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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. foreign policy’

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.

Elliott Abrams on Sharon’s English, Saudi Suspicions, and Mideast Peace

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The world of politics is divided between insiders and outsiders – those who know and those who don’t, those who make policy and those who react to it, those who observe directly and those who peer from beyond a curtain.

From December 2002 to January 2009, Elliott Abrams was an insider. As deputy assistant to the president and later deputy national security adviser – with the Middle East as his focus – Abrams interacted daily with such figures as President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Israeli Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.

In his new book, Tested by Zion: The Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Cambridge University Press), Abrams shares his insider vantage point. Educated at Harvard University and the London School of Economics, Abrams also served as assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration and today is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Jewish Press: You begin Tested by Zion with Bill Clinton warning Bush about Yasir Arafat. Can you elaborate?

Abrams: Every new presidential administration starts off with the old president and new president meeting in the Oval Office for a kind of handshake before everybody goes up to Capitol Hill for the inauguration. It’s just a formality. But on January 20, 2001, when Clinton handed over to Bush, it was not a formality. Clinton had a message he wanted to deliver, which was basically, “Don’t trust Arafat” – and he said it repeatedly. “He lied to me, he’ll lie to you. Don’t trust him.”

The Bush administration, as you write, eventually adopted this position, but then decided to invest its efforts in Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) – a man who spent 40 years in Arafat’s PLO and argued in his Ph.D. thesis that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was inflated by Zionists for their own ends. Why would the Bush administration trust someone like him?

In June 2003, Abbas did exactly what we hoped he would do. He met with Ariel Sharon in Aqaba, Jordan and said the armed intifada is over. He said there’s no justification for using violence against Israelis anywhere. That made a big impression on Bush. We saw no evidence – ever – in eight years that Abbas was involved in terrorism.

But even today you read occasional media reports of Abbas attending ceremonies at which Palestinian schools or streets are named after notorious terrorists.

This is a terrible problem. There is a culture of violence there, and one of Abbas’s weaknesses is that he’s not a violent person. He’s never held a gun, and he’s never been to an Israeli prison. The guys who are viewed as heroes by the Palestinians are people who have committed acts of violence.

Now, what do you do about that? What you ought to do is try to change the culture. Instead, what Fatah and Abbas have done is feed it – by glorifying the mothers of terrorists, glorifying terrorists themselves, and naming schools, streets, or squares after them.

We in the U.S. have never taken this seriously enough, and frankly, neither have the Israelis. We all say, “Oh, you should stop doing this,” but we never insist on it. No one has ever said, for example, “U.S. support for the PA is going to stop on the first of the month unless that kind of stuff is eliminated.”

And yet, the Bush administration – particularly Condoleezza Rice, as your book makes clear – pushed Israel to sign some sort of peace deal with Abbas. Why?

Condi thought a comprehensive peace agreement was possible. She, and Olmert, thought that if offered a sufficiently generous package by Israel, Abbas would sign.

I thought it was impossible – first, because the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians are very deep – just think of Jerusalem, for example – and second, because I never thought Abbas had the courage to sign an agreement since he would be immediately accused of treason [by many of his own people].

Did Condoleezza Rice and President Bush know your views on the matter?

They both knew. In fact, whenever I would go to Israel – which was very frequently – I would come back and the president would say, “What’s up? Olmert is very optimistic,” and I would say to the president, “Well, I know Olmert tells you he’s optimistic, but I’m telling you there’s never going to be a deal here.”

So the president knew, and he would say to people, “Condi’s optimistic, Olmert’s optimistic, but Elliott’s not optimistic.”

How often would you speak with the president about the Middle East?

If we were both in Washington, probably on average twice a week.

Were these five-minute conversations? Half-hour conversations?

It would vary. I mean sometimes it was because a foreign leader was visiting the president, so if you count the time I spent briefing the president, the actual meeting, and then the discussion afterwards – that would be a couple of hours.

Sometimes it would be for a phone call. Let’s say he was calling Sharon or Mubarak. So that would be more like 45 minutes. And sometimes it would just be a question. That would be 15 minutes.

Why would you be present during a phone call between Bush and a foreign leader?

The way business was done was… let’s say we scheduled a call at 7:00 in the morning with the president of Egypt. I would go in about 10 minutes before and we would talk about why we were doing the call. I would also tell the president anything new that had happened in the last, let’s say, 12 hours that might be important for the call.

For instance, if it was Mubarak’s birthday, I would say, “You should wish him a happy birthday.” It was a kind of an update briefing. Then we would do the call – I would be in the room listening – and then at the end of the call we would chat about it and discuss the follow-up. [The president might say something like], “That was interesting, but I need to talk to the Saudis now” or “I need to talk to Sharon now.”

