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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. foreign policy’

US: Israel’s Prosperity a Problem

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

At first blush, it might have sounded like praise, but it wasn’t. Before meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced Israel’s prosperity an impediment to “peace” with the Palestinians. “I think there is an opportunity [for peace], but for many reasons it’s not on the tips of everyone’s tongue. People in Israel aren’t waking up every day and wondering if tomorrow there will be peace because there is a sense of security and a sense of accomplishment and of prosperity.”

So, Secretary Kerry thinks it would be better for Israel to approach negotiations from a position of precarious poverty? Does he think Israel’s quest for legitimacy and security in an unstable, over-armed and hostile region would be better received if Israel were a needy, insecure supplicant to Palestinian and Arab interests? Or that the Palestinians would have pity on an unnerved and anxious Israel struggling with a bankrupt, aid-dependent economy?

There are people – not necessarily Secretary Kerry – who prefer their Jews as needy supplicants, but that is not a role Israel is prepared to play, thank you. The entire Zionist enterprise is designed precisely to ensure that Jews in the State of Israel are able to wake up every day with a “sense of security” and determine their own interests. The fact that Israelis also wake up with a hard-earned and well-deserved “sense of accomplishment and of prosperity” is icing on the cake.

What Kerry appears to have meant was that this is somehow a pivotal moment for Israel because its prosperity and security may be evanescent. He continued, “Over the horizon… one can see the challenges,” that make it important “to resolve this at this moment, when there is a willingness for people to look for a way [to achieve an agreement].”

“At this moment” Israel is a stable, educated, increasingly energy independent, democratic, prosperous country with a military that appears willing and able to defend the people from threats over the horizon. It has a clear understanding with the Kingdom of Jordan for security along the Jordan River that protects both neighbors. It has an almost clear understanding with the President of the United States (and certainly has one with Congress) that the main threat to its security lies in the nuclear aspirations of Iran.

This, says Kerry, is “the moment” Israel should feel a pressing imperative to dump King Abdullah and cut a deal with a Palestinian polity that is bifurcated between a kleptocratic, autocratic, openly anti-Semitic West Bank ruled by a man whose sole elected term ended in 2009, and a corrupt, Islamist, Gaza ruled by terrorist-worshipping, Iranian-sponsored Hamas. Hamas and Fatah are at war with one another and their only point of agreement appears to be that the independence of Israel in 1948 was a mistake waiting to be “rectified.” A deal with Mahmoud Abbas, old, ailing, and very unpopular at home, would be a temporary deal at best. If Hamas wins its war, Israel will have stripped itself of vital territory only to find its heavily populated coastline under the same rocket and missile fire that southern Israel now absorbs. And Jordan would similarly find hostile forces aligned with Iran overlooking the Kingdom.

Under those circumstances, the U.S. would do better to tell the Palestinians that there is no deal to be had unless they – both factions – demonstrably accommodate the reality that Israel is a legitimate, permanent part of the region. Otherwise, it is for Israel to determine how best to defend itself from those “challenges over the horizon.”

The boundaries of the Levant determined by the British and the French early in the last century are being erased; there is little border left between Lebanon and Syria as militias on all sides fight in both countries. Tribalism and religious enmity from both radical Sunni and radical Shiite expansionists have produced monstrous swamps of Arab blood, and atrocities that rival Rwanda and Cambodia. Iraq is devolving into Sunni and Shiite cantons at war with one another. Turkey, long a country tolerant of Jews and engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship with Israel, has become a financial and political backer of Hamas, which is sworn to the bloody destruction of Israel. Qatar is second only to Turkey in its willingness to be seen as Hamas’s benefactor, not to mention Qatar’s pledge of $1 billion to “protect the Arabic and Islamic heritage of Jerusalem” (meaning to erase what it can of Jewish patrimony there). Egypt, after a 30-year stable peace, is ruled by a party that eschews relations with Israel and is constrained mainly by its military and its own economic debacle from acting on its ideological platform.

Obama’s Head-in-the-Sand Speech About Terror

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

President Barack Obama’s speech at the National Defense University, “The Future of Our Fight against Terrorism” is a remarkable exercise in wishful thinking and denial. Here is basically what he says: the only strategic threat to the United States is posed by terrorists carrying out terrorist attacks.

