Archive for September, 2008

Don’t fight ’em, join ’em!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

You may be wondering, as I am, how are we to meet the challenge of expansionist radical Islam, particularly in the form of soon-to-be-nuclear Iran?

You may feel uneasy that Iran has extended its influence all the way to Lebanon and will almost certainly  absorb Iraq into its sphere of influence as we withdraw — which we are certainly going to do.

It may bother you to think that Iran, where political rallies invariably include shouts of “death to America” and “death to Israel”, will shortly control — either directly or by nuclear blackmail — approximately 56% of world oil reserves.

If you care about Israel, you are probably very worried about Ahmadinejad’s threats to ‘wipe Israel off the face of the earth’, threats that he is in the early stages of carrying out by means of his proxies Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah — even without using the nukes he is building.

Well, you can stop worrying.

34 former US officials and ‘civic leaders’ have the solution:  Don’t fight ’em, join ’em!

WASHINGTON – The next U.S. president should speak out for better relations with the Muslim world in his inaugural address and pursue an accord between Israel and the Palestinians within three months of taking office, a diverse coalition of 34 former U.S. officials and civic leaders said in a report being issued Wednesday.

Step 1 is giving the Arabs and Iranians what they want more than anything else: Israel. You can bet that the ‘accord’ that they envision includes getting the IDF out of the West Bank and turning it over to the forces of Mahmoud Abbas, who will ‘fight terrorism’ for about 10 minutes before rolling over for Hamas. Then Israel will be almost entirely surrounded by Iran’s proxy armies, with missiles falling on Tel Aviv daily. I don’t even want to think about the rest of the deal, which will involve giving up parts of Jerusalem and even the admission of some number of ‘refugees’ (read: guerrillas) into Israel.

The proposals, which include diplomatic engagement with Iran, are designed to reverse Muslim extremism and enhance U.S. international security. They are based on the conclusion that improving U.S. relations with Muslim countries and communities is critical, the report said…

Do the dignitaries and civic leaders explain precisely how giving in to the demands of Muslim extremism will tend to reverse it? I would expect just the opposite, given the results of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza — and from simply paying attention to what the extremists say.

On promoting democracy among the Arabs, a hallmark of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy, the report envisioned a cautious role for the United States: improving governance and civic participation without imposing a particular set of institutions, parties or leaders.

Bush’s war on terror, the report said, has been inadequate and sometimes counterproductive. It recommends “partnership” with Muslims committed to nonviolent political and economic development to reverse extremism and promote reform within authoritarian governments.

The jails in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are full of reform-minded Muslims (in the Palestinian Authority they don’t live long enough to be jailed). Bashar Assad, for example, does not want ‘economic development’ and certainly not any kind of ‘reform’. He is quite happy with funneling the fruits of the Syrian economy into the pockets of his friends and relatives, and his relationship with Iran — which provides an unlimited supply of weapons — is far more important to him than anything we can provide. With whom should we ‘partner’ in Syria?

Palestinian political culture is such that respect and support goes to the faction that has the most credibility in armed struggle with the Zionists. With whom are we to ‘partner’ among the Palestinians?

“Bush’s war on terror” as I recall, began with the overthrow of the Taliban who sheltered and supported Osama Bin Laden. Should we not have tried to impose a non-Taliban government? With whom should we have ‘partnered’ in Afghanistan?

Among the recommendations were expanding people-to-people exchanges and staging a business-government conference on economic reform, growth and job creation in the Middle East within the first six months of the new administration.

This is so wrong-headed that it’s breathtaking.

First, it ignores ideology as a motivator. Do you think that the average Hamas or Hezbollah fanatic will stop wanting to rip the throats out of Jews if he’s offered a better job? Was Osama bin Laden motivated by a desire for economic reform?

Second, it ignores that fact that the export of violent extremism is the deliberate policy of some Muslim nations (e.g., Iran and Syria). Iran’s support for Hezbollah — which has been called the “foreign legion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard” — as well as Hamas, has institutionalized extremism and terrorism.