Many of Bush’s critics portray him as something of a bumbling Texas idiot. You make it clear in the book that you disagree.

He was very smart. I mean, all you had to do was be in a meeting with him to see how smart he was – both about the issues and about the people.

He paid very close attention to his personal relations with foreign leaders. In this he was very much like Clinton, and not at all like Obama who seems to dislike spending time with foreign leaders. Bush liked it and thought it was important. He thought that if a relationship of confidence was established you could get more from these guys.

You write that Bush’s Texas English threw foreign leaders off sometimes.

Bush talked in one way to everybody – to his wife, to you and me, to the American people, and to foreign leaders. He had one way of speaking, which I would call “Texan.” And it was funny because very often there were foreigners who didn’t really follow completely. Ariel Sharon was one of them. Sometimes he would get lost in a meeting, and he would turn to his chief of staff, Dubi Weissglass, and say, “Mah?”

The president would use lots of colloquial expressions. For example, if he was asking someone whether he was going to join the United States in some action, he might say, “You know, the question is whether you’re going to saddle up with us.” Now, if you haven’t watched a lot of Westerns and you’re not an American, you don’t know what that means.

Talking about Sharon, you quote Condoleezza Rice as saying: “[H]e’s one of the very few people I know who spoke English better than he understood it.”

She was right. Sharon seemed to have better English than he did because on most subjects you might want to talk to him about – Egypt, Syria, settlements, the IDF, Iran – he kind of had talking points in his head. He had the words ready. He used them a thousand times. But that didn’t mean his comprehension was great. So often he would lose track of what was being said to him.

Of all the major figures in the White House during your tenure, who would you say was the most sympathetic to Israel?

I would say the president, first of all, and Cheney. They had a really deep appreciation for Israel, which I think was a great surprise for a lot of Israelis, particularly about Cheney because he had worked in the Arab world for so long. I would say Rumsfeld was also a very strong supporter of Israel. Bob Gates, his successor, was not.

I think Condi was very sympathetic in the first term. After the Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, though, she was less sympathetic. I think she felt the Israelis had lost their way – that they had made a mistake in that war and had prosecuted it poorly – and that she was now going to have to take a much stronger hand in pushing them into an agreement with the Palestinians. She lost faith in Olmert, but also in the IDF.

How about Powell?

I think Powell was not sympathetic right from the start. Powell adopted, what I would call, the State Department view of Israel, which is basically that Israel is making trouble for us in the Middle East with our Arab friends and that it ought to be pressured harder. This is the traditional State Department view, and I think Powell had that view right from the beginning.

In the book you refer to “the apparent American obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Why is the U.S. government generally so obsessed? Why doesn’t it take a more hands-off policy (as it arguably is doing now)?

I think it’s partly because there is a mistaken view – and this has been held at the State Department for a very long time – that the central issue in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and if you were able to solve that conflict, all of our other problems would go away or be much easier to resolve. If you believe that, you’re going to spend a lot of time on this issue.

I think it’s ridiculous, though. Do you think that if you resolved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iran would stop trying to get a nuclear weapon? Do you think the Syrians would stop killing each other? Do you think Egypt or Libya would become stable all of a sudden?

Did you ever get a sense while working in the White House that you were suspected as taking a more pro-Israel stance because you’re a Jew?

Not from the president or the vice president or anybody else in the administration. Not from most of the Arabs either. I would say the exception was the Saudis, where I did have the feeling that they believed I was a kind of Israeli agent – that I was not working for the interests of the United States but for the interests of Israel.

State of Unreadiness

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

My colleague Timothy Whiteman at Liberty Unyielding highlighted recently the number of Air Force squadrons that will have to cease training later this year because the Air Force doesn’t have funds for the flying hours.  This is real, and it is astounding.  It will mean that, at a certain point in the near future, as early as this fall, if no additional funds become available, the cost of mounting an operation big enough to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons-related installations is likely to be too high.

This is because there will be no force depth to either sustain follow-on operations or overcome the geographic constraints U.S. forces are increasingly likely to face.  Assuming all of the Air Force’s stand-downs and readiness-losses do occur, the available front-line forces would be maxed out with a moderately scoped strike package.  To meet the task, they would require the most favorable basing options that could be available in the Persian Gulf under today’s conditions – but which may not be available.  If we don’t have those favorable basing options and the Air Force squadron groundings remain on track, the Iran strike goes from all-but-under-resourced to impossible.