In the 6400 words used by Obama, Islam only constitutes three of them and most interestingly in all three the word is used to deny that the United States is at war with Islam. In fact, that is what President George Bush said precisely almost a dozen years ago, after September 11. Yet why have not hundreds of such denials had the least bit of effect on the course of that war?

In fact, to prove that the United States is not at war with Islam, the Obama Administration has sided with political Islam throughout the Middle East, to the extent that some Muslims think Obama is doing damage to Islam, their kind of non-revolutionary Islam.

And how has the fight against al-Qaeda resulted in a policy that has, however inadvertently, armed al-Qaeda, as in Libya and Syria?

Once again, I will try to explain the essence of Obama strategy, a simple point that many people seem unable to grasp:

Obama views al-Qaeda as a threat because it wants to attack America directly with terrorism. But all other Islamist groups are not a threat. In fact, they can be used to stop al-Qaeda.

This is an abandonment of a strategic perspective. The word Islamism or political Islam or any other version of that word do not appear even once. Yet this is the foremost revolutionary movement of this era, the main threat in the world to U.S. interests and even to Western civilization.

If one wanted to come up with a slogan for the Obama Administration it would be that to win the war on terrorism one must lose the war on revolutionary Islamism because only by showing that America is the Islamists’ friend will it take away the incentive to join up with al-Qaeda and attack the United States.

Please take the two sections in bold above very seriously if you want to understand U.S. Middle East policy.

According to Obama:

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Tunisia that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Syria that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

If a regime whose viewpoint is basically equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood—albeit far more subtle and culture—dominates Turkey that is not a strategic threat but a positive advantage because it is the best organization able to curb al-Qaeda. And that policy proves that the United States is not at war with Islam.

These and other strategic defeats do not matter, says Obama in effect:

After I took office, we stepped up the war against al Qaeda, but also sought to change its course. We relentlessly targeted al Qaeda’s leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home. We pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan, and increased our training of Afghan forces. We unequivocally banned torture, affirmed our commitment to civilian courts, worked to align our policies with the rule of law, and expanded our consultations with Congress.

And yet the Taliban is arguably close to taking over Afghanistan in future. The group has spread to Pakistan. The rule of law in Afghanistan is a joke and soldiers there know that the Afghan government still uses torture.

Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts.

Well, it is quite true that security measures within the United States have been largely successful at stopping attacks. But the frequency of attempted attacks has been extensive, some of which were blocked by luck and the expenditure of one trillion dollars. Country after country has been taken over by radical Islamists who can be expected to fight against American interests in future. Obama continues:

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us…

But he never actually defines it except to suggest that (1) al-Qaeda has spread to other countries (which does not sound like a victory for the United States) and (2) That its affiliates and imitators are more amateurish than those who pulled off the September 11, 2001 attack. Yet they got away with the September 11, 2012 attack.

Russia is Playing a Losing Hand like a Winner

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

History is back and so are the Russians.

After an interregnum of twenty years, during which the communist Soviet Union was demolished and a crony capitalist, Russian kleptocracy turned inward to establish firm control of journalists (oh wait, that might have been the Obama Administration), civil society practitioners including lawyers, businessmen, and little girl punk bands, Vladimir Putin has laid down a marker in the Middle East. The suggestion that advanced SS300 air defense missiles are already in Syria and that Yakhont ship-to-ship missiles are coming, plus Russian warships steaming toward the region along with obstruction in the U.N. are all steps toward establishing Russia as the “go to” imperial power to control or end the Syrian civil war.

The Russian interest is twofold. First is to be the master of the diplomatic front. Whether the Russian-touted “peace conference” results in “peace” or a change of government in Damascus is less relevant than whether the Putin is in the driver’s seat. Second is to stop the spread of Sunni expansionist Islam that threatens Russia with the potential to reignite the Caucasus. Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ossetia are historically restive, but now are increasingly Islamic rather than nationalistic in their hatred of Orthodox Russia.

Two things make this really interesting. First, Putin is dealing with Israel much more forthrightly than he is with the United States, something that should be considered less a sign of respect for Israel’s red lines than disdain for the Obama Administration. Second, he has taken a narrow view of a broad problem — and thus is playing a losing hand.

On the American side, neither Secretary of State Kerry nor the president he serves seem to understand Russia’s goals in the region, and thus neither is prepared to uphold our own interests. When Kerry flew off to Moscow in early May to find a mechanism for an international conference on Syria, Putin kept him waiting three hours and, according to the London Daily Mail, “continuously fiddled with his pen as the top American diplomat spoke about the ongoing crisis.” Ever the good guest, Kerry told Putin, “The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria — stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere.”

