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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. foreign policy’

State Department Static on Temple Mount

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Patrick Ventrell, acting Deputy State Department spokesperson:

QUESTION: Okay. And finally on the same issue, do you comment on the recent violence around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock?

MR. VENTRELL: I am aware of the arrest of the Grand Mufti. Is this the same incident? I’m not aware that they’re the same incident.

QUESTION: Right. It’s the same incident. Actually, the Israelis arrested the Jerusalem Mufti but they did release him a couple of hours ago.

MR. VENTRELL: Right. I mean, we’re concerned about the recent tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, Haram al-Sharif, including the detention today of the Grand Mufti. We understand that he was released, as you just mentioned. But we urge all sides to respect the status quo of this holy site and to exercise restraint and refrain from provocative actions.

Okay?

Well, not really okay.

First, who was “violent”?  Who was attempting to exercise their legal rights and who was throwing chairs, screaming racist slogans and trying to provoke a riot?

Second, the status quo cannot remain static any longer.  It was forced on Jews by an intolerant Islamic approach that perceives the Temple Mount as not belonging to the Jews or that Jews have no rights to their holy site.  That will change.

Jews pray in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs when, for centuries previously, they couldn’t even ascend past the 7th step outside.  Muslims also pray there, under one roof.  It may be thought of as awkward, but it works.

There is more than enough area on the Temple Mount to reach an accommodation.  A bit of good will is required.

I think the State Department should be pressuring the Arabs on that.  They are involved enough with the population so let their programs concentrate also on tolerance, coexistence and plain humane consideration.

Turning a blind eye to their religious fanaticism (State’s reports on religious freedom are wishywashy) doesn’t help.

Get more concerned, please.

Visit My Right Word.

A Policy in Search of Doctrine

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

In the face of seemingly irrational threats from North Korea, at least one American conclusion should be obvious and prompt: Nuclear strategy is a “game” that sane world leaders must play, whether they like it, or not. President Obama can choose to play this complex game purposefully or inattentively. But, one way or another, he will have to play.

Should he opt for the more sensible style of engagement, he will need to move significantly beyond his currently misconceived search for global denuclearization (“a world free of nuclear weapons”) to a far more thoroughly realistic plan for (1) controlling further nuclear proliferation and (2) improving America’s own nuclear posture. More than anything else, this indispensable move will require the creation of a more suitable U.S. strategic doctrine.

Earlier, at the start of the Cold War, the United States first began to codify vital orientations to nuclear deterrence and nuclear war. At that time, the world was tightly bipolar, and the indisputable enemy was the Soviet Union. Tempered by a shared knowledge of the unprecedented horror that finally ceased in 1945, each superpower had readily understood the core need for cooperation (or at least coordination), as well as for conflict preparedness.

With the start of the nuclear age, American national security was premised on seemingly primal threats of “massive retaliation.” Over time, especially during the Kennedy years, that calculated policy was softened by more subtle and nuanced threats of “flexible response.” Along the way, a coherent and generalized American strategic doctrine was crafted to accommodate every conceivable kind of adversary and enemy encounter. Systematic and historically grounded, this doctrine was developed self-consciously, to evolve prudently, and in carefully considered increments.

Strategic doctrine, defense intellectuals had already understood, is a “net.” Only those who cast can catch.

Today we live in an increasingly “multipolar” system. No longer is the world under the controlling ambit of either Washington or Moscow. Now, there are complex and sometimes intersecting axes of global conflict. Among other things, this means that we must construct our national nuclear strategies with a deliberate view toward impacting multiple and interdependent centers of global power. Moreover, this view still includes some of the usual suspects, especially Russia.

Moscow has continued to reinvigorate its production of intercontinental ballistic missiles and ICBM supporting infrastructures. In part, this represents an entirely predictable Russian response to expectations that America may yet push ahead with its plans for expanded ballistic missile defense in Europe. In Russian calculations, which are by no means eccentric or devoid of merit, such plans are actually offensive. This is because they would threaten to undermine the always-basic deterrence requirements of mutual vulnerability.

At this moment, we may at least hope, Obama’s primary strategic focus is on North Korea, Iran, and an already-nuclear Pakistan. There certainly is nothing wrong with such a focus (quite the contrary); the problem is that each case is likely being considered as if it were altogether singular, ad hoc, or unique. Instead, acknowledging that generality is a trait of all scientific meaning, the president should now be fashioning a comprehensive doctrine from which logically appropriate policies for each of these urgent cases could then be properly extrapolated.

In all three cases there are more-or-less plausible concerns of enemy irrationality. In such alarming situations, where leadership elites in Pyongyang, Tehran, or Islamabad might value certain presumed national or religious obligations more highly than physical survival, the logic of deterrence could fail. Such a scenario is improbable, but it is certainly not inconceivable.