And third, it ignores reality. Will Ahmadinejad agree to stop building the weapons with which he plans to become a regional superpower as a result of promises to build maquiladoras in his country? Can we afford to bribe Bashar al-Assad better than Ahmadinejad can?

The full report can be found here; it is being released today before the foreign policy debate between John McCain and Barack Obama to beheld Friday and includes a “Call to Action” for the next President.

The 34 signatories include 11 Muslim-Americans including Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA], as well as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, President/CEO of the American Petroleum Institute Red Caveney, and Stephen Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, one of the major funders of the project.

This document is 170 pages of nonsense masquerading as serious policy analysis, whose goal is to replace opposition to Iranian and Palestinian goals with appeasement and bribes (which will be accepted and ineffectual, as always).

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Peace-loving Mennonites buy dinner for the new Haman

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

News item:

The president of the United Nations General Assembly is expected to attend a dinner in New York organized by five American Christian organizations at which Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be a featured guest…

The private dinner is being billed as “an international dialogue between religious leaders and political figures” in a conversation “about the role of religions in tackling global challenges and building peaceful societies.” It is being sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee [MCC], the Quaker United Nations Office, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee. — Jewish Daily Forward

This is not the first time that the Mennonite Central Committee — a relief and social action organization representing the Mennonites and several other denominations — has sponsored a meeting with Ahmadinejad.

Keep in mind that Ahmadinejad has

  • Called for the state of Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’
  • Said (several times) that the ‘Zionist regime’ is on the verge of destruction
  • Hosted a holocaust denial conference; he himself has called the Holocaust a “fairy tale”
  • Financed and armed the terrorists of Hezbollah and Hamas who have killed hundreds of Jews and Israelis
  • Financed and supplied a huge military buildup in Syria, including chemical and biological weapons — all aimed at Israel

The fact that he does this while aggressively developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them makes him more than a garden-variety bigot. A principled reaction — especially for a group ostensibly dedicated to non-violence and peace like the MCC — to a head of state like Ahmadinejad would be to denounce him, to urge his quarantine from the society of peace-loving nations, and to call for real sanctions against Iran, strong enough to topple Ahmadinejad’s regime.

Instead, they are buying him dinner.

Unfortunately, the MCC has a long history of one-sided anti-Israel expression, uncritical adoption of the most virulent slanders against the state, and even explicit denial of Israel’s right to exist. It ‘partners’ with groups such as the Sabeel ‘Ecumenical Liberation Theology’ Center and the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and other extreme anti-Zionist organizations. Legitimizing the anti-Semitic Ahmadinejad is only a continuation of a policy that does not believe that there should be a Jewish state of Israel.

Here in our valley we have many Mennonite Christians, who have a reputation as honest, kind and hardworking people. I have two questions for them:

  • How can you support (if indeed you do support) the MCC’s action which legitimizes an anti-Semitic fanatic who threatens a second Holocaust while denying the first one?
  • How can you countenance the participation of the MCC and its ‘partners’ in the promulgation of vicious lies and distortions against the state of Israel, a propaganda campaign designed to lay the groundwork for its physical destruction?

The original Haman gets his just desserts

The original Haman gets his just desserts

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East of Suez

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

The Wilsons and Nixons at the White House, 1970In 1967, PM Harold Wilson announced that Britain would withdraw forces from major bases “East of Suez”, and the process of ending the British Empire that began around the end of the war was more or less complete. It was brought down by a combination of forces political and economic; among the latter was the enormous cost of the war which left Britain an economic basket case with huge trade deficits that caused several currency devaluations. Even if it had had the will to counter the explosion of nationalism in places like India (and Palestine), it could not afford to do so.