Actually, we don’t. Kerry touted “stability,” but without specifying acceptable and unacceptable parameters for achieving it, he abdicated fundamental American principles. “Stability” is a tricky word. Russia was stable under the communists at a price of millions dead, and is working its way out of the messier parts of capitalism and back to stability by jailing people and having prominent “enemies of the State” conveniently drop dead. (See BerezovskyMagnitsky and Politovskaya for starters.) Syria was stable for years under Assad & Fils – and Russia would like to see it stable under Assad control again. If “stability” is all we seek, Kerry can just jump on the Russian bandwagon.

Moreover, aside from the rude treatment Kerry received in Moscow, contrasted with the very polite reception Prime Minister Netanyahu received a week later, the Russians waited until Kerry left to drop a bombshell. On May 16, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Lebanon’s Al-Madayeen that Iran would have to take part in any international conference. The State Department spokesman was forced to say the U.S. wouldn’t rule it out, because to do so would admit that Kerry’s trip was a failure. The U.S. may find itself negotiating directly with Iran on an issue other than nuclear weapons, which would be an abject failure for stated U.S. priorities.

David Kramer, President of Freedom House, reminded Washington Post readers that Moscow also detained a former U.S. official in the airport for 17 hours without food or water before deporting him; had camera crews film a civil-society activist when Kerry arrived at his home; and publicized the name of the presumed CIA station chief in Moscow, calling him a spy.

President Obama chalked it all up to the Cold War.

I don’t think it’s any secret that there remains lingering suspicions between Russia and other members of the G8 or the West… It’s been several decades now since Russia transformed itself and the Eastern Bloc transformed itself. But some of those suspicions still exist.

On the one hand, he gives Russia far too much credit for “transforming” itself; the roots of Russian imperialism haven’t changed in centuries. On the other hand, he can’t imagine that the current situation is driven by current Russian needs, not the old Cold War.

Erdogan Praised at White House as He Subverts US Interests

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“So fragile was the structure of their reality that a single unsubsumed consciousness, a solitary ripple in their little pond was enough to roil the waters into a frothing, burbling foam.” —Norman Spinrad, The Void Captain’s Tale (1985)

Consider five factors that had no effect on the very warm reception given by President Barack Obama to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

–While the U.S. government has pressured Erdogan not to visit the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Erdogan announced in the White House Rose Garden that he would do so. An alleged U.S. ally says publicly in front of Obama while being hosted by him that he is going to defy the United States.

This is not some routine matter. With previous presidents, if an ally was going to do something like that he would say nothing at the time and then months later would subvert U.S. policy. Or better yet the foreign leader would not do so. To announce defiance in such a way is a serious sign of how little respect Middle East leaders have for Obama—and U.S. policy nowadays—and how little Obama will do about it.

–Equally bad is the fact that Erdogan directly promised Obama that he would conciliate with Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cooperated because Obama asked him to do so. That’s what U.S. allies do. But immediately Erdogan showed he would pay no attention to the agreement he made.

His negotiators subverted it in several ways, including the demands for ridiculously large amounts of money, the delay in the promised return of the Turkish ambassador to Israel, the continuation of legal action against Israeli officials involved in the Mavi Marmara affair, when Israeli soldiers were attacked by Turkish terrorists demanding to sail to Gaza to deliver equipment to Hamas.

So a second time Erdogan betrayed Obama and make the president look foolish (that is, if anyone in the mass media pointed it out). Again, there was no U.S. criticism of the move or apparent pressure to make Erdogan keep his promise.

There are three other ways that Erdogan has subverted U.S. interests with minimal costs. In fact, the Obama Administration has usually furthered this behavior.

–Some small U.S. diplomatic protests were made about the growing internal repression in Turkey and human rights’ violations there. Increasingly, the country lives under a reign of intimidation even as the Western media mostly ignores this situation. Since the United States keeps praising him, Erdogan can demoralize his opponents, who cannot hope for foreign help, even as he carries on a policy of spreading anti-Americanism in Turkey.