Also important to understand are possible interactions or synergies between major adversaries. North Korea and Iran, both with documented ties to China, Syria, and Russia, have maintained a long-term and consequential strategic relationship.

Other major problems face us. These threats may even be unrelated to what is happening in Russia, North Korea, Iran, or Pakistan and might only be indirectly connected to the belligerent intentions of other nation-states. Such problems could stem, in part, from the effectively uncontrolled growth of certain virulently antagonistic sub-state guerrilla and/or terrorist organizations.

This sort of growth, moreover, is made more likely by ongoing events in Syria and also by the UN’s recent tilt to further formalizing Palestinian statehood. Now already a “nonmember observer state,” the Palestinian Authority is closer to becoming, together with Hamas in Gaza, a palpably more effective base for launching significant anti-Israel terror attacks.

Kerry’s Frolic

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent embrace of the Arab Peace Initiative is, to say the least, unnerving. Certainly the response of Arab leaders to his action reflects the dangers for Israel inherent in the plan. President Obama seems to be preoccupied these days with Syria and Iran as well as serious domestic issues and is largely leaving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Mr. Kerry. But the secretary of state seems poised to roil things up without any prospect of real progress.

The Arab Plan, launched in 2002, was approved by the 22-member Arab League at a summit in Beirut. It essentially called for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world and normal relations – in return for Israel’s full withdrawal from all the land captured by Israel in 1967, including the Golan Heights. For obvious reasons, Israel rejected the notion of full withdrawal.

The Arab League reaffirmed its offer in 2007 with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation endorsing it as well. Israel again stuck to its position that, among other things, full withdrawal would compromise its security and was a prescription for more war and thus a non-starter.

Mr. Kerry recently met with the prime minister of Qatar, the secretary-general of the Arab League and representatives of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to, according to one participant, raise the possibility of modifications. Specifically the secretary of state reportedly proposed, in order to make the plan more palatable to Israel, that the 1967 lines “be modified” through mutual agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

But the word from the Arab camp was that it could agree only that “minor” and “comparable” land exchanges based on the 1967 lines would be acceptable. The idea that Israel would retain the settlement blocs it has established – which recent U.S. presidents, including Mr. Obama, have endorsed to a greater or lesser extent – was rejected out of hand.

What is particularly disturbing about the Kerry approach is that it is wholly inconsistent with President Obama’s insistence that Israel and the Palestinians negotiate a deal between themselves. Indeed, the Palestinians can now claim that Mr. Kerry effectively backs their seeking recognition from the UN as an alternative to negotiating Palestinian statehood with Israel. Why is he backtracking from Mr. Obama’s call, in line with Israel’s position, for negotiations with no preconditions?

At any rate, it is hardly reasonable to expect Israel to place any confidence in the commitments of Arab leaders. Not only has the Arab Spring underscored what an ephemeral thing “Arab leadership” really is, it has also revealed the strong undercurrent of popular opposition in Arab countries to any rapprochement with Israel. So no matter the extent of Israeli concessions in any future peace deal, the promise of normal relations is, in the end, unenforceable.

In sum, all Mr. Kerry has accomplished is to publicly draw U.S. policy away from support for Israel’s approach to negotiations as articulated by President Obama. For all his vaunted experience in foreign policy and international relations, he seems clueless. When former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice did much the same thing during the previous administration, President Bush did little if anything to rein her in. It is to be hoped that President Obama won’t make the same mistake with Mr. Kerry.

Kerry Betting on the Wrong Horses

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.

The Arab League foreign ministers who met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington last week were convinced that they had a mandate from the Palestinians to talk about possible land swaps between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Ahead of their departure to the U.S., the ministers had met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, Qatar, and discussed with him the land swap idea.

At the meeting, the Arab League decided to dispatch a high-level delegation to Washington to brief the U.S. Administration on the Arab position regarding the resumption of peace talks with Israel. Headed by Qatar’s Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani, the delegation which met with Kerry also consisted of Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki.

Yet the Palestinians seemed to be surprised, following the meeting with Kerry, to hear the Qatari representative talk about possible land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority’s initial response was to issue a statement in English — not Arabic — voicing support for the land trade proposal. The statement said that this was an old idea that had been discussed in the past between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

But following strong condemnations from many Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority leadership took a step backwards.

First, the Palestinian Authority said that it was only prepared to discuss “minor” adjustments to the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Later, as the denunciations grew, the Palestinian Authority took yet another step backwards, saying it was opposed to making any “down payments” to Israel before the peace talks resumed.