Today, Britain’s successor empire, the United States, finds itself in a similar predicament. The present financial crisis was triggered by a particular problem in one segment of the economy, but its continued progress is a kind of domino effect facilitated by the huge amounts of leverage — inadequately secured debt — in the system. The government is attempting to prop up strategic dominoes, but it can only do so by increasing its own massive indebtedness (only in part created by the enormous cost of the war in Iraq). If it is successful, then there will not be a sudden cataclysm (I don’t even want to think about what that would look like), but there is no question that even if the maneuver succeeds the standard of living of all but the upper classes will be significantly reduced as the need to pay for the bailout will result in either heavy inflation, higher taxation, reduced services and entitlements (Social Security, veterans’ benefits, etc.)  — or probably all of the above.

It’s important to understand that although the present debacle may seem to be a one-time occurrence caused by ‘mistakes’, greed, or even criminal behavior in the financial establishment, this event was only the push needed to send a house of cards flying. The economy’s weakness is structural, caused by every sector — government, business and consumers — financing a level of consumption far above what it can afford by borrowing. In each cases the holders of the debt — trade partners, banks, etc. were always ready (until recently) to refinance and extend more and more credit.

The US, having replaced its manufacturing economy with one primarily made up of services, is no longer adding sufficient value to its products to maintain its lifestyle, especially since so much of it depends on one commodity — oil — whose price is rising dramatically. This price rise is also structural, a result of increased worldwide consumption meeting up with finite supply.

It’s worth pointing out that the  ‘solution’ to high oil prices in the US that is being pushed by some politicians — that the US should drill more — would have almost zero effect. The price of oil is set on the world market by multinational corporations.  Any increase in supply that could be expected from domestic drilling would be the proverbial drop in the bucket, too small to affect the price. Unless we are prepared to nationalize our oil supplies and infrastructure, we are stuck with the world price.

There is also a geopolitical crisis to go along with the fiscal one. The rise of radical Islamism — fueled, ironically by the huge amount of cash transferred to the oil-producing countries of the Middle East — represents a direct challenge to Western influence in the region. The US is finding — the war in Iraq is a case in point — that its own economic weakness, combined with the ability of formerly weak states like Iran to buy sophisticated weapons, exacerbated by the psychological power of the Islamist ideology, and aided by mischief done by its traditional opponent, Russia, is making it  harder to exert effective control over events in the Middle East.

The expansion of Iran’s influence in recent years has been striking. Syria’s foreign policy is entirely subject to Iranian wishes, and Iran’s agent, Hezbollah, now is the single most powerful element in the Lebanese government and can be said to rule the country in all but name. Iran has also made an alliance of convenience with Hamas, which is contending for control of the Palestinian movement (only military action by Israel can stop it).

As a result, there are suggestions that the US, like Britain in 1945-1967, is overextended. That the days of being “the world’s only superpower” are over. That we no longer have the ability — militarily, economically and psychologically — to maintain our influence in the Mideast, and that we should — also like the British, stand down “East of Suez”. This point of view holds that rather than confronting Iran, we should make accommodation with it.

Unfortunately, the parallel with Britain breaks down at this point. Britain was not endangered by an independent India the way we are endangered by a nuclear Iran. Britain was able to hand off control of critical areas to the US, which shared its worldview to a great extent. Britain was able to take advantage of assistance from the US to dig itself out of the economic pit into which it had fallen by the end of the war.

The US, on the other hand, needs to face its crises alone. And the growing power of radical Islamism in the Middle East does represent a threat to the US. The Iranian regime certainly does view itself as our bitter enemy, and it will soon be armed with nuclear weapons. Although Islamism is also a threat to Russia, there is no reason that Iran and the Russians can’t work together to our detriment. Ideology cannot be such a barrier to an Iran which can fund both Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah (and don’t forget the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939)!

America is on the verge of a protracted struggle, which may be fought as much with economics as with missiles. Our new President will need an understanding of the proper use of both.

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AP does better job on Israeli politics than the conflict

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Here is this week’s commentary on the print media from Barry Rubin. 