The political power of the Turkish armed forces–the traditional guarantor of the republic and stability in the country was dismantled by Erdogan with U.S. approval. The Turkish media was subverted with only an occasional American squeal of complaint. Now he’s destroying the independent judicial system, the last barrier to his assault on democratic rule. The U.S. embassy in Turkey consistently warned about what has been happening; the White House ignored this information.

–With the Obama Administration’s permission, the Turkish government violates the sanctions against Iran with ever-larger trade and major bilateral cooperation projects. Erdogan’s consistent defenses of Iran’s policies (though the two countries are at odds over Syria) have been forgiven and forgotten by the White House.

–Finally, in many ways the Turkish government has been taking the lead on setting U.S. policy toward Syria. It was Erdogan who largely determined that the official opposition exile leadership would be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, a path followed by Obama. (I can’t prove it but I’ll bet that Turkey’s regime promised Obama that if he would declare support for the rebels verbally and let them be armed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia then Assad would easily fall. I’d also bet that Erdogan assured Obama that if the president helped the rebels a moderate government would emerge in Syria.)

Meanwhile, Obama has praised Erdogan unstintingly. Obama thinks Erdogan is the very model of a “moderate Islamist” and since Obama’s strategy is to support such people in much of the Arab world, Erdogan has been his guide to the region, though this has meant supporting the radical Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood. What is especially ironic is that Obama believed that Erdogan’s goals were essentially the same as those of the United States while Erdogan was in fact following a profoundly anti-American policy designed to bring hostile Islamist governments to power. Remember this is no longer the old Western-oriented Turkey of previous decades but a radical–if concealed–Islamist regime.

Russia-US Brinkmanship Clashes with Israel’s Security

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Russia is aggressively squaring off with an indecisive and rather meek West about Syria, and in the process, is also threatening to undermine Israeli efforts to ensure that Iran and Syria do not ship strategic weapons to Hizballah.

The Syrian civil war has become a dangerous and complex battle of multiple actors and their proxies: Sunni versus Shi’ite, Iran versus the Gulf states, al Qaeda versus Hizballah, and on a global scale, the United States versus Russia.

Moscow is trying to deter a potential U.S. or NATO-led initiative to set up a no-fly zone over areas of Syria, and is seeking to stop Western-led air strikes against chemical weapons sites.

Russia also seems concerned that recent air strikes in Damascus targeting Hizballah-bound guided Iranian missiles — strikes attributed by the foreign media to Israel — will pave the way to such an intervention.

Israel has no interest in getting involved in the Syrian civil war. Rather, it is looking out for the safety of millions of citizens, who already live in the shadow of some 80,000 Hizballah rockets, and would be threatened further by the transfer of precise, powerful missiles to Hizballah in Lebanon.

In recent days, Russia unleashed a flurry of moves to establish its support of Syria.

The Russian moves include: Declaring that it will proceed with deliveries of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Assad, mobilizing war ships to the eastern Mediterranean, and selling sophisticated surface-to-sea Yakhont missiles to Assad.

Moscow’s recent maneuvers might be more bluster than real — the S-300 has yet to be delivered, and Russia was in 2010 talked out of selling the formidable air defense system to Iran.

The threat, however, was serious enough for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make an unscheduled trip last week to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The two later held a press conference, repeating their public positions, but it is doubtful that those statements were a complete reflection of their private exchange.

Israel is opposed to Assad receiving the S-300 missile for several reasons: With its sophisticated radars and range of 200 kilometers, the S-300 can hamper Israel Air Force aircraft seeking to monitor Hezbollah in Lebanon. The system can also disrupt future Israeli efforts to intercept the transit of Iranian weapons to Hizbollah through Syria. Finally, Assad can choose to smuggle S-300 batteries to Hizbollah or Iran.

Should the S-300 fall into Iranian hands, the future potential mission of launching a military strike on Iran’s developing nuclear program would be more even more complex than it already is. Knowing that the S-300 was in Hizballah’s hands, and could target Israeli aircraft sent to stop it, would only boost the Shi’ite terror organization’s confidence to launch cross-border attacks on Israel. For these reasons, Jerusalem will find Russia’s delivery of such a system to Syria to be an intolerable development; it is safe to assume that Israel will act to prevent this from happening.

Similarly, the Russian Yakhont missiles already delivered to Syria threaten Israel Navy ships carrying out vital missions in the Mediterranean.

Behind closed-doors, intense diplomacy — including the sudden visit by CIA Director John Brennan to Israel — is underway to try and contain these developments, and prevent them from triggering further regional security deterioration.

