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July 25, 2016 / 19 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘red line’

Obama and the Red Line

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Political metaphors may simplify or symbolize actual or anticipated events but take a toll on political responsibility and sincerity. Throughout history, including the “line in the dirt” challenge of Colonel William Travis in March 1836 at the Alamo, lines have been drawn in the sand as indicators of intentions or actions. Individuals since Julius Caesar, who in January 49 B.C. violated the rule that Roman generals were forbidden to bring their troops into the territory of the Roman Empire and invaded with his army from the area of Gaul, have taken decisive action and crossed the Rubicon.

The most recent metaphor in American politics is the “red line,” supposedly a stronger warning than these other metaphors that an action or behavior will not be tolerated. A “line” is more definite and durable than “sand” or the flowing Rubicon, and has an analogy with a geographical line. The present dilemma for President Barack Obama, and to a lesser extent for Hillary Clinton, who in August 2012 similarly spoke of a red line but now is no longer secretary of state, stems from his use of this metaphor on a number occasions regarding Syria.

The problem for Obama is that in August 2012 he unequivocally said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a “red line for us…. There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculus, or calculations, significantly.”

Of course one can appreciate, as Obama said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, that though information has filtered out in Syria, “we have to make sure that we know exactly what happened… I think having the facts before you act is very important.” This was clearly a not very subtle reference to the actions of President George W. Bush in justifying the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 because of the information of supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country, information that turned out to be inaccurate or not corroborated.

It is understandable that no imminent attack is envisaged or that quick military action against Syria is improbable, or perhaps has never been contemplated by Obama. Yet there are real problems with Obama’s position and lack of action following the rhetoric. First, there is the refusal to admit that the existing facts made known so far justify that action. Although three countries, Britain, France, and Israel, as well as U.S. intelligence agencies, have declared that chemical weapons have been used in Syria on at least two occasions, and Secretary of State John Kerry said they had been used in Aleppo and near Damascus, the Obama administration still maintains that this is insufficient confirmation.

Reservations about Syrian actions were expressed with cautious nonchalance by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on April 25, 2013 when he stated that “The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.” Secretary Hagel still had “uncertainties about what was used, what kind of chemicals was used, when it was used, who used it.”

Obama has been even more reserved. The mantra, often repeated concerning Iran, that “all options are on the table,” is now applied to Syria. But Obama’s utterances of the last week suggest otherwise. It has long been clear that Syria has chemical weapons — sarin, mustard gas, and other military-grade agents that attack the respiratory and nervous systems. But a problem regarding Obama’s position is that sarin gas, a nerve agent that can be found in human tissue, dissipates within a short time. Asking for more time to investigate and find evidence thus is less likely to lead to success.

Nevertheless, Obama on April 26, 2013 said he was responding “prudently” and “deliberately” to evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons. Using language — “prudence” and “deliberate assessment” — more like that of Edmund Burke than of a liberal Democrat, Obama was seeking further proof of culpability for the chemical attacks. In view of the refusal of the Syrian government to allow United Nations inspectors or the head of the U.N. agency for disarmament into the country, a refusal backed by Russia, it is difficult to see how the indisputable proof can be found. In his conversation with the King of Jordan on April 26, the president spoke of the need to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this “potential” use of chemical weapons.

Michael Curtis

Knesset Swears in New Govt with Hugs and a Walkout

Monday, March 18th, 2013

The Knesset Monday evening officially approved by a 68-48 vote the 33rd Knesset in what a Meretz Knesset Member Zahava Gal-on correctly called a “celebratory affair” that was long on pomp and circumstance and short on government leaders “telling it as it is.”

The Opposition did not lose any time getting in its digs, with Labor party leader Shelly Yechimovich attacking the new coalition as a bunch of “rich capitalists,” pinpointing her disgust at Jewish Home leader and millionaire Naftali Bennett and former journalist and TV news celebrity Yair Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid (Future) party. Looking to Lapid, she said he earned $700,000 last year. She did not mention how much she earned as a journalist.

Netanyahu took the podium to warn for the umpteenth time that Iran is getting closer to the “red line” he drew in his speech to the United Nations last September.

Speaking less than two days before President Barack Obama arrives for a short visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu made sure to say, “We stretch out our hand to the Palestinians” for a “historic compromise,” a nice diplomatic phrase for saying that the United States can forget about any peace deal with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whose only suggestion of compromise is that Israel accept all of his demands.

Even Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu’s de facto “Minister of the Peace Process” told Israeli television that successfully completing the peace process will be “very difficult,” the understatement of the day.

Netanyahu was closer to the truth when he said that Israel will take advantage of Obama’s visit to thank America for its support.

The Knesset easily elected Yuri Edelstein as the new Speaker, replacing Reuven Rivlin, who hid his rage at being dumped by Prime Minister Netanyahu and instead silently accepted praise for having served in the post.