How Does AP Cover Israeli Politics?
By Barry Rubin

How does AP cover Israeli politics?  Generally speaking, much better than it covers issues relating to the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian politics. One reason for this is that the reporters tend to be people living in Israel who have more knowledge and fewer political preconceptions, at least when covering these stories. Perhaps, too, there is less pressure from editors to push the approved line on the conflict.

On September 17, AP issues, “Next steps after Kadima primary election,” a factual summary of the situation (AP “factual summaries” on conflict issues are often remarkably biased). This one is reasonable:

Israel’s ruling Kadima Party held a primary election Wednesday to pick a successor to the party leader, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But the winner will not automatically succeed Olmert. A look at the process:

The winner of the primary election must get 40 percent or more of the vote to become party leader. If not, the party holds runoff between two top vote-getters the following week.

Once the party has a leader, Olmert formally submits his resignation to ceremonial President Shimon Peres. The Cabinet resigns with him.

After consulting with party leaders, Peres picks a member of parliament, likely the Kadima leader, to form new coalition government.

The prime minister-designate has 42 days to form a new coalition and bring it to parliament for approval. If no new government is formed, a general election is held within 90 days. The process of forming a government begins all over again. Olmert remains in office as caretaker prime minister until the new government is approved by parliament.”

Fair enough, no gratuitous swipes.

The more substantive article is from September 17, 2008 by Steve Weizman, “Israeli party rivals face off in power bid.”

Israel’s popular foreign minister faced off against a grizzled former military chief on Wednesday in the leadership race for the ruling Kadima party , an election that could determine the country’s next prime minister.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who hopes to become Israel’s first female prime minister in more than three decades, held a strong lead over Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister, in opinion polls ahead of the vote….

Kadima convened the primary to choose a successor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who is being forced from office by a corruption scandal. Whoever wins has a good chance of becoming the next prime minister, overseeing peace talks with the Palestinians and dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Livni, a former lawyer and one-time agent in the Mossad spy agency, is a soft-spoken diplomat who has played a central role in peace talks with the Palestinians and prefers negotiation to confrontation.

Mofaz takes a tougher line, demanding the Palestinians fulfill a series of conditions before a final deal can be hammered out. He also is more willing to order military action in times of crisis.”

It is a bit funny that it is worth noting when one of a country’s leaders actually asks that the other side in a negotiation fulfill its commitments!” But it is rare enough that this idea is heard in an AP dispatch.

Male rivals have called Livni “weak” and “that woman.” And there is talk about ultra-Orthodox Jewish lawmakers being uncomfortable with the idea of a female leader….Mofaz, meanwhile, hopes to become the first Israeli of Sephardic, or Middle Eastern, descent to lead the country. Sephardic Jews have long complained of discrimination at the hands of Ashkenazi, or European Jews.

OK, fair enough remarks on Israeli society though I would bet that Israel’s two “firsts” don’t stir many voters to oppose them solely on that basis.

It is refreshing to see a paragraph stating:

The country’s next leader will inherit a peace process begun by Olmert last year aimed at reaching a final agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by January 2009. Despite months of talks, both sides have acknowledged they are unlikely to reach that target.

That’s two good points: Israel pressed for the peace process and it isn’t going to work.

Immediately after came Dion Nissenbaum, September 18, “Livni is apparent winner in tight Israeli race,” for the McClatchy newspaper chain which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer. It calls Livni “a popular, diplomacy-first advocate” and Mofaz, “a more uncompromising former defense minister.” Actually, the funny thing is that it is precisely Mofaz who wants to compromise–that is, both sides to make concessions, another insight into how the media views Israel.

The article continues, “By choosing Livni over Mofaz, Kadima voters implicitly endorsed the foreign minister’s diplomacy-before-warfare approach to tackling Israel’s biggest concerns: making peace with the Palestinians and neutering Iran’s nuclear program.”

