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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘hagel’

Without Allies in the Fourth Great War

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

The announcement by Secretary of Defense Hagel that the United States will “rethink all options” including arming Syrian rebel groups, was carefully hedged. “It doesn’t mean… you will” (choose any particular path). The statement however moves the U.S. closer to picking sides in a war with no good options and no good allies, and which American public opinion has thus far eschewed. It is important to understand in the broadest sense how we got here.

In two of the three global conflicts of the 20th Century, the United States took sides; in the third, it was a side. In World War I, we were less against Germany than with our long-time cultural and political allies, Britain and France. The cordial reception given to Americans in Germany between the wars, and the American affinity for parts of German society made some Americans reluctant to criticize the rise of Hitler. (See Hitlerland, by Andrew Nagorski.) In the Cold War, the United States faced off against Russia. The Cuban Missile Crisis was not about Cuba; the Central American wars of the 1980s were not about Central America. It was a war to the death between communism and democracy.

The end of the Cold War had two generally overlooked consequences. First, non-communist Russia retained its historic imperial nature, characterized by deep concern for and violent repression of threats to its “near abroad.” Second, countries and groups in the Middle East were no longer bound to choose between Soviets and Americans as patrons. This was particularly important because neither democracy nor communism is compatible with Islamist thinking. (Obligatory disclaimer: This in no way implies that Muslim people cannot live in democracies or be democrats; or live in communist countries or be communists, for that matter.)

The fourth Great War is less “Islam against the West” (although that surely is there) than it is Sunni expansionists vs. Shiite expansionists. Neither is an appealing partner for the United States in the region, and neither has a natural claim on our politics or our interests.

For reasons having to do with Iran itself, the U.S. will not choose to support Iranian-backed Shiites. However, Sunni expansionists are simply no better; Saudi and Qatari-supported Islamists run from the unacceptable Muslim Brotherhood to the even more unacceptable Wahabis, al Qaeda or Jabhat al Nusra – it is like a choice between cancer and a heart attack. (Second obligatory disclaimer: That is not to say the U.S. has no interests in the Middle East/North Africa/Southwest Asia, or that there is no humanitarian impulse due. It is to say both Sunni and Shiite expansionists have views and values inimical to Western liberal democracies, and neither is better than secular despots.)

In broad terms, the current fighting in the region is Sunni-Shiite: Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, and rumblings in Kuwait all have a Sunni-Shiite component. Turkey thinks of the Ottoman Empire, particularly after the freeing of the “Stans” from Russian control. Iran revisits the Persian Empire. The Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Jabhat al Nusra, and others all find patrons in the region rather than in the U.S. or Russia. Oil money, particularly Saudi, Iranian and Qatari, greases various paths.

As both Sunnis and Shiites try to expand both deeper into their own societies and move farther afield, they run headlong into other regional, tribal, ethnic, religious, and familial interests. Christians, particularly in Iraq, Egypt, and Nigeria, have been hard hit as intolerance increases; it is estimated that half of Iraq’s Christians have left the country. As a corollary, the minority communities of Syria backed the secular Assad regime for fear of an Islamist takeover. The U.S. has been attacked and vilified, and Europe is being subverted through “no go” zones for police, the installation of elements of Sharia law, and rising Muslim anti-Semitism. Venezuela and Argentina are Iran’s hoped-for proxies, and Hezbollah operates freely in several South American countries.

Long involved in the repression of Sunni Caucasian nationalists, although the Chechen war only took on religious overtones in its second incarnation (2002-2007), Russia has chosen the Shiite side of the larger war. Even the idea of a nuclear Iran does not disturb Russia as much as the idea of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons in the hands of Sunni terrorists. Russia preferred secular despots in the Middle East as well — Saddam, Assad father and son, Nasser — who would repress the Muslim Brotherhood and other internationalist Sunnis. The despots obliged. Nasser outlawed the Brotherhood, Assad killed tens of thousands in Hama, and Saddam ran a savagely secular state to ensure that his minority Sunnis could remain in power. Russia’s commitment to Bashar Assad should not be underestimated.

Fiddling on the Roof, While Iran Goes Nuclear

Monday, April 29th, 2013

It has been clear to me for a long time that the United States is just posturing and not a real world power.  It has no do or die principles and its recent military successes were a long time ago or not worth bragging about.

Most worrisome is the fact that instead of eliminating the Iranian nuclear industry American officials at best  just mumble about letting Israel, one of the smallest countries in the world, “take care of it” if Israel really feels in danger.  Duh!  Iran is anti-American even more than anti-Israel.  For Americans to rationalize that and lie to themselves that Iran would only use weapons against Israel is totally unrealistic and very dangerous.