There will not, after all, be two aircraft carriers on station near Iran, with their combined eight squadrons of Navy strike-fighters (more on that below).  It will in theory be possible to deploy a second carrier, but doing so is pretty much certain to require more money from Congress.  (Doing so would also enlarge and accelerate the readiness snowball for the Navy’s carrier force, a snowball that will inevitably become an avalanche of carrier unreadiness in the next three years, if world problems require unplanned operations during this period.)

The Air Force will have to carry the load of a strike on Iran, if there is to be one in the foreseeable future.  The Air Force’s forward-deployed squadrons will continue to train and conduct operational flights.  The B-2s and some of the B-52s, which can deploy immediately and/or operate globally from their bases stateside, will remain combat ready.  But the strike-fighter squadrons at their home bases in the States, which would be called on if a major operation had to be ordered, will be in an impaired state of readiness.  The aircrews will fall out of combat qualification when they haven’t been able to get their training hours in (and some aircraft maintenance will be deferred as well).  If the president wanted to order a new operation, beyond our current military commitments, it is not clear what would happen.

Geography rules

This is a good time to briefly review the features of the hole we are backing into, with respect to an Iran strike.  (I wrote more about some of them in February).  The features of this hole can be grouped geographically and in terms of military resources.

Geographically, the potential axes of approach to Iran for a nuclear-facilities strike have been whittled down significantly, through political attrition and strategic disuse.  Five years ago, U.S. forces might have approached from multiple axes, including possibilities like operating intelligence or refueling aircraft out of Turkey, or inserting special forces from Iraq.  These were at least political possibilities at that time; today, they fall between unlikely and not happening.

Moreover, it is no longer guaranteed that we would be able to launch the Air Force’s strike-fighter aircraft from Qatar or Kuwait, still less from a base in UAE or Oman.  We don’t normally operate Air Force aircraft from Bahrain, but even Bahrain – long our closest partner in the Gulf – may not be a fallback option.  Iraq will not be an option at all, and Afghanistan would object to being used as a base for launching attacks on Iran.  The same can be said of Pakistan.

If the Air Force has to launch most of the aircraft for this operation, we have a serious problem.  B-2s and B-52s launch from elsewhere, of course, but for certain types of bombing, they will require fighter escort protection while over Iran.  Refueling tankers orbiting over the Gulf will require fighter protection as well, as will the EA-3 Sentry airborne command and control platform.

We may or may not have the use of other nations’ air space to approach Iran (e.g., Kuwait’s, Jordan’s, Saudi Arabia’s, or Oman’s); if we don’t, there will be one way in and out of the Persian Gulf air space through which manned bombers will have to transit.  That in itself is a significant vulnerability.  Geographically, there is a real possibility that the U.S. would be limited to bringing aircraft in through the air space over the Strait of Hormuz.  If there is nowhere local for aircraft to recover – e.g., Oman – that limitation would effectively knock the Air Force strike-fighters out of a small operation.

The Motive Cover Up of the Boston Bombings Begins

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Now that the two (main at least) terrorists from the Boston Marathon attack have been killed or captured we enter a new phase, the phase in which the dominant politically correct (but factually incorrect) forces try to explain away the attack.

Can this be done? Will they really try? Well, yes. True, as one of my correspondents remarked it is much easier to obfuscate far distant Benghazi than the total shutdown and horror in the middle of a major American city. Yet the spin-masters are already at work.

The first step must be, in part, a stalling technique but it sets the pattern for what is to come. As, in the words of a Reuters story, the “Boston Marathon bombing investigation turns to motive,” the motive must be obfuscated.

The Reuters piece is a good start. The article spends seven paragraphs discussing the parents claim that the two brothers were framed. This suggests that the mass media and politicians will not shrink from suggesting—perhaps I should say, gives fair hearing—to bizarre conspiracy theories and doubts. People shouldn’t believe these completely, is the theme, but you just can’t be too sure that two young Muslims would have any reason to harm Americans.

Indeed, there are now witnesses who heard the two terrorists’ mother claiming that September 11 was a U.S. plot to make people hate Muslims. That’s where playing with that kind of fire leads.

In the article, the word “Islam” is not mentioned, except to say that they once lived in one predominantly Muslim country and another place they lived, Dagestan, is “a southern Russian province that lies at the heart of a violent Islamist insurgency.” Here, we have another technique, minimize Islam as a factor and turn it into background noise.

Obviously, this will not apply completely both because the elephant in the room is too big and there is still some journalistic integrity in places. Both the Washington Post and Mother Jones took a lead in exposing the You-Tube likes of one of the terrorists which showed a propensity for al-Qaeda views to say the least.

There are a lot of other quivers, however, in the arsenal of denial.