This reminds me of the Atlantic magazine article whose cover headline tells voters–hint, hint, nudge, nudge–that Republican nominee Senator John McCain wants war. Livni won mainly because she is seen as an honest new face while Mofaz is amazingly uncharismatic and has committed huge political mistakes in the past, notably his indecisiveness about joining Kadima in the first place, his silly blustering about how his victory was inevitable. (That, too, is a sign about media coverage: Israeli politics can only be considered to deal with “peace process” and international issues, domestic considerations apparently don’t exist.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA and other GLORIA Center publications or to order books, visit

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We will all be Iranian hostages

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Iran launches Shihab3 missileNews Item:

Moscow — Russia made clear Saturday that it opposes a Western push for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Russia spoke out against a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran at a meeting of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany in Washington on Friday, the Foreign Ministry said.

Russia stressed the need to draw Tehran into “constructive dialogue,” the ministry statement said. “In this context we spoke out against the development at this time of new measures along U.N. Security Council lines.” — IHT (AP)

The ‘sanctions option’ is apparently not an option. Only military action can stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. It seems to me that the opinion of the world’s leaders — except in Israel, for obvious reasons — is that a way will have to be found to get used to a nuclear Iran.

There are rumors that the US will step in at some point. Although it is not impossible, I doubt it. It is certainly in our national interest to not have a nuclear Iran, but the political and economic consequences of an attack now would be great, and the forces in Washington which seem to have the upper hand in our foreign policy today lean in the direction of making accommodations rather than confrontation. This was the message of the National Intelligence Estimate (see: “The significance of the NIE“) released last December.

Caroline Glick thinks that, from an Israeli point of view, time is short.

Iran is just a heartbeat away from the A-bomb. Last Friday the Daily Telegraph reported Teheran has surreptitiously removed a sufficient amount of uranium from its nuclear production facility in Isfahan to produce six nuclear bombs. Given Iran’s already acknowledged uranium enrichment capabilities, the Telegraph’s report indicates that the Islamic Republic is now in the late stages of assembling nuclear bombs.

It would be a simple matter for Iran to assemble those bombs without anyone noticing. US spy satellites recently discovered what the US believes are covert nuclear facilities in Iran. The mullocracy has not disclosed these sites to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites.

As to the IAEA, this week it presented its latest report on Teheran’s nuclear program to its board members in Vienna. The IAEA’s report claimed that Iran has taken steps to enable its Shihab-3 ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads. With their range of 1,300 kilometers, Shihab-3 missiles are capable of reaching Israel and other countries throughout the region.

It’s unfortunate that the world has chosen to believe that these developments can be lived with.  Today a large part of the world’s oil supplies is in the hands of the reactionary Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. This is bad enough, but these leaders are not trying to export a radical Islamic fundamentalist revolution which directly confronts the West, as Iran is.

Iran has already made Syria into a satellite and is fast gaining control of Lebanon by means of Hezbollah. Iran has even gone so far as to make an alliance of convenience with the Sunni Hamas organization, which will soon dominate the Palestinian movement.

A nuclear Iran will control the region, from the gulf states through Iraq, even as far as Egypt. Iranian influence will determine policy even in those states which do not become satellites. The US will no longer be a player in the Middle East. It may be that some in the State Department are already beginning to plan for this state of affairs,  planning to contract US influence around the world the way Britain did in the years following WWII.

If they think this adjustment can be made comfortably for Americans, they are wrong. Iran will have the ability to deliver huge shocks to the already tottering economies of the US and Western Europe at will. We will all be, in effect, Iranian hostages.

Of  course, Israel will be long gone in this scenario, unable to survive in an environment even more toxic than that of today, with help from the US even less likely.

It may be that the only way to prevent this will  be for Israel, out of existential necessity, to take the action required to at least delay the Iranian nuclear capability long enough for the US to regain its footing. Then, in the best case, our leaders will understand what is at stake and do whatever is necessary on a long term basis to keep the bomb out of the hands of the Islamic revolutionaries of Iran.

It’s ironic to think that Israel might be instrumental in saving the US, rather than the other way around.

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