In Israel Hayom, David Weinberg wrote of how the Americans are hoping to ignore the dangers of Iran to world peace.

Now, Pickering is back at the head of a panel of former senior U.S. officials and outside experts called “The Iran Project,” urging U.S. President Barack Obama to drop sanctions and covert action against Iran, and instead negotiate more intensively with Tehran.
“I fundamentally believe that the balance between sanctions and diplomacy has been misaligned,” says Pickering. He and his colleagues (who at the time included Chuck Hagel, now defense secretary) write that the sanctions policy seems to be backfiring and has “contributed to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran.” They worry that sanctions “may be sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the United States.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Pickering also contends that Obama should review the covert program against Iran — which reportedly has included computer sabotage of its nuclear facilities — to “stop anything that is peripheral, that is not buying us much time” in slowing Iran’s progress.

The United States is reverting to its pre-World War Two isolationist mode.  The United States had hoped that it wouldn’t be “dragged into” war with Hitler.  It tried being accommodating, and there were many prominent Americans who didn’t find Hitler problematic.  They certainly didn’t mind his anti-Semitism.

At the Jerusalem Post’s NY Conference, Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan stated that:

To threaten an immediate attack on Iran is not beneficial to Israel… It transferred the Iranian issue from a worldwide issue to an Israeli issue. I would have been happier had [U.S. President Barack] Obama made his announcement that he would not let Iran get nuclear weapons in Riyadh and not in Jerusalem.

I must admit that I don’t agree with much else that Dagan stated.  He’s total unrealistic when it comes to the chance of “peace” with Arab terrorists.

When you look at the big picture, it’s clear that the Arab terrorism that targets Israelis is also related to the Arab and Islamic terrorism that can be found even in the United States, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

It’s a very dangerous mistake that Israel is accepting foreign advice/instructions/ideology to do everything it can to make peace with the Arab Terrorists.  It is totally impossible to make peace with terrorists.  Consider it against their religion!

The bottom line is that the world is in big trouble!

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Viscount Samuel, Meet Secretary Hagel

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Emerging from intense controversy, the British politician Herbert Samuel (1870-1963) was appointed the first High Commissioner of Palestine, where he served 1920-25. A Jew and an influential Zionist, Samuel bent over backwards not to favor the Yishuv, to the point that he forwarded the interests of the Palestinians most hostile to the Jewish presence. Most notoriously, Samuel appointed Amin al-Husseini as mufti of Palestine, a position which Husseini used to become the most powerful figure in the mandate and the Palestinian who did the most-ever damage to Zionism (yes, even more so than his nephew Yasir Arafat).

This century-old history comes to mind in watching the first months in office of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. During his confirmation hearings, Hagel denounced many of his prior statements about Israel and Iran and then, as I have noted elsewhere, he chose to have his first face-to-face meeting in March with a foreign counterpart with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Despite major cuts to the American defense budget, Hagel promised in his meeting with Barak his intent to ensure continued funding for the Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems. Pentagon press secretary George Little explained that “during the meeting, Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints.” Little also reported Hagel’s saying that he and Barak have had an outstanding working relationship.

Hagel also had warm words for Israel: “I appreciate the strategic relationship between our two nations and look forward to strengthening cooperation between the two defense establishments.”

Hagel has now gone to Israel – his first visit to a foreign country other than Afghanistan, where he focused on U.S. troops – and met with the leadership. He both did things and said things that please Israel. Here is the New York Times account, “Hagel, in Israel, Presses U.S. Agenda on Deterring Iran“:

Mr. Hagel, who was subject to intense, even hostile scrutiny during his confirmation process over whether he was sufficiently supportive of Israel, hailed the “very special relationship” between the United States and Israel. He also repeatedly emphasized Israel’s right to defend itself “in a very dangerous, combustible region of the world.” …

Mr. Hagel acknowledged that there might be “minor” differences between the United States and Israel on the timeline in which Iran might develop nuclear weapons. “I think it’s important that we all keep our eye focused on the objective,” he said. “And there is no daylight there at all — that Iran is prevented from acquiring that nuclear capacity.” …

During his travels, Mr. Hagel will be pushing forward with a $10 billion arms package intended to further increase Israel’s military edge over other powers in the region while also bolstering the armed forces of two important Persian Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Included in the weapons deal for Israel are tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft, which can be used for transporting troops and patrolling borders and nearby seas, as well as advanced radars for Israeli warplanes. …

And two systems to be sold to Israel — a new generation of aerial refueling tankers and advanced missiles that home in on radar signals to destroy air-defense sites — would be important in any attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mr. Hagel said the weapons sales served as “another very clear signal to Iran.”