On “Face the Nation” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said that he had no idea why the Tsarnaev brothers would target “innocent men, women and children in the way that these two fellows did.” The answer, of course, is that these people were not regarded as innocent at all but as soldiers in the alleged Christian-Jewish war on Islam, precisely the same thinking that has been produced by Islamists for decades. Might September 11, 2001, be a clue here?

Of course, for Patrick to say that at this point in the investigation is understandable on one level, a refusal by a government official to remark on an ongoing investigation and a relief from “the police are stupid” or “Trayvon looks like the son I didn’t have” remarks by someone else. Yet what if this claim is sustained week after week until the heat is off?

NBC News has just reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had visited an Islamist radical six times in a mosque in Dagestan. The Caucasian/Chechen angle, however, does offer some hope. A lot of media time can be spent talking about that conflict. Of course, if the young men were acting as Chechens they would have attacked a Russian and not an American target. The United States has not, even by the usual stretch of radical Islamist imagination, had anything to do with the conflict in Chechnya.

The more compelling the conflict there is as a source of pain and passion, the less compelling the argument that that was a motive. The Russians have indeed been brutal in suppressing the rebellion, far more than the West or Israel has acted toward anyone. So what cause overrides that one? Yet Chechen grievances will be a good source of obfuscation.

Then there will a frantic search for the “blame ourselves” theme. If the issue wasn’t such a tragic one, this would be humorous. Could America have acted more kindly toward these two brothers? Don’t underestimate how well this theme will play with those citizens who drink other flavors of Kool-Aid.

Report: US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The commentariat universally rejected my Apr. 11 column arguing that Western governments should “Support Assad” on the grounds that he is losing and we don’t want the Islamist rebels to win in Syria but prefer a stalemate. An Arabic website in France threatened me.

Fine. But the Wall Street Journal today reports in “U.S. Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now” by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes that the Obama administration is in fact following my counsel. To start with, the U.S. government fears “an outright rebel military victory”:

Senior Obama administration officials have caught some lawmakers and allies by surprise in recent weeks with an amended approach to Syria: They don’t want an outright rebel military victory right now because they believe, in the words of one senior official, that the “good guys” may not come out on top.

Of course, fearing a rebel victory gets in the way of ousting the current regime, its goal, leading to a self-contradictory muddle:

This assessment complicates the White House’s long-standing push to see President Assad step from power. It also puts a spotlight on the U.S.’s cautious approach to helping the opposition, much to the frustration of U.S. allies including France and the U.K., which want to arm Syria’s moderate rebels. The result of this shift, these officials say, is the U.S. has sought a controlled increase in support to moderate rebel factions. … “We all want Assad to fall tomorrow, but a wholesale institutional turnover overnight doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” a senior U.S. official said. “The end game requires a very careful calibration that doesn’t tip the meter in an unintended way toward groups that could produce the kind of post-Assad Syria that we aren’t looking for.”

Trouble is, Washington is attempting to thread a needle that it lacks the finesse to achieve:

Administration officials fear that with Islamists tied to al Qaeda increasingly dominating the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, too swift a rebel victory would undercut hopes for finding a diplomatic solution, according to current and former officials. It would also shatter national institutions along with what remains of civil order, these people say, increasing the danger that Syrian chemical weapons will be used or transferred to terrorists.

Officials say it will require delicate maneuvering to restrain the influence of radicals while buying time to strengthen moderate rebels who Western governments hope will assume national leadership if Mr. Assad can be persuaded to leave. … By strengthening moderates, the U.S. wants to put pressure on Assad supporters to cut a deal that would preserve governing institutions. …

Comments: (1) Obviously, I am pleased to learn that the Obama administration quietly has a adopted a sensible policy toward Syria. (2) Let’s hope that its unrealistic plan to guide the “good guys” to rule the country will fade with added experience; and that it will instead follow a balance-of-power approach such as I advocate.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, April 17, 2013, under the title, “US Fears Syria Rebel Victory, for Now.”

The Case for Supporting Assad

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Analysts agree that “the erosion of the Syrian regime’s capabilities is accelerating,” that step-by-step it continues to retreat, making a rebel breakthrough and an Islamist victory increasingly likely. In response, I am changing my policy recommendation from neutrality to something that causes me, as a humanitarian and decades-long foe of the Assad dynasty, to pause before writing:

Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.

Here is my logic for this reluctant suggestion: Evil forces pose less danger to us when they make war on each other. This (1) keeps them focused locally and it (2) prevents either one from emerging victorious (and thereby posing a yet-greater danger). Western powers should guide enemies to stalemate by helping whichever side is losing, so as to prolong their conflict.