In other words, the Palestinian Authority is not prepared to talk about any territorial concessions to Israel before the Israeli government accepts the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.

Palestinian reactions to the land swap proposal seem to have angered Qatar and other Arab countries.

With the exception of a few Palestinian Authority officials, all Palestinian factions have come out strongly against the proposal. The anger has been directed especially against Qatar.

“Who gave the Qatari leaders the right to offer concessions to Israel on behalf of the Palestinians?” was the main charge leveled against the rulers in Doha.

Other Palestinians, including top members of Abbas’s Fatah faction, have also lashed out at the Arab ministers for “offering free concessions” to Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

Although the Palestinian Authority leadership had in the past hinted that it would be willing to accept the land swap idea, it is now obvious that it would never be able to win the Palestinians’ support for such a proposal.

As leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian groups emphasized over the past few days, no Palestinian leader has a mandate to make any concessions to Israel.

Even worse, the Arab League proposal is being viewed by many Arabs and Palestinians as part of an “American-Zionist conspiracy” to force the Palestinians to accept Israeli “dictates.”

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -ed.] seem to have absorbed the message and are now back to demanding a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, which were never official borders.

For Kerry, who has taken it upon himself to try to resume the peace process, this is all bad news.

It is bad news that the Palestinian Authority still does not have the courage to tell the Palestinians that without some form of compromise there will never be real peace with Israel.

It is bad news because it has once again become clear that the Arab countries, including the wealthiest and most influential, have no influence on the Palestinians.

Judging from their reactions to the land swap idea, many Palestinians continue to despise the Arab regimes, accusing them of serving as pawns in the hands of the U.S. and Israel.

The U.S. Administration needs to understand that the Arab League is an incompetent and ineffectual body that has long been ridiculed by most Arabs. This is a body that has never played an instrumental role in solving Arab crises such as the Lebanese Civil War, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.

It now remains to be seen whether Kerry and President Barack Obama will ever notice that they are betting on the wrong horses. Neither the Arab League nor the Palestinian Authority leadership has a mandate to offer any concessions to Israel or recognize its right to exist.

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.

How the Palestinians Trap Themselves and Drag the West Along

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

“Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust will not vanish of itself.” –Mao Zedong, The Little Red Book

It is amazing how many massive revelations pass people by completely. Consider this new gleaning from the British Archives from early 1948, which sheds much light on current events.

British officials in the Palestine Mandate were reporting as follows:

The [Palestine] Arabs have suffered a series of overwhelming defeats….”Jewish victories … have reduced Arab morale to zero and, following the cowardly example of their inept leaders, they are fleeing from the mixed areas in their thousands. It is now obvious that the only hope of regaining their position lies in the regular armies of the Arab states.

This is confirmation from hostile British official sources of what Israel and its supporters have been saying for 60 years: that the origin of the Palestinian Arab refugee problem was due to the actions of the Palestinian Arabs themselves: first, their leaders decision to reject the partition into Arab and Jewish states, then their decision to go to war, and then their disorganization and poor leadership. The British Foreign Office even uses the word, “cowardice.”

Some things have changed since then; many have not. Today, as in 1948, the Zionist side is more eager for the existences of an independent Palestinian state living in peace inside permanent borders than is the Palestinian Arab leadership.

That statement might strike misinformed people as ludicrous, but it is nonetheless true, as they should have known since Yasir Arafat’s destruction of the Camp David summit meeting and rejection of the Clinton peace initiative of 2000. And that only followed on the earlier Palestinian rejectionism of the original Camp David summit in 1977, which offered a pathway to statehood, or various other initiatives.

And this pattern of behavior is being reinforced daily. Consider a recent incident. On April 30, an Israeli civilian father of five was stabbed to death by a Palestinian at the Tapuach Junction on the West Bank [Judea and Samaria -ed.]. The killer was a prisoner who had just completed his sentence and been released by Israel, just as Secretary of State John Kerry wants Israel to release hundreds of other prisoners before their sentences are done.

The killer is a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Note the following details:

For many years Fatah, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority (P.A.), denied the link with the brigade. Legal cases were held in the United States over the murder of Americans by the al-Aqsa Brigade in which P.A. lawyers strenuously denied any connection. But in 2009, the Fatah Congress, that organization’s highest authority, admitted that the al-Aqsa Brigades were part of Fatah, a fact one might have known earlier since that’s what it said on the Brigades web-site.

Fatah proudly took responsibility for earlier terrorist attacks by the group.

In the case of the April 30 murder, the official al-Aqsa Brigades statement was very interesting, saying it had “received a green light to carry out military actions against Israeli targets in response to the deaths of prisoners Arafat Jaradat and Maysara Abu Hamdia in an Israeli prison.”

