My talk with Fareed Zakaria: Obama must face a post-American world

If Barack Obama succeeds in his campaign against John McCain and becomes president of the United States, he will have to deal with much deeper issues beyond Iraq, namely the “rise of the rest” as China, India and the developing world aspire to catch up with America and want a seat at the table of global power. In such a world, the strategic vision of US leadership ought to be
to make the world safe for interdependence since we will not always be on top.

I discussed these issues recently with Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World.

Republicans begin to highlight Clinton’s criticism of Obama

Hours before the polls closed Tuesday in the final two Democratic presidential primaries, the Republican National Committee began circulating a video of Hillary Clinton questioning Barack Obama’s qualifications to be commander-in-chief, and acknowledging John McCain has this important presidential credential.

“Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign, I will bring a lifetime of experience and Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002,” Clinton says in the one-minute video of CNN’s coverage of a news conference she held on March 8 – the day Obama won the Wyoming caucuses. “I think that is a significant difference. I think that since we now know Senator McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that.

“And I think it is imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. And I believe I have done that. Certainly, Senator McCain has done that. And you will have to ask Senator Obama with respect to his candidacy.”

McCain calls Iran ‘foremost’ Middle East enemy

Sen. John McCain called Monday for broad sanctions against Iran and a South African-style worldwide divestment strategy aimed at pressuring the country’s regime to abandon efforts to acquire nuclear weapons and encourage its people’s democratic aspirations.

In a speech to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC in Washington, McCain declared Iran the “foremost” enemy in the Middle East and said it could pose an “existential threat” to Israel if it succeeds in acquiring a nuclear bomb.

“A sponsor of both Hamas and Hezbollah, the leadership of Iran has repeatedly used violence to undermine Israel and the Middle East peace process,” McCain said. “It has trained, financed, and equipped extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers fighting to bring freedom to that country. It remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East, from Basra to Beirut.”

Both McCain, Obama exaggerating Iran’s nuclear program

The presumptive Republican nominee for president and the leading contender for the Democratic nomination are exaggerating what’s known about Iran’s nuclear program as they duel over how best to deal with Tehran.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The U.S. intelligence community, however, thinks that Iran halted an effort to build a nuclear warhead in mid-2003, and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating the program, has found no evidence to date of an active Iranian nuclear-weapons project.

Cheney builds an explosive case

For many months, the propaganda line that explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) that could penetrate United States armored vehicles were coming straight from Iran has been embraced publicly by the entire George W Bush administration. But when that argument was proposed internally by military officials in January 2007, it was attacked by key administration officials as unsupported by the facts.

Vice President Dick Cheney was able to get around those objections and get his Iranian EFP line accepted only because of arrangements he and Bush made with General David Petraeus before he took command of US forces in Iraq.

The initial draft of the proposed military briefing on the issue of EFPs, which asserted flatly that EFPs were being manufactured and smuggled to Iraqi Shi’ite groups directly by the Iranian regime, was met with unanimous objection from the State Department, Defense Department and National Security Council staff, as administration officials themselves stated publicly.

Terror and truth

Sir Hugh Orde speaks rarely heard truth when he says that he has never heard of a terrorist campaign that was “policed out”, adding that he could not think of one that had not ended through negotiation.

There has been an unshakeable faith in Europe that western law-enforcement officers could pad around the bazaars of Rawalpindi and in the refugee camps of the Middle East hunting-down “bad actors”. It has been a fantasy fuelled by the conviction in the west that “secular” Muslim societies must at heart be pro-western – surely they must share the antipathy many in the west feel toward movements motivated by Islam? The flawed assumption has been that these seculars loathe movements such as Hizbullah, and would become the west’s ready collaborators in undermining them.

But as Sir Hugh evidently is aware from his own Irish experience of resistance movements, it was never this simple. In one family around the dinner table would sit one brother in one wing of the IRA; another would belong to Sinn Fein, and yet another would be in the employ of the British – and yet, all saw themselves as Irish nationalists.

And the winner is … the Israel lobby

They’re all here – and they’re all ready to party. The three United States presidential candidates – John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Madam House speaker Nancy Pelosi. Most US senators and virtually half of the US Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. And a host of Jewish and non-Jewish political and academic heavy-hitters among the 7,000 participants.

Such star power wattage, a Washington version of the Oscars, is the stock in trade of AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the crucial player in what is generally known as the Israel lobby and which holds its annual Policy Conference this week in Washington at which most of the heavyweights will deliver lectures.

‘Syria to meet with weapons inspectors about site bombed by Israel

Nine months after Israel bombed an alleged Syrian nuclear site, the government of President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to hold talks in Damascus with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency about the remote desert compound, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced yesterday, ending a long deadlock over access to the location.

Syria will allow international access to the al-Kibar site on the Euphrates River, but has turned down the IAEA’s request to go to at least three other facilities that U.S. intelligence says may be connected to a reactor and a clandestine nuclear weapons program, said Western diplomats familiar with the talks, which are scheduled for June 22-24. The other sites include possible reprocessing facilities, which are essential for production of fissile material.

The new face of Islam

Important Muslim thinkers, including some on whom bin Laden depended for support, have rejected his vision of jihad. Once sympathetic publics in the Middle East and South Asia are growing disillusioned. As CIA Director Michael Hayden said last week, “Fundamentally, no one really liked Al Qaeda’s vision of the future.” At the same time, and potentially much more important over the long run, a new vision of Islam, neither bin Laden’s nor that of the traditionalists who preceded him, is taking shape. Momentum is building within the Muslim world to re-examine what had seemed immutable tenets of the faith, to challenge what had been taken as literal truths and to open wide the doors of interpretation (ijtihad) that some schools of Islam tried to close centuries ago.

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