Arab MKs, as usual, were good for headlines.  Jamal Zahalka charged Lapid with “racism” because he was not in the Opposition. Hanin Zoabi later told Israeli television that the coalition will be “racist,” in other words, just like the previous one, in her view.

One interesting comment came from Arab MK Ahmed Tibi. With the Haredi parties in the Opposition for the first time in recent memory, he suddenly saw a common cause between them and the Arabs on social issues, meaning more money for their sectors.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Iran Installs Advanced Centrifuges, Gets Closer to Bibi’s Red Line

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

United Nations nuclear watchdogs said Thursday that Iran has installed next-generation centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear plant, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu quickly responded that it has come closer to his “red line.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it saw the centrifuges earlier this month, adding that “this is the first time that centrifuges more advanced than the IR-1 have been installed” at Natanz.

The report added that no new equipment has been installed at the underground Fordow plant, which can enrich uranium at a much higher grade than at Natanz.

“This is a very grave report which proves that Iran is continuing to make rapid progress toward the red line” that the Prime Minister drew in his speech at the United Nations in September, according to statement from his office.

The report makes the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat even more pressing for discussions with President Barack Obama when he visits next month, the Prime Minister’s office added.

The White House warned that the window for diplomacy “will not stay open indefinitely.”

Jewish Press News Briefs

Kinneret Water Level Rises

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Kinneret Bot reports:

In the last 2 days the water level of the Kinneret rose 2cm to -212.38m, 62cm above the lower red line.

This rise has been due to the rain that Israel has been having over the past 2 days.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Remembering Where We Came From

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Many are saying that this year will be momentous. They say that this will be the year when the decision whether to attack Iran will be made, that this will be a decisive year in the political arena, and that this year will be an unforgettable one – engraved in history.

I am not at all sure if these predictions will come about. The upheavals waiting to happen are not about military or political moves. They are part of a much broader strategic structure.

I do not believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will order the army to carry out an open attack on Iran. I think that the time to have done so was when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his intention to destroy Israel and began practical preparations to achieve his goal. From the moment that Israel chose the strategy of passing the buck to the world’s nations, the legitimacy of Israeli action against Iran was lost. Both the world and the Israeli Left agree on that. Israel’s repeated attempts to force the world to act are like trying to close the stable doors after the horses have escaped. And if the U.S. defines a “red line” for Iran, will it be worth more than President Eisenhower’s guarantee?

When Israel retreated from Sinai after the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the Americans agreed in writing that they would not allow Egypt to blockade the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. When Egyptian President Nasser invaded the Sinai and blocked the straits, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol called President Lyndon Johnson and reminded him of the U.S. guarantee – the unambiguous, signed “red line” that the Americans provided in exchange for Israel’s retreat. “I can’t find my copy,” LBJ stonewalled over the phone. Now, Israel is pressuring President Obama to give us another guarantee that will conveniently get “lost” when it is needed most.

I will be more than happy if my evaluation is wrong, as I do not want to go to war. But more than fearing war, I fear that Israel will slowly disintegrate, making war extraneous. I cannot see how Israel, in the long term, can exist and flourish in a nuclear Middle East under Iranian hegemony. More than fearing war, I fear that our enemies will not need it to achieve their goals.

Will 5773 be an election year in Israel? While uncertain, the Likud is currently gearing up for elections. But events over the past few months have shown that elections do not necessarily take place even when the date is set. I am much less confident about my take on this issue than I am on the Iranian matter. But I would not be surprised if by Rosh Hashanah of next year, the elections will still not have taken place.

Reality will shape the Jewish state’s society in 5773 more than we will shape it. Culturally, we are living in extremely unstable times. These cultural changes, symbolized by the birthrate of only one child per family, are currently expressed in an economic crisis that will make Western economies collapse. The rise of radical Islam will rear its head and the Middle East will return to its natural, pre-World War I state. The mask of modern nation-states will disintegrate and the expanse will once more be tribal. A country that is not Arab will claim hegemony: That nation will be either Turkey or Iran – if the latter achieves nuclear capabilities.

This is not prophecy. It is simply an educated evaluation based on the processes that are unfolding before our eyes. Events can play out in any number of ways, but we must prepare for any eventuality.

The questions that Israel must ask itself are much broader than the question of a nuclear Iran. Are we preparing the next generation for the new world or are we still committed to the old order? Are we equipping the next generation with a clear answer to the questions of identity and destiny? Are we building a culture of liberty that can overcome the enslavement that is engulfing the world?

On Rosh Hashanah, we crowned the King of the world. We blew the shofar and declared that we accept His dominion – His dominion, and no other.