This policy has precedent. Through most of World War II, Nazi Germany was on the offensive against Soviet Russia and keeping German troops tied down on the Eastern Front was critical to an Allied victory. Franklin D. Roosevelt therefore helped Joseph Stalin by provisioning his forces and coordinating the war effort with him. In retrospect, this morally repugnant but strategically necessary policy succeeded. And Stalin was a far worse monster than Assad.

The Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 created a similar situation. After mid-1982, when Ayatollah Khomeini’s forces went on the offense against those of Saddam Hussein, Western governments began supporting Iraq. Yes, the Iraqi regime had started the hostilities and was more brutal, but the Iranian one was ideologically more dangerous and on the offensive. Best was that the hostilities hobble both sides and prevent either one from merging victorious. In the apocryphal words of Henry Kissinger, “It’s a pity they both can’t lose.”

Applying this same logic to Syria today finds notable parallels. Assad fills the role of Saddam Hussein – the brutal Baathist dictator who began the violence. The rebel forces resemble Iran – the initial victim getting stronger over time and posing an increasing Islamist danger. Continued fighting endangers the neighborhood. Both sides engage in war crimes and pose a danger to Western interests. In this spirit, I argued then for U.S. help to the losing party, whichever that might be, as in this May 1987 analysis:

In 1980, when Iraq threatened Iran, our interests lay at least partly with Iran. But Iraq has been on the defensive since the summer of 1982, and Washington now belongs firmly on its side. … Looking to the future, should Iraq once again take the offensive, an unlikely but not impossible change, the United States should switch again and consider giving assistance to Iran.

Yes, Assad’s survival benefits Tehran, the region’s most dangerous regime. But a rebel victory, recall, would hugely boost the increasingly rogue Turkish government while empowering jihadis and replacing the Assad government with triumphant, inflamed Islamists. Continued fighting does less damage to Western interests than their taking power. There are worse prospects than Sunni and Shi’ite Islamists mixing it up, than Hamas jihadis killing Hizballah jihadis, and vice-versa. Better that neither side wins.

The Obama administration is attempting an overly ambitiously and subtle policy of simultaneously helping the good rebels with clandestine lethal arms and $114 million in aid even as it prepares for possible drone strikes on the bad rebels. Nice idea, but manipulating the rebel forces via remote control has little chance of success. Inevitably, aid will end up with the Islamists and air strikes will kill allies. Better to accept one’s limitations and aspire to the feasible: propping up the side in retreat.

At the same time, Westerners must be true to their morals and help bring an end to the warfare against civilians, the millions of innocents gratuitously suffering the horrors of civil war. Western governments should find mechanisms to compel the hostile parties to abide by the rules of war, specifically those that isolate combatants from non-combatants. This could entail pressuring the rebels’ suppliers (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) and the Syrian government’s supporters (Russia, China) to condition aid on their abiding by the rules of war; it could even involve Western use of force against violators on either side. That would fulfill the responsibility to protect.

On the happy day when Assad & Tehran fight the rebels & Ankara to mutual exhaustion, Western support then can go to non-Baathist and non-Islamist elements in Syria, helping them offer a moderate alternative to today’s wretched choices and lead to a better future.

140,000 US-Made Teargas Canisters to Morsi’s Egypt

Monday, April 15th, 2013

The Egyptian publication Al-Masry Al-Youm reports that the U.S. government has supplied five containers carrying 140,000 teargas canisters to Egypt’s Interior Ministry. It further reports that this shipment left Wilmington, Delaware, on Mar. 14 aboard the SS Jamestown and that it has just arrived the port of Suez. They cost the Egyptian government just under US$2.5 million. According to ministry spokesperson Hani Abdel Latif, the ministry imported the grenades in order to protect state facilities.

Although shocking, this should not come as a surprise: On Feb. 25, 2013, the State Department spokesman confirmed that “we have approved an export license for the shipment of U.S.-manufactured nonlethal riot control agents to the Egyptian Government.” He added that “No U.S. security assistance funds have been used for the purchase of these products” and “we condemn any misuse of these products, of teargas that can result in injury or unlawful death, and any such misuse would jeopardize future exports.”

Comments: (1) I have waited six days to see if either government would deny that 140,000 canisters were delivered but neither has, suggesting this is an accurate number. (2) The transfer of this arsenal of crowd-control weapons reveals the depth of the Obama administration’s collusion with the wretched Morsi regime. (3) This idiocy alone justifies the title of my lecture in Washington on Apr. 16, “Amateur Hour: The Obama Administration’s Middle East Policy.”

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, April 14, 2013.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/the-lions-den-daniel-pipes/140000-canisters-of-u-s-teargas-to-egypts-morsi/2013/04/15/

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