All the hysteria that’s fit to print?

You’d think the once-gray lady would have learned from the Edward Luttwak debacle earlier this year, when its public editor was forced to apologize for the paper publishing an op-ed premised on utter nonsense. But no. Instead, the paper asks us to take seriously a manic rant from Israeli historian-turned-hysterian Benny Morris, warning that “Israel will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.”

For a man who once applied the historian’s method of carefully weighing evidence from a wide variety of sources to establish the complex motives at work in historical conflict, the reasoning in Morris’s rant was shockingly adolescent, and bereft of precisely the craft through which he made his name.

Israel’s slap in the face from America

Israel gives the impression that it was completely unprepared for the recent dramatic switch in American policy toward Iran. The Bush administration did not consult with Israel before deciding to add a senior American diplomat to the talks the Europeans are conducting with the Iranians, nor did Washington inform Jerusalem of its intentions to open an interests section in Tehran. The Prime Minister’s Bureau received word of America’s new policy almost at the last minute, just in order to ensure that Israel would not be taken totally by surprise. If clandestine diplomatic feelers between Washington and Tehran preceded the announcement, Israel was left completely in the dark as to their existence.

The American “detente” with Iran has one obvious consequence: As long as the diplomatic game continues, there is not the slightest chance in the world of any aggressive action being taken against Iran’s nuclear program. Which means no bombing of nuclear facilities. And no naval blockade and no prevention of commercial flights from Iran, as Israel has proposed. If even a minor-ranking American diplomat is posted in Tehran, to ostensibly “speak with the people,” the Iranian regime will enjoy total immunity.

Mideast sees more of the same if Obama is elected

For what feels like forever, Israelis and their Arab neighbors have been hopelessly deadlocked on how to resolve the Palestinian crisis. But there is one point they may now agree on: If elected president, Senator Barack Obama will not fundamentally recalibrate America’s relationship with Israel, or the Arab world.

From the religious center of Jerusalem to the rolling hills of Amman to the crowded streets of Cairo, dozens of interviews revealed a similar sentiment: the United States will ultimately support Israel over the Palestinians, no matter who the president is. That presumption promoted a degree of relief in Israel and resignation here in Jordan and in Israel’s other Arab neighbors.

“What we know is American presidents all support Israel,” said Muhammad Ibrahim, 23, a university student who works part time selling watermelons on the street in the southern part of this city. “It is hopeless. This one is like the other one. They are all the same. Nothing will change. Don’t expect change.”

McCain’s Iraq dilemma

When John McCain, out of money and plunging in the polls, staked his Presidential campaign on his support for the surge of American forces in Iraq, he no doubt did so out of a sincere belief that the policy would dramatically improve conditions on the ground. But he probably never dreamed that only a year later, conditions would have improved so dramatically that Barack Obama’s “out in 16 months” plan, drawn up as a way to extricate the U.S. as rapidly as possible from a costly fiasco, would look instead like a potentially appropriate response to American success – or that the feeling-his-oats Iraqi Prime Minister would be more or less endorsing it. Where Iraq is concerned, McCain is suddenly in the odd position of playing Winston Churchill in 1945, or George H.W. Bush in 1992 – a leader whose successes in crafting wartime policy don’t translate into electoral victory – without having ever been elected President in the first place.

Evidence against terrorism suspect barred at Guantanamo trial

The military judge overseeing the first war crimes trial against a terrorism suspect at Guantanamo Bay agreed Monday to bar some evidence against Osama bin Laden’s former driver because it was obtained in “highly coercive environments and conditions.”

On the trial’s opening day, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred denied defense appeals to exclude other statements Salim Ahmed Hamdan made during interrogation by U.S. agents in Afghanistan as well as during his more than six years’ imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The judge said he would withhold judgment on a May 2003 interrogation until the defense had time to review 600 pages of detention records, which the government did not turn over until Sunday — the night before trial.

The exclusion of evidence Allred considered coerced could set a standard for admissibility in other war crimes cases due before the tribunal in the coming months, including that of the self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind.

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