Moshe Feiglin

Senate Overwhelmingly Endorses ‘Capability’ Red Line on Iran

Monday, September 24th, 2012

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly endorsed language that sets a red line for Iran “nuclear capability.”

The non-binding resolution, introduced in February by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), says that “it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.”

The resolution passed late Friday by a vote of 90-1, with only Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting against.

The language is in line with Israel’s red lines and goes further than the Obama administration, which has set as a red line Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon.

It is not precisely clear what “capability” entails. A number of experts believe Iran already has crossed that threshold and is capable of manufacturing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is strictly peaceful.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee praised the resolution’s passage.

“AIPAC applauds the Senate for rejecting a policy of containment of an Iranian nuclear weapons capability and calling for an increase in sanctions against the world’s leading state sponsor of terror,” the group said in a statement.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed similar language in May, and the term “capability” has made it into other legislation, including the most recent sanctions legislation.

JTA

America’s Ambivalent Iran Doctrine

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Is Washington’s refusal to set red lines over Iran’s nuclear military program spurring Tehran to continue onward, towards nuclear weapons possession, at full speed?

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has issued a call for clear red lines to be defined by the international community. The idea behind the lines is simple: A breach of them by Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons will trigger action against it.

Jerusalem presumably believes that without red lines, Iran will simply not take the threat of military force seriously enough to freeze its uranium enrichment, or enter into further negotiations in any meaningful way.

Washington, saying that the only red line it abides by is the production of nuclear weapons, rejected this call. Any further red lines, President Barack Obama said earlier this month, would constrain the U.S.’s room to maneuver.

Furthermore, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, countries are not governed by red lines.

However, as Dr. Emily Landau, a senior arms control expert from Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies pointed out Obama himself used red lines twice this year — and did so effectively.

In the first instance, when Iran threatened to respond to economic sanctions by closing off the Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, through which much of the world’s oil passes, Obama said that doing so would constitute an unacceptable breach of a red line. Sure enough, Iran backed off, and downplayed its own threat within a few weeks.

The second use of a red line came after it emerged that Syrian dictator Basher Assad was moving deadly chemical weapons around Syria. Obama said that any further movements of the unconventional weapons, or signs that they were about to be used, would constitute a breach of a red line. There have been no further reports of chemical weapons on the move in war-torn Syria.

Iran knows that the U.S. is being selective about its use of red lines, and that the Obama Administration is reluctant to use this same pressure mechanism on its nuclear program.

What conclusion is Iran likely to take away? One need look no farther than Iran’s rapidly progressing uranium enrichment drive, its continuing refusal to allow IAEA experts access to nuclear facilities, and the fact that no serious negotiations between the P5+1 representatives (the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany) and Iran are on the horizon.

The threat of military force is supposed to be one of three critical pillars of a comprehensive policy to persuade the Iranian regime to stop its march towards atomic bombs.

The second pillar, biting sanctions, is in place, and is taking its toll on the Iranian economy. But the sanctions have utterly failed to convince Tehran to change course on its nuclear program. So long as the worsening Iranian economy does not influence the rate of uranium enrichment, sanctions cannot be considered to have worked.

The third and last pillar, diplomacy, is currently dead in the water, after three failed rounds of negotiations this year.

All three pillars are tied to each other – a structural weakness in one means the other two cannot function properly. In this instance, it is the pillar of a credible military threat that is looking weak, and a refusal to discuss red lines is contributing to that weakness.

Ironically, the less credible the threat of military force is, the more likely it is that military force will eventually have to be used.

Some in the Obama Administration, such as Defense Secretary Panetta, have pointed out that Israel too has not set red lines on Iran. But Israel is not involved in negotiations with Iran, and a red line pressure mechanism would be of no use to Israel — a fact that makes Panetta’s claim appear rather cynical in the eyes of Israeli national security analysts.

There are other factors leading Iran to confirm its belief that the international community is not serious about stopping its nuclear program.

One of them is the public spat between Netanyahu and Obama over these very issues. The open argument, which has escalated into unprecedented feuding via international media outlets, will surely give Iran more cause to trivialize international resolve and unity.

When chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said last month that an Israeli strike would only delay Iranian nuclear progress, but not destroy the program, he seemed to be stating the obvious. Read between the lines, however, and Dempsey appeared to be hinting that a delay caused by an Israeli strike would not be significant.

The comment seemed to be part of an open U.S. media campaign to dissuade Israel from striking. What it may have done instead was damage Israeli deterrence in Iranian eyes.

The lack of red lines, diplomatic arguments among allies, and an unconvincing threat of military force will all lead Iran to move forward on its nuclear program.

In the meantime, it seems fair to believe that Iran is quickly approaching Israel’s own, unannounced red line.

Yaakov Lappin

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/americas-ambivalent-iran-doctrine/2012/09/20/

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