A green light from whom? Since the Brigades did not receive a green light from itself, this is an open admission that they were ordered to murder civilians by the Fatah leadership, in other words by those ruling the P.A., a Western-financed and supported entity.

The two Palestinian prisoners who had died had been examined at autopsies conducted in the presence of P.A. officials. Thus, the P.A. knew that these two men died of natural causes. It was thus lying to its own people to incite them into supporting murders of Israeli civilians that the P.A. was ordering.

In this case, however, a junior member of the Fatah Central Committee named Jamal Muheisen, while defending the attack, tried to distance his organization from responsibility:

The Za’atra action was a natural response to attacks by the occupation and settlers [on Palestinians], but it does not express the general policy of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah, who have espoused [the option of] popular resistance to the occupation.

But it was Muheisen and not the killer or the al-Aqsa Brigades that was criticized universally by Fatah. Nobody came to Muheisen’s defense. On the contrary, the killer was praised as a hero who restored Fatah’s pride. No doubt, a street, a square, or something else will be named in his honor in future.

The Hidden Threat of Kim Jong Un

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Yet again, the United States, and, indeed the world, finds itself having to confront a dictatorial regime led by a maniacal leader who continuously threatens both our country and that of our allies. Although Iran typically leads international headlines in this arena, the North Korean regime has taken center stage with both provocative acts and thinly-veiled threats.

Thus far, the U.S. and its allies have taken a “wait-and-see approach,” which, it seems, has only hardened the North’s resolve to establish itself as a dominant player in world affairs and a nuclear-armed nation. As the world stood by and watched, North Korea launched a satellite into space in December of last year and conducted another nuclear test this past February. Although it has vocalized its plans to attack the United States with nuclear weapons, the conventional wisdom is that the North’s technological advances have yet to create a nuclear warhead capable of fitting on a missile which can reach the U.S.

And, as if the world needs more pseudo-pundits addressing the situation, Iran’s foreign ministry has ironically asked both sides to use restraint and not promote “provocative behavior.” As foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said, “We think that the event that is intensifying between North Korea, South Korea and the United states should be controlled as soon as possible. Both parties should not move toward a corner in which there is a threatening climate.”

Although the U.S. can hardly afford to open a new front internationally and remains mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fact remains that Kim Jong Un continues to be caricatured by the press and not taken seriously enough. On April 7th, Saturday Night Live (“SNL”) opened with a fake press conference where Kim Jong Un brags about his sexual prowess and fist pumps Dennis Rodman towards the end of his address. While this is typical SNL fare, it is emblematic of the world’s failure to truly fathom the grave threat represented by maniacal figures like Un.

As if to make matters worse and again reinforce this image of two clowns hanging out, Dennis Rodman traveled to North Korea in February where he called Un “a friend for life” and announced plans to “have some fun” with Un in August, saying he “just wants to be loved.” Episodes like this may end up creating an air of oblivion about what is truly going on behind the scenes and lulling the world into focusing on the amusement of the affair as opposed to Un’s nefarious intentions.

History has a habit of repeating itself and we know from our experiences in the past that leaders who were not taken seriously while issuing existential threats often desire to carry them through. History is replete with examples of various countries placating or satirizing Adolph Hitler, who simply pursued his vision with uncanny fervor and focus. In 1940, Charlie Chaplin created the film, “The Great Dictator”, where he expressed his views through what has been called a “satirical attack on fascism.” Although creating a comedy about Hitler was very controversial, Chaplin stated “I was determined to go ahead,” “for Hitler must be laughed at.” In the film, Chaplin casts “A Jewish Barber,” who also plays the dictator “Adenoid Hynkel” and parodies Hitler.

As history would tell, society could ill afford to stop and laugh at a jingoistic megalomaniac like Hitler. The world waited, appeased, and ran away in fright until we no longer could, and by that time, Hitler’s Generalplan Ost, or Grand Plan to dominate Central and Eastern Europe and ethnically cleanse Jews and others in its wake had already had a devastating impact. The Holocaust was Hitler’s answer, and for the rest of the world, it was too late.

In this same time period, caricatures of Mussolini and Stalin were also readily available during their regimes, helping mask the true dangers these tyrants posed not only to their citizens, but to the world at large. Stalin, of course, was one of the most murderous dictators in history who cause the death and suffering of tens of millions through his forced labor camps and purging “enemies of the people.” Mussolini was also known to severely torture or imprison his opposition, in addition to framing and murdering them at a later time. His secret police exerted influence over most aspects of daily life and were in charge of ending any anti-Fascist activity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/the-hidden-threat-of-kim-jong-un/2013/05/05/

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