to achieve a political settlement in Syria will feed the perception that Washington recognizes that Iran - Syria's key patron - is the region's preeminent power. 
The rise of Islamic State forced the administration to prioritize. ISIS's anti-American agenda, with its savage beheadings, led the administration to see Assad as the lesser of two evils.

But Kerry's comments will further demoralize the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition; anger Gulf Arabs, who believe that Washington is appeasing Tehran in an effort to conclude a nuclear agreement; and delight Iranians.
The writer is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
(Wall Street Journal)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Quagmire: US is Iran's Air Force in Sunni-Shia War

Iran Is No Partner in ISIS Fight - Ali Alfoneh & Michael Pregent

The threat of the Islamic State not only makes the Iraqi Shia more dependent on Tehran and legitimizes Iran's military presence in Iraq, it also provides the regime in Tehran with another bargaining chip in nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. After the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, the civil war in Iraq, followed by the rise of Islamic State, forced moderate Iraqi Shia, who otherwise would have pursued a line independent of Iran, to become dependencies of Tehran.     
The small contingent of U.S. advisers in Iraq is relying on a heavily Iranian-influenced Iraqi sectarian intelligence and security apparatus. The Iraqi security forces are predominantly Shia and, in addition, Shia militias and "advisers" from the IRGC Quds Force are now fighting as legitimate Iraqi forces.

This creates an environment in which targeting operations developed by Iranian forces and the militias have primacy over those developed by the U.S., leading to the possibility that Washington could be portrayed by Islamic State as complicit in the indiscriminate targeting of Sunnis. Such operations will be perceived the same way by the very Sunnis we need to fight Islamic State.
Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Michael Pregent is a former intelligence officer and military adviser and now adjunct at National Defense University.
(Long War Journal)

Iran Occupies Iraq - Editorial

In the battle over Tikrit, the dominant forces are Shiite militias supplied and coordinated from Iran. Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, is supervising the attack against Islamic State. U.S. air strikes have been crucial to pinning down Islamic State forces, but Iran is benefitting on the ground.

Iran is essentially building an arc of dominance from Tehran through Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut. The result is that an enemy of the U.S. with American blood on its hands is taking a giant step toward becoming the dominant power in the Middle East.
(Wall Street Journal)


Resisting the Iranian Occupation - Hanin Ghaddar

The perception of the U.S. in the region is changing. The majority of Sunnis now see the U.S. as taking sides in a sectarian fight, as an Iranian ally. Democracies like Lebanon, or potential democracies in the region, will slowly deteriorate because Iran will not acknowledge state institutions or tolerate freedom of speech.

Liberal and civil groups or individuals will lose legitimacy in the region and civil society will crumble amidst sectarian bloodshed. Is this what the U.S. really wants the region to look like? 

An End to Iran's Containment? - Editorial

  • In recent months, the notion that President Obama is prepared to scrap the 35-year-old U.S. policy of seeking to contain Iranian influence in the Middle East has been widely accepted by Arab and Israeli officials and U.S. commentators; opposition to such a reversal is one reason the prospective nuclear deal is generating bipartisan unease in Congress.
  • Obama said in an interview in December that he hoped a nuclear deal "would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time"; if Iran agreed to the accord, he added, it could become "a very successful regional power."
  • (Washington Post)

    Don't Use Iran to Fight ISIS - Tovah Lazaroff interviews Yuval Steinitz

    It's a mistake for the U.S. to use Iran to fight Islamic State and to help police the Middle East, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned in an interview. "Iran is already a stable caliphate and to allow it to be a superpower, this is a terrible, historic mistake." He warned that the U.S. "will get an Iranian Shi'ite empire with such vast resources and vast territory that the problem of Islamic State will be only one percent of this new problem. You do not resolve this problem [with Islamic State] by creating a bigger problem." 

    (Jerusalem Post)

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Islam's Role in Terror

    According to non-Muslim politicians these Taliban members have nothing to do with Islam.
    [original caption by D. Pipes]

    Why Politicians Deny Islam's Role - Daniel Pipes, PhD

    Prominent non-Muslim political figures have embarrassed themselves by denying the self-evident connection of Islam to the Islamic State (ISIS) and to Islamist violence in Paris and Copenhagen, even claiming these are contrary to Islam. What do they hope to achieve through these falsehoods and what is their significance?

    Summarizing these statements, which come straight out of the Islamist playbook: Islam is purely a religion of peace, so violence and barbarism categorically have nothing to do with it; indeed, these "masquerade" and "pervert" Islam. By implication, more Islam is needed to solve these "monstrous" and "barbaric" problems.

    But, of course, this interpretation neglects the scriptures of Islam and the history of Muslims, seeped in the assumption of superiority toward non-Muslims and the righteous violence of jihad. Ironically, ignoring the Islamic impulse means foregoing the best tool to defeat jihadism: for, if the problem results not from an interpretation of Islam, but from random evil and irrational impulses, how can one possibly counter it? Only acknowledging the legacy of Islamic imperialism opens ways to re-interpret the faith's scriptures in modern, moderate, and good-neighborly ways.

    Why, then, do powerful politicians make ignorant and counterproductive arguments, ones they surely know to be false, especially as violent Islamism spreads (think of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Taliban)? Cowardice and multiculturalism play a role, to be sure, but two other reasons have more importance:

    First, they want not to offend Muslims, who they fear are more prone to violence if they perceive non-Muslims pursuing a "war on Islam." Second, they worry that focusing on Muslims means fundamental changes to the secular order, while denying an Islamic element permits avoid troubling issues. For example, it permits airplane security to look for passengers' weapons rather than engage in Israeli-style interrogations.

    My prediction: Denial will continue unless violence increases. In retrospect, the 3,000 victims of 9/11 did not shake non-Muslim complacency. The nearly 30,000 fatalities from Islamist terrorism since then also have not altered the official line. Perhaps 300,000 dead will cast aside worries about Islamist sensibilities and a reluctance to make profound social changes, replacing these with a determination to fight a radical utopian ideology; three million dead will surely suffice.

    Without such casualties, however, politicians will likely continue with denial because it's easier that way.
    [Washington Times]


    How the Middle East Differs from the West - Asher Susser

    British Middle East historian Malcolm Yapp notes that Middle Eastern societies are not societies of individuals - they are societies of groups. In Western societies, people organize politically as individuals. In the Middle East, you belong to a group - your extended family, your tribe, and your religious denomination. So you are, first and foremost, a Muslim, or a Jew, or some kind of Christian - Maronite, Greek Orthodox, or Greek Catholic. If you're Muslim, it makes a huge difference if you are Sunni or Shiite or something else like the Alawites or the Druze.

    The Americans invaded Iraq with the belief that it was a society of individuals and so would coalesce into democratic political parties which would vie for power. But the groups went to war with each other, which was only to be expected. Westerners saw Facebook and Twitter in Egypt but didn't see the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The story in the West was that the secular liberal intelligentsia were taking over Egypt. Then the commentators were shocked when the Muslim Brotherhood walked all over everybody. And the only people who are going to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from walking all over everybody are the military, not the secular liberals
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University.