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

Support the Syrian Rebels?

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Washington Post article today, “Assad forces gaining ground in Syria” by Liz Sly, argues that recent events suggest that the Assad regime is not just surviving but has gone on the offensive. Drawing on local analysts, she finds that in the civil war, “there is little doubt that the pendulum is now swinging in favor of Assad … bolstered by a new strategy, the support of Iran and Russia and the assistance of fighters with Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.”

If this in fact be the case, then, Western governments should respond by helping the rebels to prevent Assad from crushing them.

This advice is consistent with my argument (in an article titled “Support Assad” published just a month ago, when Assad appeared to be going down) that the West should prevent either side in the civil war from emerging victorious by “helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.”

This policy recommendation of “helping whichever side is losing” sounds odd, I admit, but it is strategic.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review, Online, May 11, 2013.

With Blood on their Hands

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Lady Macbeth may have been one of literature’s most famous villains, but at least she had the guilty conscience to eventually try and wash the blood off her hands. Even if by then it was much too late.

It is doubtful that Hillary Rodham Clinton will start hallucinating bloody spots on her palms during the book tour for her upcoming 14-million-dollar book or compulsively washing her hands during the 2016 campaign.

If she does make it into the White House, it is even more doubtful that she will wonder it at night in a nightgown crying out for the blood that can never be washed away.

Lady Macbeth may have cried out, “Here’s the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Araby will not sweeten this little hand.” But the black perfumes of today’s Araby are more than enough to sweeten a multitude of appeasements and cover the blood that flows out from them.

Real life villains are closer to Richard III than Lady Macbeth, offering to trade their stolen kingdom for a horse to the very end, rather than seeking some intangible repentance in a fit of remorse. They are more likely to ask what difference it makes; the solipsistic query of the sociopath to whom the feelings of others are abstract things.

The Benghazi hearings featured more hypocritical and trite eulogies than anything Richard III could have imagined. Congressman Elijah Cummings told witnesses that “death is a part of a life.” A fact that they were surely unaware of. His colleague, Eleanor Holmes Norton asked, “What’s the big deal here?”

“We had Benghazi I with Susan Rice, now we’re having Benghazi II with Hillary Clinton. Enough Benghazi,” Norton declared. It’s not quite “Out, damned spot!” or “What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” and more “What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?”

The latter is a timeless villain’s truth, whether in a fictional 11th century Scottish castle or in the all too real 21st century Capitol Hill.

For Lady Macbeth, power was not a sufficient defense against conscience. A thousand years later, in Foggy Bottom, Capitol Hill and at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; there is no conscience, only power. The arrogance of an Obama, a Clinton or a Norton comes from their confidence that none can call their power to account.

Norton and Clinton have more of a point than critics give them credit for. Benghazi isn’t a big deal. Not compared to the rivers of blood they shed in Afghanistan. In Benghazi, four Americans were abandoned. In Afghanistan, it was over 1500 soldiers killed and nearly 15,000 wounded many of them denied air support and the ability to fight back under rules of engagement that likely also played a part in the betrayal at Benghazi.

Iosif Vissarionovich (Joseph) Stalin, a Shakespearean villain, if there ever was one, who helpfully wrote his own soliloquies, once said that while a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. The four deaths in Benghazi are also a tragedy. Though we must of course, as Congressman Cummings told us, put them into the context of death being a part of life. Afghanistan however is just a statistic.

The day after Benghazi, the parents of Navy SEALS from Seal Team Six, along with military experts and former military officials, appeared at the National Press Club to demand a congressional investigation. The media responded with a collective shrugs and resumed providing non-stop coverage of the Jodi Arias case. Some Lady Macbeths go to prison. Others are meant to go to the White House.

“Why was there no pre-assault fire?” Karen Vaughn, the mother of Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, asked. “We were told as families that pre-assault fire damages our efforts to win the hearts and minds of our enemy. So in other words, the hearts and minds of our enemy are more valuable to this government than my son’s blood.”

“Why didn’t they take them out with a drone,” Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange asked. “The Admiral told me, to win the hearts and minds. I says, to win the hearts and minds? How about my heart? How about my mind?” But not all hearts and minds are created equal. And not all blood is valued the same.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/daniel-greenfield/with-blood-on-their-hands/2013/05/12/

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