Here is Hagel’s statement before a meeting with Netanyahu (I bolded some words that bear special attention):

I’ve always appreciate this country, the people, the leadership and the courage that you represent and what has been produced in Israel. It is a model for the world, and the relationship between our two countries, just as you have noted, is as strong as it’s ever been, not only measured by the military-to-military, all the other metrics that apply to relationships, but as you also noted, Prime Minister, it is based on common values and respect for others, and that is the foundation of any relationship. …

This is a time when friends and allies must remain close, closer than ever. I’m committed to continue to strengthen this relationship, secure this relationship, and as you know, one of the main reasons I’m here is to do that. … I was able to take a long tour up in the north and the eastern borders here, and once again it reminds me of the dangers and difficulties and challenges. But I believe together, working with our allies and our friends, we will be able to do what is right for your country, my country, and make this region a better region and a more secure region, and make Israel more secure.

Hagel then answered press questions and become buddies with the IDF. Israel Hayom reports:

On Monday, Hagel was asked whether he believed it would be advisable for Israel to attack Iran on its own. “That calculation has to be made by Israel,” he replied after noting, “Israel is a sovereign nation; every sovereign nation has a right to defend itself.” Hagel did not mention a concern that U.S. officials have voiced in the past—that an Israeli strike would run the risk of igniting a wider war that could draw in the U.S.

What to Expect From Obama’s Visit

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Jodi Ruderon, the New York Times’ Israel correspondent wrote about President Barack Obama’s March 20-22 visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority:

For more than two years, many Israeli and Palestinian leaders have placed blame for their stalemated peace process not only on one another but on a lack of engagement by the Obama Administration. But now that President Obama and his new secretary of state have signaled plans to visit, both sides still remain skeptical that much will change.

While I’m grateful that she concluded what I’ve been saying now for about thirteen years—no progress is going to be made and every knowledgeable person on both sides knows it —I am baffled by the beginning. I have never heard any Israeli or Palestinian, leader or intellectual or just plain individual, ever say such a thing. It is nonsense given the fact that Obama’s strenuous efforts during his first two years in office got nowhere.

The history of what actually happened between 2009 and 2011 has been forgotten, just as the Palestinian torpedoing of peace between 1993 and 2000 has been forgotten. Obama tried, the Arab states wouldn’t help, the Palestinians threw pie in his face (as I wrote at the time), and Israel offered full cooperation. Since then, the Palestinian Authority is strutting with its newly received–from the U.N. General Assembly–state. Contrary to the 1993 Oslo agreement, this was achieved without any compromise, concessions, or agreement with Israel. So on top of everything else, the P.A. feels no motivation to negotiate anymore, not that it did much since 2000. But should we all try? Sure, just don’t do any more damage and in your own interest don’t waste too much time and money.

All of this should be merely academic since we are told that Obama’s visit will focus on Syria and Iran. So what does Israel want to tell Obama and what is he likely to offer or do?

Syria: Presumably, Israel’s leadership will express a consensus view that its main concern is not who governs Syria but how they behave.

There’s no sympathy for the Bashar al-Assad dictatorship which has long sponsored terrorism against Israel. In addition, it is widely recognized that the regime’s fall is a defeat for Iran which would be losing its principal ally. The situation has also opened gaps between Iran and Turkey, which has been very friendly toward Iran (a point that the Obama Administration has ignored). And if Israel ever did attack Iranian nuclear installations, an anti-Iran Sunni-ruled Syrian regime is less likely to do anything in response.

In addition to all that, a successful revolution would weaken Hizballah in Lebanon which at the moment is the biggest threat on Israel’s borders (Hamas is more likely to attack but less capable of doing serious damage), and can well mean that the Lebanese terrorist group will be too busy and insecure to renew the kind of attacks seen in 2006 and earlier years.

Yet what will replace the current government of Syria? Israel will stress that it worries about a Muslim Brotherhood regime that will try to step up the conflict with Israel, including backing its own terrorist clients in Lebanon and Hamas. Another point—which the Obama Administration doesn’t seem to comprehend (though some of its officials worry about this)—is that such a regime would be permissive toward Salafist groups wanting to attack Israel across the border, along with a high degree of anarchy in that part of southern Syria having the same effect.

Israel will also warn that lots of weapons, including some very advanced ones, are pouring into Syria that will not be secured after the civil war ends and that will end in the hands of terrorists to whom they are either sold, given, or even directly armed by the American-Turkish-Qatari-Saudi strategy. They might point to Libya as an example of this process. Perhaps some future U.S. ambassador to Syria and other operatives will be murdered trying to get some of those weapons back.

The U.S. government will talk about the prospects for democracy in Syria, how the Muslim Brotherhood there is going to be moderate and pragmatic, and how the aim of U.S. policy is to use the Brotherhood to restrain the Salafists.

Has Iran Already Won?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

It has long seemed to us that trying to persuade Iran to voluntarily abandon its goal of becoming a nuclear power was a fool’s errand. We never went along with the conventional wisdom of viewing Iran’s nuclear designs as somehow isolated from its general foreign policy objectives. Those objectives include projecting itself as a regional and even international power through intimidation of non-nuclear states and support of terrorist insurgencies and rogue regimes. So it is not surprising that Iran has engaged the Western powers in a series of negotiations designed to buy time as it completes its nuclear drive.

The course of the negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) is ready evidence of their folly. The talks have featured posturing by Iran and ever-escalating demands, including an insistence that all sanctions against Iran be removed as a precondition for substantive negotiations. When it is recalled that the principal Western response to Iran’s nuclear march has been the imposition of those sanctions, this insistence is all the more remarkable and further demonstration of Iran’s goal of parity with world powers.

It is also to be noted that five of the P5+1 countries negotiating with Iran on a more or less equal playing field are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – quite an achievement for the Iranian regime.

Unfortunately, Iranian recalcitrance has been rewarded with continuing concessions from the P5+1. Just last week, despite the fact that Iran has regularly refused to agree to talks, stonewalled international inspectors, and refused to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions limiting its stockpiling of enriched uranium, Reuters and other media outlets were reporting that the P5+1 countries had offered Iran some relief from sanctions.

Remarks by Prime Minister Netanyahu to his cabinet after yet another round of negotiations proved inconclusive signaled his frustration with the drift in the international response to Iran’s challenge:

My impression from these talks is that the only thing gained from them is a buying of time, and through this time-buying Iran intends to continue enriching nuclear material for an atomic bomb and is indeed getting closer to this goal.

He expanded on this in his remarks on Monday to the AIPAC conference via satellite from Jerusalem. He said Iran is in position to becoming nuclear armed, though it has not yet crossed Israel’s “red line.” He continued, “I have to tell you, words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat.”

Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to take a softer tack during an interview with ABC News on Tuesday in which he acknowledged that despite the attempts at diplomacy and the sanctions against Iran, Tehran continues to move closer to a nuclear capacity.

“Lines have been drawn before and they’ve been passed,” said Mr. Kerry. “If they keep pushing the limits and not coming with a serious set of proposals or prepared to actually resolve this, obviously, the risks get higher and confrontation becomes more possible.”

We would have been more encouraged had he used the word “probable” rather than “possible.”

That the administration continues to send mixed signals on Iran was further evidenced by events of the past month. On the one hand, addressing the AIPAC convention earlier this week, Vice President Biden, speaking of America’s determination to halt Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons, said, “The president of the United States cannot and does not bluff. President Obama is not bluffing.”

On the other hand, that robust claim came on the heels of President Obama’s selection of Chuck Hagel as his new secretary of defense. Mr. Hagel is well known for his opposition to any military action against Iran. And Mr. Hagel’s Congressional testimony – before it was clarified – about the president’s “clear” policy on “containment” of Iran’s nuclear ambition – as opposed to “prevention” – was chilling. Certainly the Iranians had to be encouraged by the choice of Mr. Hagel.

There are, of course, many reasons to assume the Obama administration would find a nuclear-armed Iran unacceptable. It would radically alter the international power structure to the detriment of the U.S. and its allies; it would allow Iran to hold even the United States hostage to its nuclear capacity; it would tend to foster terrorism and insurrection; and it doubtless would spur a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Extra Thoughts: Hagelian Dialectic

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Update: Extra thoughts that could not make the main text of “When AIPAC Went AWOL“:

(1) It is conceivable, though not likely, that Obama and AIPAC each played a Machiavellian game here: Obama expected that Hagel’s attacks on AIPAC render AIPAC less likely to impede his nomination, so as not to seem petty. Conversely, AIPAC figured that Hagel’s attacks on Israel require him to reach out to it, so as not to seem insincere in his confirmation hearings.

If these were their calculations, they have so far been borne out. AIPAC stayed mute; Hagel announced that his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign counterpart will be with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

(2) “Hagelian Dialectic” is my fantasy title for this column, referring to the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and his highly elaborated dialectic theory of history (which Karl Marx subsequently drew on for his dialectical materialism). In the Hegelian schema, Israel is the thesis, Obama the antithesis and the Pentagon the synthesis.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org as an update to “When AIPAC Went AWOL,” available at the JewishPress.com.

When AIPAC Went AWOL

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Chuck Hagel’s notorious 2008 statement about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading institution of the pro-Israel lobby, claimed that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here [in Congress]. I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”

Then a strange thing happened: no sooner did Barack Obama nominate Hagel for secretary of defense on Jan. 7, when AIPAC announced it would not oppose the former Republican senator from Nebraska. Indeed, so neutral did it wish to be on this delicate topic that its spokesman even avoided mentioning Hagel’s name, declaring only that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” AIPAC then kept a complete silence through Hagel’s confirmation on Feb. 26. More important, it did not lift a finger to influence the vote.

AIPAC’s initial logic made some sense: Obama, having just won an impressive reelection effort, had chosen his man and Republicans were likely to put up a merely token resistance to him, so why antagonize a soon-to-be very powerful figure and a principal player in the U.S.-Israel relationship? As my colleague Steven J. Rosen explained back then, “AIPAC has to work with the secretary of defense.” It also did not want to antagonize increasingly skittish Democrats.

Subsequently, an intense search into Hagel’s record found more ugly statements about Israel. He referred in 2006 to Israel’s self-defense against Hizbullah as a “sickening slaughter.” In 2007, he pronounced that “The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli foreign minister’s office.” And in 2010 he was cited as warning that Israel risked “becoming an apartheid state.”

Still, the senator who spoke of an intimidating “Jewish lobby” got a complete pass from that same lobby. It makes one wonder just how intimidating it is.

Other pro-Israel organizations took a different approach. The Zionist Organization of America produced 14 statements arguing against Hagel’s nomination between Dec. 17 (urging Obama not to nominate the “Iran- & Terrorist-Apologist & Israel-Basher Chuck Hagel“) to Feb. 22 (a listing of “Ten Important Reasons to Oppose Chuck Hagel“). Not itself primarily a lobbying organization, ZOA’s calculus had less to do with the prospect of winning and more to do with taking a principled and moral stand.

In large part because of the Nebraskan’s Middle East policies of appeasing Tehran and confronting Jerusalem, Republican opposition to Hagel became much more than token. Several senators indicated to the ZOA’s Morton Klein that if AIPAC “had come out and lobbied against Hagel, he would have been stopped.” Charles Schumer (New York), indisputably the key Democratic senator on this issue, publicly cited the absence of “major Jewish organizations” as one reason why he had “no qualms” about endorsing Hagel. Still, despite the real and growing possibility of defeating Hagel’s nomination, AIPAC kept radio silence and did nothing.

Hagel squeaked through the Senate Armed Services Committee on Feb. 12 with a party-line 14-11 vote. A vote to end debate on the nomination failed to win the needed 60 votes on Feb. 14. He finally won confirmation by a 58-to-41 vote, facing the greatest number of “no” votes against any secretary of defense (George C. Marshall in 1950 came in a distant second with 11 no’s). And so, the fringe figure who opposed even economic sanctions on Iran, the bumbling nominee who confused prevention with containment, the politician characterized by Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) as “the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the State of Israel in our nation’s history” – well, he took office on Feb. 27.

As AIPAC holds its annual policy conference on Mar. 3-5 in Washington, what it calls “the largest gathering of the pro-Israel movement” (last year’s meeting had over 13,000 participants), it is hard not to conclude that the vaunted Israel lobby has focused so intently on access, process, goodwill, and comity that it rendered itself irrelevant to the most pressing issues facing Israel – Iran and the U.S. relationship.

Yes, AIPAC remains a force to contend with on secondary issues; for instance it won an eye-popping 100-0 victory over the Obama administration in Dec. 2011 on an Iran sanctions bill. But (ever since the AWACS battle of 1981) it has studiously avoided antagonizing the president on the highest-profile issues, the ones most threatening to Israel. As a result, it neutered itself and presumably lost the debate over Iran policy.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/when-aipac-went-awol/2013/03/05/

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